| The following letter was posted on the Robot
Wars Forum on 7/10/98:
We've read all your comments attacking Mentorn but none of you seem to know the real story of our involvement in Robot Wars.
In 1995 we saw a video of Robot Wars, featuring action from the first San Francisco event, and immediately wanted to bring the sport to the UK. We negotiated with Steve Plotnicki, Marc Thorpe and Gary Pini all three came to my office in London and we struck a deal to get the UK and EEC rights. We paid good money for these rights cash which was paid to their company Robot Wars Inc. - which I understand Marc owns 50% and Profile the other 50%. We understand that Robot Wars UK is wholly owned by Robot Wars Inc. We have no shareholding or stake in either of these companies. All we are is an independent production company which makes innovative TV shows. We have developed a TV format around the Robot Wars concept which is nothing like the live event - and doesn't claim to be - and persuaded the BBC to broadcast the show.
Marc was consulted during this process. He came to the pilot and he came to all the recordings of the first series. He was interviewed on national TV in the UK as 'The Godfather of Robot Wars'. Robot Wars also accepted our royalty cheques. We know there is a dispute between Profile and Marc but we don't want to be involved in any way in this dirty laundry.
Our TV series was a huge hit. 4 million watched every week in a very difficult time period (against TFI Friday, a cult youth show which we beat 3 to 1). It was in the top 5 shows on the channel. It followed 'The Simpsons' and beat its rating. 35,000 rang us to get more info about robots after the show and 3,500 have joined a Robot Wars supporters club. 400 people in the UK are now building robots for the second series - which we're shooting in August - and the possibility of future events. We thought it would be good to do a US show - you have been building far longer than us and watching robots such as La Machine, The Master and Biohazard in action would be really inspirational for builders in the UK. Additionally, a show recorded in San Francisco would have given us all the opportunity to see American and British robots in combat together. We've had plenty of positive replies about the proposed August shoot in San Francisco but we certainly aren't going ahead unless enough US robots wish to compete. We've got plenty of good UK robots this year and people are starting to build in other parts of Europe as well.
The reason Marc, Steve and Gary came to Mentorn in the first place was because they wanted Robot Wars to become a massive popular hit and they recognized that TV was the best way to achieve this. We've done that in the first country we've brought it to and we're going to do the same in the rest of Europe. When the TV takes off we want to stage live events, like San Francisco, and the first one may happen in London later this year using the US live format.
The TV format is very different from the live event for one very good reason: we don't believe (and neither did the BBC, or any of the other broadcasters around the world who have seen it) that the live format would sustain a long-running series on primetime TV. We've proved that our format does and it will probably go around the world. That doesn't mean that RW as a sport can't do the same: on the contrary, it will, provided the TV version is a success. Robot Wars Inc. - including Marc Thorpe - knew this, which is why we were given a license to make the TV version back in 1995. We are in no way involved in the dispute between Marc and Steve. We don't want to take sides. We just want to help make Robot Wars a worldwide success.
I don't want to get involved in the politics of this: there's a huge following for Robot Wars in the UK and if the US implodes it won't make a bit of difference to the sport over here or in the rest of Europe. It will be tragic though for all the people who have spent so long building machines in the US. Robot Wars could become a really big sport, which is surely what everyone wants, but it won't if the participants aren't united or without TV coverage. Mentorn has invested a huge amount in the development of Robot Wars and we've done it because we share your enthusiasm for the idea and commitment to the sport.
Our offer to produce and televise an American Robot Wars competition was made in good faith and with the best of intentions. Our filming schedule has been set in stone for months and we had always planned to cover the live American event - which had been scheduled for the weekend of 14-16 August - as part of our next series. We were as disappointed as you to hear that the fate of the annual San Francisco event was looking uncertain and so began to consider other options. Our recent announcement - which was intended to generate interest in a dedicated American TV show for broadcast here in Europe - was received negatively by many of you and I can only assume that this is because you were unaware of all the facts. We'll post our decision about whether we're going ahead shortly. Meanwhile, our next TV series is being recorded in London from August 14th to 28th. Everyone is welcome.