Undaunted by a lawsuit from Bravo, Lifetime and producer Harvey Weinstein last week boldly touted their plans for Project Runway this fall, which include a spinoff show.
At Lifetime’s upfront press presentation in Manhattan, Weinstein appeared and defended his decision to move Project Runway from Bravo to Lifetime, saying it will permit the reality series to grow and increase its audience.
“This is a place we want to do business,” said Weinstein, co-chairman of The Weinstein Co., which produces Project Runway. “We’ll be bringing a lot of our shows here. We look forward to a long and lasting relationship with them.”
His remarks were the latest chapter in the Project Runway saga. Lifetime made its surprising and controversial acquisition of Project Runway the centerpiece of its upfront, where not only Weinstein but Project Runway’s Tim Gunn also appeared.
Bravo and its parent, NBC Universal, have sued The Weinstein Co., claiming that they had right of first refusal on the reality series, which is Bravo’s biggest hit and a signature show for the network. Lifetime reportedly did a five-year deal, valued at $150 million, for the program, featuring model Heidi Klum.
Weinstein declined to specifically comment on NBCU and Bravo’s suit against his company. But neither the producer nor Lifetime officials were making any apologies about Project Runway moving to the women’s network, which is owned by The Walt Disney Co. and Hearst Corp.
“We feel the welcome of Lifetime,” Weinstein said. “It’s double the audience for us. It’ll give us incredible potential to do the things that we want to do with the show, to grow the show, to make the show bigger, better.”
Andrea Wong, who has been CEO of Lifetime Networks for just short of a year, called the acquisition of Project Runway “the biggest highlight of the year for me.”
She said, “We’re [Lifetime and Weinstein] going to do a number of shows together. We’re going to convince him to do movies eventually for us, too.”
Weinstein said he has at least two additional reality shows in development for Lifetime. They are Project Pygmalion and Models of the Runway, according to Weinstein.
Models of the Runway is set for November as a companion to Project Runway, while Project Pygmalion is in development for 2009, according to Lifetime.
Project Pygmalion “is sort of My Fair Lady, finding the next My Fair Lady, the next Pygmalion, transforming somebody’s life,” Weinstein said.
“I think it will be fun and exciting culturally, and as iconic, hopefully, as Project Runway and be a sister in some way to Project Runway,” he said.
As for what he called “the model show,” Weinstein said, “We’ve never seen Project Runway from the point of view of the model,” he said. “We had brought that to Bravo, but they didn’t think that was a good idea. These guys did.”
Weinstein also said he expects to mend fences and eventually salvage his longtime friendship with NBCU president Jeff Zucker.
“Over the next three years — once I finish my servitude of cleaning his house, driving him to work everyday, babysitting for the kids and taking Caryn [Zucker’s wife] shopping — I think we will be friends again,” Weinstein joked.
Bravo also held its press upfront last week, noting that it will air the fifth season of Project Runway starting in July. Lifetime get the fashion-competition show in November, for its sixth season.
At that gathering, Lauren Zalaznick, president of Bravo Media and Oxygen Media, immediately addressed the Project Runway defection.
“I’ll say it straight out: Regarding last week’s news, as you can well imagine, I have not much to say,” Zalaznick told assembled reporters. “It’s ongoing litigation, and the 'no comment’ starts here and ends here.”
However, Zalaznick then went on to briefly allude to Weinstein’s remarks about Zucker.
She quipped, “Harvey was going to come [to Bravo’s upfront], but as he was quoted yesterday, Jeff has four kids, so it takes a long time to drop them at school, and then he has all those windows and cleaning to do, so he may not be able to make it.”