‘Runway’ Suit’s Sudden Ending Clears Way for Summer Lifetime Run

Apr 1, 2009  •  Post A Comment

The long legal battle over “Project Runway” came to a surprising end as producer Harvey Weinstein agreed to pay NBC Universal to move the award-winning show to Lifetime.
The agreement clears the way for the sixth season of the show, which was shot during New York’s Fashion Week in February, to return to the air after nearly a year’s absence this summer.
NBC Universal was enraged last April when it found out that the Weinstein Co. had accepted a deal with Lifetime in February. Top NBC executives believed they were still in negotiations to keep the show, which launched on Bravo, at one of the company’s larger networks.
NBC Universal sued the Weinstein Co., asserting that it had a right of first refusal on “Runway,” and in September won an injunction from a state judge that barred Weinstein Co. and from exhibiting or promoting the show. NBC officials said the ruling indicated that they had a strong case.
Lifetime attempted to move the case to federal court in October, but it was sent back to state court.
With the settlement, Mr. Weinstein conceded defeat.
“I want to personally congratulate [NBC Universal CEO] Jeff Zucker and NBC Universal on the success in the litigation and then Jeff for resolving this in a professional matter,” he said in a statement.
It was not disclosed how much NBC Universal received in the settlement, but insiders said the amount was substantial because of the advantage NBC had on the legal front.
Mr. Weinstein added that he “looks forward” to working with NBC Universal on “other projects.” Those include the Quentin Tarantino feature film “Inglourious Basterds.”
During the long legal battle, Lifetime was denied what it hoped would be an exemplar of the kind of contemporary programming Lifetime Networks President-CEO Andrea Wong wanted for the network.
The show was a centerpiece of Lifetime’s 2008 upfront presentation to advertisers, but the network was forced to return money to the sponsors it had signed up for the show when it didn’t air as scheduled.
Now Lifetime plans to air the version of “Runway” already in the can.
“I couldn’t be more excited that Lifetime will bring its viewers an amazing, all-new season of ‘Project Runway’ this summer,” said Ms. Wong. 
It remains to be seen what effect the long layoff and the network switch will have on “Project Runway’s” ratings.
In addition to “Runway,” the deal, valued in court papers by the Weinstein Co. at $200 million, gave Lifetime shows including the spinoff “Models of the Runway” and “Project Pygmalion,” plus a package of movies.
The Weinstein Co. sees the Lifetime deal as a key to growing its television division.
Without the fresh programming, Lifetime’s ratings languished in the first quarter. The network was down 12% in total viewers during the first quarter in primetime.
Lifetime earlier this year greenlit the new series “Drop Dead Diva,” which also is slated to air this summer.

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