Monday, May 05, 2008

NBC Universal signs 'Project Runway' producers

The move leaves Weinstein Co., which owns the rights to the show, scrambling to find a new production team as the series prepares to move to Lifetime.


By Meg James
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
May 5, 2008

Is "Project Runway" falling apart at the seams?

NBC Universal said this morning that it had signed an exclusive pact with the production team behind the hit cable program, a send-up to the fashion industry. The move comes two weeks after Lifetime Networks announced that it had sewn up the rights to the popular franchise, hosted by supermodel Heidi Klum, after outbidding NBC Universal, which had run the program on its Bravo cable channel since its birth in 2005.

NBC's move means that the Weinstein Co., which owns the rights to the show, must scramble to put together a new production team. Last month, Lifetime paid at least $150 million for the rights to "Project Runway" for five years. The channel plans to relaunch the show in November after its fifth and final cycle on NBC's Bravo network.

NBC Universal promptly sued the Weinstein Co., claiming that Weinstein had renegged on its obligation to give NBC Universal a right of first refusal before moving the program to a competitor.

Now, the show's producers, Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz of Magical Elves, said they planned to stay at NBC, where they also produce "Top Chef" for Bravo and "Last Comic Standing" for the NBC broadcast network.

Lifetime and Weinstein have deals with Klum and fashion expert Tim Gunn, but it is unclear whether the two other judges on the show, Nina Garcia and Michael Kohrs, will move to Lifetime.

Lifetime did not return a phone call seeking comment this morning.

Cutforth and Lipsitz met in 2001 while producing "Bands on the Run" at Viacom Inc.'s VH1 channel, the former haunt of Bravo President Lauren Zalaznick.