“Project Runway’s” catwalk strut to Lifetime has hit a snag.
A New York judge granted a preliminary injunction Friday, temporarily barring the Weinstein Co. from moving the reality series from Bravo to Lifetime or marketing any such move.
The ruling puts the fate of the show, skedded to bow its sixth season on Lifetime in January, in limbo. Production is continuing in Los Angeles, however.
“The overwhelming evidence demonstrated that the Weinstein Co. violated NBC Universal’s right of first refusal to future cycles of ‘Project Runway,’ ” NBC U said in a statement. “After hearing all of the evidence, the court issued an order prohibiting the Weinstein Co. from taking the show or any spinoff to Lifetime.”
New York Supreme Court Judge Richard Lowe’s granting of the injunction puts TWC in a tough spot. A trial would likely delay Lifetime’s “Runway” bow, impacting the cabler’s ad sales revenue — and perhaps triggering a serious rift between TWC and its new cable partner.
The Weinstein Co. could propose a settlement with NBC Universal before the dispute goes to trial — but it’s unclear whether NBC U would be willing to accept. Given that the Peacock now owns femme-centric cabler Oxygen, a direct rival of Lifetime, the conglom may prefer to keep “Runway” off the air as long as possible.
For its part, TWC said it would appeal the injunction.
“We are glad that the court held that NBC Universal cannot exhibit the program on Bravo and that the court required NBC Universal to post a minimum $20 million bond,” a Weinstein statement read.
TWC had asked that NBC post a $200 million bond.
The parties will meet Oct. 15 to set a timetable on how the case will proceed. In his ruling, Lowe said he was conscious of the fact that viewers would be impacted by a delay in the launch of “Runway’s” season six but also noted that there’s usually a gap of several months between cycles.
“The court must ensure that it is not off the air for an excessive period of time,” the judge wrote. While Lifetime will be enjoined for now from “promotion, marketing and exhibition of future cycles of ‘Project Runway,’ ” the judge said the issue would be handled through expedited proceedings.
Friday’s ruling caught both Weinstein Co. and Lifetime execs off-guard — and insiders said even Peacock execs were surprised by the decision.
The Peacock filed suit against TWC in April, soon after Lifetime announced that it had signed a five-year, $150 million deal with the Weinstein Co. to take over the hot reality show.
Pact not only encompassed 140 future episodes of “Runway” but also 70 Weinstein Co. movies and two more 14-episode reality skeins: spinoff “The Models of Project Runway” and “Project Pygmalion.”
NBC U, however, claimed that TWC didn’t give the Peacock proper notification that another party had made an offer for “Runway.”
According to NBC Universal, the two sides met in January 2007 and agreed to a quid pro quo: NBC U would strike a “holdback” clause in the “Runway” pact that, should the Weinsteins take the show elsewhere, prevented it from airing on another channel for 12 months. In exchange, NBC U said it received the right of first refusal to air “Runway” on NBC, USA or another non-Bravo net. (Under the 2007 negotiation, NBC U said both sides agreed to keep the show on Bravo only if the Peacock also picked up a Weinstein movie package.) Such a deal would move the show away from Bravo, as the Weinstein Co. wished.
The Peacock said it even received confirmation of the agreement via an email sent by William Morris Agency, which reps the Weinsteins.
Meanwhile, Lifetime said it signed a deal in February to steal away “Runway.” NBC said not only did TWC not inform it of the February deal, but the company continued to conduct talks after the fact with the Peacock.
The fifth season of “Runway” is airing on Bravo. It’s the final edition to be produced by Magical Elves, which signed an overall deal with NBC U this year and opted not to join “Runway” at Lifetime. Vet producers Bunim-Murray have been handling season six.
Lifetime had originally announced plans to launch the sixth season of the show in November — just a month after the show wrapped on Bravo — but recently pushed that date back to January.
“We are disappointed with the court’s decision to grant the preliminary injunction against the Weinstein Co.,” added a Lifetime statement. “It’s unfortunate that the people hurt most by this ongoing dispute are the loyal fans of ‘Project Runway.’ In the meantime, Lifetime will pursue all measures to uphold its valid and binding agreement reached with the Weinstein Co. for season six of ‘Project Runway.’ ”
In his ruling, Judge Lowe said he sided with NBC Universal in the assertion that the money damages incurred by the loss of “Project Runway” would be “not calculable.” Lowe said NBC U established that “Project Runway” was “a unique and powerful program” and that the losses would “go beyond those evidenced through the loss of ratings and viewership.” What’s more, he said the Weinstein Co. actually helped back up NBC U’s argument by proclaiming that the show would be a “game-changer” for Lifetime.