NEW YORK (Reuters) - NBC Universal and its Bravo cable network will lose the popular television reality show “Project Runway” as the show unveiled plans on Monday to jump to rival cable network Lifetime Television.
The show, in which fledgling fashion designers compete for money to launch their own line, has been one of Bravo’s top-rated shows.
NBC Universal filed suit on Monday in New York State Supreme Court against the show’s producer, The Weinstein Co, claiming that the network and Bravo had the right of first refusal for future cycles of the show and any spinoffs.
“Project Runway” will move to Lifetime for its sixth season beginning in November as part of a five-year deal, the network and The Weinstein Co said.
In the lawsuit, NBC claimed it has been negotiating with Weinstein for more than a year to gain exclusive rights to broadcast subsequent cycles of the program, but that Weinstein threatened to take the show to another network unless NBC agreed
to acquire a package of unrelated Weinstein films for “many millions of additional dollars.”
NBC is seeking a preliminary and permanent injunction to prevent Weinstein from taking the show to another network.
“It is always unfortunate when parties try to win in court what they have lost in the marketplace,” David Boies, an attorney for Weinstein said in a statement.
Project Runway just completed its fourth cycle, and NBC said in the suit that it is in production for the fifth season on Bravo.
But NBC said on Monday that it may have to decide whether to continue to air the show.
“NBC Universal regrettably had no alternative but to bring legal action to enforce its rights to this program, including the right to decide whether it is in the best interest of the company to continue to air the show under the proposed financial terms,” the company said in a statement.
Heidi Klum, the show’s supermodel host, and Tim Gunn, chief creative officer at Liz Claiborne Inc who mentors the show’s contestants, have also agreed to move to Lifetime, the network said in a statement.
The seven-time Emmy-nominated show premiered on Bravo in 2005 and averaged more than 3.5 million viewers per episode in its most recent season.
NBC is controlled by General Electric Co. France’s Vivendi owns a minority stake.
Additional reporting Edith Honan in New York and Bob Tourtellotte in Los Angeles; Editing by Ted Kerr, Richard Chang