NBCU Cuts Exclusive Deal With ‘Runway’ Elves For Cable, NBC


NBC Universal has sewn up an exclusive “first-look” deal with Magical Elves, the production company behind the Bravo hits Top Chef and Project Runway, for all its cable services and the Peacock broadcast network, officials said Monday.

NBCU’s agreement with the award-winning duo Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz of Magical Elves includes unscripted, scripted, digital, wireless and short-form projects for the media conglomerate.

The agreement provides NBC Universal's NBC network, Bravo, Oxygen, Sci-Fi Channel, USA Network and the programmer’s digital and wireless properties an exclusive first look on all projects developed by Cutforth and Lipsitz. It also provides opportunities for Magical Elves to work on projects developed by the NBC Universal properties.

"This is an exciting milestone for our company and a chance to build on a relationship that has already borne a good deal of success," Cutforth said in a prepared statement, while Lipsitz added, "We have found NBC Universal to be great creative partners. This deal represents amazing opportunities on multiple platforms, not just in unscripted television but in the scripted and digital spaces as well.”

Magical Elves have been frequent collaborators with NBC Universal, producing four seasons of NBC's summer hit Last Comic Standing and Treasure Hunters, and Project Greenlight and all four seasons of the Peabody Award-winning Project Runway for Bravo. They are currently in pre-production with Bravo for Project Runway 5.

Last month, there was a brouhaha when The Weinstein Co., which owns the rights to Project Runway, decided to take the show to Lifetime for its sixth season in a five-year deal valued at $150 million. So while the fifth season will remain on Bravo and air this July, the sixth season will run on Lifetime in the fall. Bravo and NBCU are suing The Weinstein Co. over the switch.

Cutforth and Lipsitz also produce the Emmy-nominated Bravo hit Top Chef - the No. 1 food show on cable, currently in its fifth and highest-rated season to date.

Additionally, Magical Elves developed and are producing Bravo's newest creative competition Step It Up & Dance and as previously announced, will produce the sophomore season of Bravo's Top Design, and they have a pilot in production with Oxygen.

"We are looking to build a bigger production capacity to feed our own and third-party distribution channels and platforms,” Ben Silverman, co-chairman of NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios, said in a prepared statement. "These Emmy-nominated producers consistently deliver quality programming and work brilliantly with advertisers.”

The Elves, Lipsitz and Cutforth, have been nominated for seven Emmys in the seven years they have been working together and are the recipients of the first Peabody Award ever presented to a reality television program for Project Runway. The two met while producing Bands on the Run at VH1 in 2001.

"I've worked with Jane and Dan for over 10 years,” Jeff Gaspin, president and chief operating officer of Universal Television Group, said in a prepared statement. “They are great producers with original voices and a special knack for casting. Their track record of success speaks for itself and we're thrilled to have them here at NBC Universal.”