Wong: `Project Runway’ Perfect Fit For Lifetime

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Lifetime's female viewers will like the strut of fashion reality show Project Runway when the series debuts its sixth season on the network in November, according to Lifetime president Andrea Wong.

But NBC Universal-owned Bravo isn’t ready to step off the Project Runway catwalk just yet. The network, which has aired the first four seasons of the series and is currently in production on a fifth, has filed a lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court against The Weinstein Co., alleging that the production company signed the Lifetime deal before giving Bravo its legal right to match the offer.

The five-year deal, estimated at upward of $150 million, also includes a package of Weinstein-produced films, including such titles as the Nanny Diaries and The Great Debaters. It’s unclear, however, whether Lifetime will have the basic-cable premiere window for all of the movies.     

Wong said Project Runway fits perfectly with Lifetime’s female-skewing original content. The Weinstein Co.-produced fashion competition reality series drew 5.18 million viewers, including a Bravo record 3.75 million adults 18 to 49  in its fourth-season finale last month.

“The opportunity to partner with the Weinsteins on this show was one that we jumped at,” Wong told Multichannel News. “This a beginning of a long and enduring partnership with the Weinsteins that we’re excited about.” (To hear an extended version of the interview go to MCN Radio.)

The Weinstein Co.’s co-chairmen Harvey and Bob Weinstein said the 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.” 

Wong would not comment on the Bravo lawsuit, but said the network has a signed agreement with Weinstein for distribution of the series.

The Bravo lawsuit claims that The Weinstein Co. “never intended to negotiate in good faith or to honor [Bravo’s] right of first refusal.”

It also claims that the Weinsteins threatened to take the series to a “competing television network” unless Bravo agreed to pay “millions of additional dollars” to acquire a “package” that included TV rights to second tier films unrelated to Project Runway

In a statement, NBC Universal said it 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. NBC Universal regrettably had no alternative but to bring legal action to enforce its rights to this program, including the right to decide whether it is in the best interest of the company to continue to air the show under the proposed financial terms.”

While the Weinsteins thanked NBC Universal and Bravo for its support, Weinstein company counsel David Boies said in a statement that the lawsuit “is without merit.”

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