Weinstein Claims Bravo Tried to Sabotage Latest ‘Project Runway’ Season

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Project Runway’s producer has accused Bravo of trying to diminish the hit reality show’s future value by failing to promote its fifth season—the last before it was slated to move to Lifetime Television—and changing its timeslot.

In legal papers filed in federal court last Friday, The Weinstein Co. also alleged that Bravo and its parent NBC Universal developed a series of “copycat” reality shows as potential competitors to Project Runway when it goes to Lifetime.

One of those reality shows, first announced by Bravo at the Television Critics Association tour July 20, sounds similar to Project Runway. In that new Bravo competition program, called Fashion House, “fashion designers again compete to create the best designs,” according to the 23-page counterclaim filed by The Weinstein Co.

In its initial press release about Fashion House back in July, Bravo said that the new program is based on a British TV format and show of the same name. The U.K. Fashion House also predates Project Runway by a year.

“Not only do we categorically disagree with The Weinstein Company’s assertions, but the fact is that Season 5 was the most-watched and highest-rated Project Runway cycle ever," NBCU officials said in a statement.

Weinstein’s answer and counterclaim were lodged in U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, where Lifetime has moved a pending breach-of-contract lawsuit that NBCU filed back in April in New York Supreme Court against The Weinstein Co.

In its lawsuit, NBCU alleges that The Weinstein Co. violated its right of first refusal when it did a $200 million, five-year deal in February to move Project Runway from Bravo to Lifetime for its sixth season.

New York Supreme Court Judge Richard Lowe issued a temporary injunction last month barring Project Runway’s switch to Lifetime before the lawsuit was moved to federal court.

In its counterclaim, The Weinstein Co. denied that NBCU had a right of first refusal, and alleged that after Project Runway was set to go to Lifetime both Bravo and NBCU embarked on a campaign to “diminish the future value of the program” for its fifth season, the last one set for Bravo.

First, Bravo changed Project Runway’s time slot to 9 p.m. Wednesday nights from 10 p.m., where it had aired for years, making it harder for viewers to find, Weinstein said in its counterclaim.

Then, Bravo didn’t start promoting the July 16 season five Project Runway debut until June 26.

“This 20-day notice was the shortest in Project Runway’s history, providing only a short amount of time…to promote the new season,” The Weinstein Co. said in its filing.

In those papers, the producer also charged that Bravo didn’t run many ads to promote the new Runway season, which “left many fans of the show unaware [and] confused about the details of Season Five.”

The ads that Bravo did run were “confusing, mundane and unappealing,” The Weinstein Co. claimed, further alleging that the network didn’t release the names and bios of the designer-contestants until two days before the show premiered, July 14, which put a damper on potential “buzz” for the show.

Bravo’s ads for the new season of Project Runway used clips from previous seasons, which confused viewers, The Weinstein Co. claimed. In its counterclaim, Weinstein also charged that NBCU CEO Jeff Zucker had told another executive in an e-mail that, “We’re just gonna run the repeats like crazy to confuse the marketplace.”

The Weinstein Co. claimed that while Season Five averaged several million viewers, “this achievement was in spite of, and not a result of, Bravo’s tactics. The overall goal and effect of Bravo’s marketing scheme was to lower the ratings of Season Five from what could have been otherwise reached.”

In fact, Project Runway’s fifth season, whose finale wasOct. 15, racked up its highest ratings ever. The show averaged 2.378 million viewers 18 to 49, versus 2.286 million last season, and 3.58 million total viewers, versus 3.294 million, making it the series' highest-rated season ever.

Nonetheless, in its counterclaim The Weinstein Co. said that by trying to lower Project Runway’s ratings, Bravo reduced the value of the show.

“Advertisers will purchase product integration for Season 6 and beyond based upon their predictions of the program’s future ratings,” The Weinstein Co. said in its counterclaim. “The Weinstein Co. will not be able to exact as much revenue from product integration as it otherwise would have had Bravo followed its promotional scheme from previous seasons.”

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