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Weinsteins unveil mega TV plans

Company touts new slate, distribution exec

Harvey and Bob Weinstein are taking a fresh stab at TV.

Their Miramax TV shingle never really took off, save “Project Greenlight” and the hit design competish “Project Runway.” But now as the Weinstein Co., the duo are looking to finally conquer the smallscreen, unveiling the shingle’s first-ever TV development slate and hiring a new domestic distribution head.

“We are making a bold and important expansion into television,” said TWC principal Harvey Weinstein.

As part of the new focus, New Line alum David Spiegelman has joined the Weinstein Co. as president of domestic TV distribution. Spiegelman is charged with devising a strategy to sell Weinstein’s growing catalog of inhouse and acquisition titles.

Then there’s the programming side, under TV exec VP John Miller, who is developing a diverse list of scripted and nonscripted fare for broadcast and cable.

Beyond “Runway” — which bows its fifth season July 16 on Bravo before moving to Lifetime for a sixth go-round this fall — the production company is already behind HBO’s upcoming “No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency,” as well as the “Runway” spinoff “Models of the Runway” for Lifetime.

“No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency” recently scored strong numbers in its BBC bow; HBO has 13 one-hour episodes lined up.

Next up, the company is also developing its 2007 theatrical “The Nanny Diaries” as a half-hour multicamera sitcom for Lifetime. It’s actually a second attempt by the Weinsteins at turning the popular series of books into a TV show; Miramax TV was involved in an earlier “Nanny Diaries” project at CBS. New version is in development at Lifetime, which is looking for a writer.

Also at Lifetime, as mentioned at the channel’s spring upfront presentation, TWC has partnered with Ricochet (“Supernanny”) to produce the one-hour elimination competish “Pygmalion.”

The company is also developing a new take on the 1980s franchise “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” along with 2929 Prods. Also on the nonscripted tip, “Lovecraft” will follow the world of Tacee Webb, a businesswoman involved with fashion retailer American Apparel, as well as Lovecraft Bio-Fuels, the Silver Lake company that helps cars convert vegetable oil into fuel. Bill and Rene Rainey (“Punk’d”) will produce.

Other scripted entries include the national security-themed thriller “By Order of the President,” based on novels by W.E.B. Griffin; Mike Ovitz’s Amsef is producing, while a writer has not been attached. There’s also the comedy “Fat Cats,” from “Seinfeld” scribe Jill Franklyn.

Then there’s “Project Triple Threat” — the latest in the company’s line of “Project” series. This one will find 16 contestants who excel at acting, singing and dancing. Contestants will live together and compete against one another for a shot at a record contract and a part in a Hollywood musical.

“This moment is an incredible opportunity for the company,” Miller said. “The increased investment we are making will allow us to expand our success beyond ‘Project Runway’ and ‘No. 1 Ladies’ and provide real value to our network and cable partners.”

Miramax TV took several stabs at primetime a few years ago — including Kevin Williamson’s “Wasteland” and Kevin Smith’s “Clerks” — but the shows were short-lived.

As for Spiegelman, exec most recently served as senior exec VP of domestic TV distribution and marketing at New Line. According to the Weinsteins, New Line’s TV sales hit $1.2 billion over six years under Spiegelman. Exec spent 16 years there, negotiating output deals with HBO, Showtime, Starz and others.

With Spiegelman at the helm, TWC is looking to rethink how to sell films to the nets, paying more attention to creating custom packages that make more sense to each network’s target audience.

New titles in the TWC arsenal include “Shanghai,” “The Reader,” “Hoodwinked 2” and comedies featuring Seth Rogen, Ice Cube and Michael Cera.

“With all of this content at our disposal, we will look to revolutionize how it is sold and build innovative packages,” Spiegelman said.

Movies, of course, were the sticking point in the Weinstein Co.’s “Project Runway” renegotiations with NBC and Bravo. Peacock execs said they balked at purchasing a movie package as part of the show’s renewal, while the Weinsteins said the Peacock wasn’t willing to pay a larger license fee for the show.

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