'Project Runway' Jumps Networks
Lifetime says it's acquired Bravo series; NBCU is suing
Lifetime and The Weinstein Co., which produces "Project Runway," shook up the TV landscape Monday (April 7) with the announcement that the fashion-design competition will have a new home for its sixth season. In a press release, the cable network says it's signed a five-year deal to air the series; host/executive producer Heidi Klum and mentor Tim Gunn will also make the move.
"'Project Runway' is one of the best television programs on the air today on broadcast or cable. I am a huge fan. All my friends are huge fans," Lifetime President and CEO Andrea Wong says in the release. "... We welcome The Weinstein Company, Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn to the Lifetime family for many walks down the runway to come."
That, however, may not be the end of the story. NBC Universal, which owns Bravo, is suing The Weinstein Co. for breach of contract, according to several news reports. The complaint, filed in New York, says Weinstein denied Bravo a right of first refusal to pick up the show for additional seasons.
"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," NBCU says in a statement. "NBC Universal regrettably had no alternative but to bring legal action to enforce its rights to this program."
Complicating matters further: Bravo is still slated to air "Runway's" fifth season, which is tentatively scheduled for summer. Lifetime's announcement says the sixth season will launch in November, meaning three editions of the show would air in less than 12 months.
In a statement, Weinstein Co. principals Bob and Harvey Weinstein say they "would like to sincerely thank NBC Universal and Bravo for all their contribution and support." The company also asserts, however, that NBCU's suit is "without merit."
"Today's announcement is a celebration of all of our success, and having Lifetime's unique cable reach will ensure that the show will continue to grow and expand in the years to come," the Weinsteins' statement says. "We are very excited for the many new opportunities that will now be provided to 'Runway' and its fans."
At stake in the suit is the biggest unscripted series on cable. The show's most recent season averaged a healthy 3.8 million viewers; about 2.7 million of those viewers fell into the adults 18-49 demographic advertisers pay big bucks to reach. The March 5 finale drew better than 5 million viewers.