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'Project Runway' producers countersue NBCU over fifth season


By John Bracchitta, 10/28/2008 

Project Runway's The Weinstein Company production company has filed a counterclaim to NBC Universal's ongoing lawsuit to prevent losing the reality show to Lifetime.

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According to the filing, NBC Universal's Bravo network failed to properly promote Project Runway's recently completed fifth season in an attempt to "diminish" its "future value" after The Weinstein Company and Lifetime announced their deal to move the show to the women's cable network beginning with its sixth season, Multichannel News reported Monday.  The claim seeks unspecified damages, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The company cites examples of several Bravo decisions that allegedly support its claim, including airing Project Runway's fifth season on Wednesdays at 9PM ET/PT instead of the show's previous 10PM ET/PT timeslot, not announcing the season's cast until two days before its July 16 debut, revealing spoilers about the show's entire season before its premiere, and not beginning to promote the new season with advertisements until June 26, according to The Reporter.

According to the claim, Bravo's moves "left many fans of the show unaware [and] confused about the details of Season Five," Multichannel reported.

"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 Company said in its countersuit, according to Multichannel.

The Weinstein Company also reportedly alleges that the ads Bravo did run for the show were "confusing, mundane and unappealing," and noted that most of the network's pre-season commercials consisted of clips from the show's previous seasons.  In addition, the company also charges that NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker sent in internal email in which he stated Bravo was "just gonna run the repeats like crazy to confuse the marketplace," according to Multichannel.

NBC Universal immediately denied the allegations and cited that fact that Project Runway's fifth season was the show's highest-rated season ever -- the season averaged 3.58 million total viewers, up from the fourth season's 3.294 million -- to support its claim.

"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 obtained by Multichannel.

However according to The Weinstein Company's claim, Project Runway's ratings increased "in spite of, and not a result of, Bravo's tactics."

"Advertisers will purchase product integration for Season 6 and beyond based upon their predictions of the program’s future ratings," the company said in the claim, according to Multichannel. "The Weinstein Company 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."

(Photo credit Bravo)


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