Weinsteins strike back at Bravo over "Runway"

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Bravo isn’t the only one claiming it’s been damaged by the Weinstein Co’s provocative decision to move “Project Runway” to Lifetime.

Host Heidi Klum talks to audience members during the taping of the season finale of Project Runway during New York Fashion Week September 12, 2008. REUTERS/Keith Bedford

In papers filed Friday in federal court in New York, Weinstein claims Bravo intentionally refused to promote Season 5 of the reality series because of the move, and is seeking unspecified damages.

Weinstein, the studio run by Miramax Films founders Bob and Harvey Weinstein, said some of the things Bravo did to sabotage the ratings and value of the show included changing the show’s airtime; running a small number of ads; creating “mundane and unappealing” ads; providing little information for the press about the season premiere; and revealing spoilers about future episodes.

The company also alleges that when Bravo began to suspect that the show might move to a rival network, it created “copycat shows” based on the “Runway” format.

Bravo’s parent company, NBC Universal, said in a statement: “Not only do we categorically disagree with the Weinstein’s Co.’s assertions, but the fact is that Season 5 was the most-watched and highest-rated ‘Project Runway’ cycle ever.”

NBC Universal sued Weinstein in New York Supreme Court in April after the producers announced “Runway” would move to Lifetime, a female-oriented network owned jointly by Walt Disney Co. and Hearst Corp.

The network claimed Weinstein threatened to take future cycles of the show to another network if NBC Universal didn’t agree to pay millions more to acquire a package that included TV rights to second-tier Weinstein films.

NBC Universal also claims Weinstein engaged in “sham negotiations” with the network after it had already inked a deal with Lifetime.

In late September, Judge Richard Lowe III put the future of “Runway’s” sixth season up in the air when he ordered Lifetime and Weinstein to stop any promotion, marketing or airing of the reality competition show until the case was over.

Then, two weeks ago, Lifetime, which had not been a party to the lawsuit, intervened and successfully pushed for the case to move to federal court.

Lifetime claims its copyright interests in the series are superior to and pre-empt the rights of NBC Universal and Bravo, according to court papers filed October 17 by Lifetime.

In its counterclaim, Weinstein points to programs such as “Top Chef,” “Top Design,” “Shear Genius,” “Make Me a Supermodel” and “Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style” as proof of Bravo copying the “Runway” format.

Among its promotional failures, Weinstein claims Bravo failed to update the series’ Web site, which in past seasons had provided biographies of the designers and models weeks before the show premiered.

Weinstein also claims NBC wanted to “confuse the marketplace” over Season 5 by not including images of the new season in its ads and running “repeats like crazy” in “Runway” marathons.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter