NEW YORK – The Peabody Award-winning "Project Runway" is walking to Lifetime, and NBC Universal Co. responded Monday by suing the hit reality show's makers to keep the series on its Bravo network.
Lifetime announced that it had reached a reported $150 million deal with the Weinstein Co. to televise five seasons of "Project Runway" beginning in November. The show just completed its fourth season on Bravo last month, drawing nearly 5.2 million viewers to its finale.
NBC Universal complained that Weinstein violated an agreement to give Bravo the right of first refusal to the series after the initial five-season run concluded.
The company, in court papers, said Weinstein went elsewhere with "Project Runway" because NBC Universal balked at its attempt to bundle the series with other Weinstein properties that the company wasn't interested in.
The Weinstein Co. said that there was no right of first refusal in the contract. NBC Universal was offered the deal and was outbid, said Weinstein Co. lawyer David Boies.
"Now they're just trying to distract attention from the fact that they lost this program," Boies said. "They're embarrassed and looking for somebody else to blame."
The fashion series with Heidi Klum is Bravo's top-rated program. Production is under way on the fifth season, which will air on Bravo before the Lifetime deal kicks in.
Lifetime President Andrea Wong said she wouldn't comment on the dispute between the Weinstein and NBC. She's confident the network has a legal, binding deal for the series.
"We moved quickly and jumped at the opportunity to get this show," Wong said. "We all love the show here."
"Project Runway" is a hit with young viewers and that makes it particularly valuable to Lifetime, which is moving away from a once dowdy image.
Lifetime did agree to acquire TV rights to other Weinstein properties as part of the deal to get "Project Runway," Wong said. They include the movies "The Nanny Diaries" and "The Great Debaters."