"Project Runway" may switch from Bravo to the Lifetime cable network this fall, but NBC Universal ensured Monday that the show's producers won't go with it.
NBC Universal, whose properties include Bravo, USA and Oxygen, announced a deal that ties it to producers Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz, giving the company first look at their projects. In effect, it forced the duo to choose between staying with "Project Runway" or the promise of more work at NBC.
Lifetime last month announced it had agreed on a $150 million deal with the Weinstein Co., owners of "Project Runway," to televise five seasons of the cable hit starting in February. NBC Universal has tried to block that move in court.
Cutforth and Lipsitz, who call their production company Magical Elves, acknowledged their tough call.
"This was kind of a crossroads," Cutforth said. "It was a difficult decision to leave a show that to a large degree made our name and has been a big part of our company for a long time. But it really did seem like this was the right time to part ways."
Lipsitz used to work at VH1 with Jeff Gaspin, who's now president and chief operating officer of the Universal Television Group. The team has also worked on NBC's "Last Comic Standing" and Bravo's "Top Chef."
The deal gives their company security instead of going on a work-for-hire basis, Lipsitz said. She said a similar arrangement was broached even before the battle over "Project Runway."
Lifetime and the Weinstein Co. had no immediate comment on the deal.
NBC Universal is seeking a preliminary injunction against the Weinstein Co. to prevent promotion of "Project Runway" on Lifetime. A fifth season of the series is airing this summer on Bravo before the Lifetime deal kicks in.