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'Project Runway' jumps from Bravo to Lifetime

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Lifetime announced today that it has picked up the hit Bravo series Project Runway and will begin airing the series’ sixth cycle, which debuts in November. In a statement, The Weinstein Co., which produces the show with executive producers Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz of Magical Elves, announced that it entered a five-year deal for the show with Lifetime — a development that prompted legal action by NBC/Universal. In the same statement, the Weinstein Co. acknowledged that NBC filed a lawsuit today in New York Supreme Court in an attempt to block the series from moving to Lifetime. “We believe that this lawsuit is without merit. While good for the market for lawyers, it is always unfortunate when parties try to win in court what they have lost in the marketplace,” said David Boies, counsel to The Weinstein Co.

The NBC/Universal lawsuit asserts that the company had been negotiating with The Weinstein Co. for a year to obtain additional installments of Runway but the production company “never intended to negotiate in good faith.” It goes on to say, “Instead, The Weinstein Co. threatened to take future cycles of the program to a competing TV network unless [NBC] agreed to pay many millions of additional dollars to Weinstein to acquire a ‘package’ that included TV rights to second-tier Weinstein films unrelated to Runway.” The Weinstein Co. was contractually obligated to give the NBC-owned Bravo the right of first refusal when it got the offer from Lifetime, says the suit.

The Weinstein Co. has already begun pre-production of Runway‘s fifth season for Bravo, which is scheduled to air in June.

NBC released this statement today: “NBC Universal has continuing

legal rights related to Project Runway, including a right of first

refusal to future cycles of the series, which The Weinstein Company

unfortunately has refused to honor. NBC Universal regrettably had no

alternative but to bring legal action to enforce its rights to this

program, including the right to decide whether it is in the best

interest of the company to continue to air the show under the proposed

financial terms.”

One source familiar with the negotiations argues that Bravo was damaging the

Runway brand by airing too many repeats of the show and surrounding it

with copycat series like Top Design, Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style, and

Make Me A Supermodel. “It’s a phenomenon that needs to be

protected,” the source says. “Lifetime provided a substantial offer.

NBC chose not to provide a competitive bid.” That rerun marathon

strategy, however, is what made Runway a hit in its first season. When

Bravo began to heavily repeat the show, the fourth episode of the first

season broke the 1 million mark — and the series has continually grown

from there. In fact, the show’s fourth season finale last month — in

which the “fierce” Christian Siriano earned the top prize — attracted

a whopping 5.2 million total viewers, down slightly from the 5.4

million viewers who watched the season 3 finale. (Additional reporting by Missy Schwartz)

The Weinstein Co. has already begun pre-production of Runway‘s fifth season for Bravo, which is scheduled to air in June.

NBC released this statement today: “NBC Universal has continuinglegal rights related to Project Runway, including a right of firstrefusal to future cycles of the series, which The Weinstein Companyunfortunately has refused to honor. NBC Universal regrettably had noalternative but to bring legal action to enforce its rights to thisprogram, including the right to decide whether it is in the bestinterest of the company to continue to air the show under the proposedfinancial terms.”

One source familiar with the negotiations argues that Bravo was damaging theRunway brand by airing too many repeats of the show and surrounding itwith copycat series like Top Design, Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style, andMake Me A Supermodel. “It’s a phenomenon that needs to beprotected,” the source says. “Lifetime provided a substantial offer.NBC chose not to provide a competitive bid.” That rerun marathonstrategy, however, is what made Runway a hit in its first season. WhenBravo began to heavily repeat the show, the fourth episode of the firstseason broke the 1 million mark — and the series has continually grownfrom there. In fact, the show’s fourth season finale last month — inwhich the “fierce” Christian Siriano earned the top prize — attracteda whopping 5.2 million total viewers, down slightly from the 5.4million viewers who watched the season 3 finale. (Additional reporting by Missy Schwartz)

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