Sony’s $250 million Michael Jackson distribution deal could be at risk following ‘Leaving Neverland’

The HBO documentary is set to air in the UK for the first time tonight

Sony’s reported $250 million (£190 million) acquisition of the distribution rights to Michael Jackson‘s back catalogue could be threatened by the allegations that have been made against the late singer in the new documentary Leaving Neverland.

The HBO-produced film, which will premiere in the UK tonight (March 6) on Channel 4, focuses on the allegations made by Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who allege that Jackson sexually abused them when they were children. Both men brought civil suits against Jackson’s estate following his death in 2009, but both cases were thrown out by a judge in 2017 after it was ruled that the estate could not be held liable for the singer’s behaviour.

Jackson’s family have also condemned Leaving Neverland, with the late singer’s brother Marlon stating: “There has not been not one piece of evidence that corroborates [Robson and Safechuck’s] story.”

A new report in The Wall Street Journal has now claimed that Sony’s seven-year distribution deal for Jackson’s music, which was only agreed in December 2017 for a reported $250 million, could take a significant hit following the release of Leaving Neverland.

Royalties from streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music are included in the deal, as are those from radio station plays. While data on the former won’t be available until next week, the swift increase in radio stations across the world deciding to drop Jackson’s music from their playlists in the wake of the attention surrounding the documentary is expected to adversely affect Sony’s investment in the coming weeks and months.

Radio plays continue to be a big earner for record companies: Deloitte recently estimated that global radio revenue will reach $40 billion (£30.8 billion) in 2019, a 1% increase over 2018.

Ahead of the UK premiere of Leaving Neverland, pro-Jackson protestors gathered outside Channel 4’s headquarters today to voice their opposition to tonight’s broadcast of the controversial documentary.