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'Project Runway' settlement reached, to debut on Lifetime this summer

By Christopher Rocchio, 04/01/2009 

Project Runway's long legal saga has finally ended.

Bravo's NBC Universal parent company, Project's Runway's The Weinstein Company production company, and Lifetime Networks have announced that the legal dispute surrounding the reality series has been resolved and the show's sixth season will debut this summer on Lifetime.

"NBC Universal, The Weinstein Company and Lifetime have resolved their disputes," NBC Universal said in a Wednesday statement.  "The Weinstein Company will pay NBCU for the right to move Project Runway to Lifetime. All of the parties are pleased with the outcome."

"I want to personally congratulate [NBCU president] Jeff Zucker and NBCU on their success in the litigation and thank Jeff for resolving this in a professional manner," added The Weinstein Company CEO Harvey Weinstein.  "We look forward to working together on our ongoing projects."

It has been almost a year since Lifetime Networks and The Weinstein Company announced a five-year deal to bring Project Runway to Lifetime from Bravo beginning with the reality series' sixth season, which Lifetime had initially intended to debut in November 2008.

However on the same day the deal was announced, NBC Universal responded by filing a lawsuit in New York Supreme Court against The Weinstein Company, alleging that it had a contractual right to have an opportunity to match any offer for Project Runway's rights.

The Weinstein Company countered NBC Universal's lawsuit by claiming there was no such right and NBC had declined to compete for the rights to future Project Runway editions beyond the fifth season to which the parties were already contracted. Project Runway's fifth season -- and final Bravo edition -- subsequently aired on Bravo last summer.

Due to the litigation, Lifetime had to delay its originally announced plans to premiere Project Runway's sixth season in November and instead announced a January 2009 debut date.

However, a New York Supreme Court judge later granted NBC Universal's request for a preliminary injunction that prevented The Weinstein Company from moving forward with its Lifetime deal -- which further threw a wrench into Lifetime's plans to use Project Runway as the centerpiece of its 2008-2009 schedule.

As a result, Lifetime -- which had not previously been a direct party to the April lawsuit NBC Universal filed against The Weinstein Company  -- jumped into the legal fray and filed a court motion requesting the case be moved to a federal court based on federal copyright issues.

Despite the fact that the show was in litigation limbo, Lifetime and The Weinstein Company still went ahead with filming Project Runway's sixth season and even shot the finale in February at New York Fashion Week.

Now that the legal saga surrounding Project Runway has been resolved, Lifetime will move forward with the show and air it this summer.

"I couldn't be more excited that Lifetime will bring its viewers an amazing, all-new season of Project Runway this summer," Lifetime Networks president Andrea Wong said in a separate Wednesday statement. 

In addition, Lifetime also plans to keep Models of the Runway -- a Project Runway spin-off that will provide viewers a look at the reality series through the eyes of the models who participate in it -- as a companion series by premiering it this summer.

"As the highest-rated cable network for women, Lifetime is the perfect home for this outstanding program as well as its companion series Models of the Runway," said Wong.  "All of us at Lifetime are thrilled to move forward."

(Photo credit Lifetime)

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