Settlement reached in 'Runway' lawsuit
Empty"Project Runway" has been cleared for landing at Lifetime.
NBC Universal has settled its lawsuit against the Weinstein Co. over the move of Bravo's signature series to Lifetime.
NBC Uni apparently was paid multiple millions in the settlement, which also calls for Lifetime to delay the launch of the long-awaited sixth season of "Runway" to mid-August. That gives NBC Uni's Bravo a free field to launch its "Runway" successor "The Fashion Show" unchallenged. Within hours of the settlement, Bravo said "Fashion" will debut May 7. The show is expected to wrap before "Runway" hits the air on Lifetime.
"I want to personally congratulate Jeff Zucker and NBCU on their success in the litigation and thank Jeff for resolving this in a professional manner," Harvey Weinstein said in a statement released by NBC as part of the settlement. "We look forward to working together on our ongoing projects."
The settlement puts an end to a year-long court battle between NBC Uni and the Weinstein Co. triggered by the announcement last April that "Runway" would move to Lifetime. NBC Uni won an injunction against Lifetime airing the series, and with the airdate for the show's sixth season — originally slated for November — in limbo, Lifetime entered the legal fray last year.
Each side has something to gain from the resolution. Lifetime will finally get to air the delayed new season of "Runway" and proceed with its rebranding that had been tied to the marquee acquisition.
The Weinstein Co. will get to see some of its $150 million deal with Lifetime — which includes five years of "Runway," spinoff "Models of the Runway," new series "Project Pygmalion" as well as a package of Weinstein Co. movies — start to flow to the company.
And NBC Uni will recoup its legal fees and then some from the cash settlement and will be able to get its "Runway"-type "Fashion Show" on the air before "Runway" returns.
"As the highest-rated cable network for women, Lifetime is the perfect home for this outstanding program as well as its companion series 'Models of the Runway,' " Lifetime Networks CEO Andrea Wong said. "All of us at Lifetime are thrilled to move forward with Heidi, Tim, Nina, Michael, the Weinstein Co. and the entire 'Project Runway' team."
An early pivot point in the negotiations occurred in January, when a mediator asked NBC Uni if the company wanted to re-buy "Runway." With its own fashion reality show in production, NBC Uni turned down the offer, which either speaks to the company's lower valuation of "Runway" after five seasons or its unwillingness to dig deep during a recession — or both.
Another turning point came after a March 19 hearing in New York on the Weinstein Co.'s appeal of the injunction.
With only 15 minutes for each side to make its case, and a panel of five judges that all have to agree, the hearing was considered "risky business" for both sides.
Appealing the injunction for the Weinstein Co. was litigator David Boies.
"NBC Uni didn't feel so comfortable" after that hearing, a source said, noting that NBC Uni had at stake a $20 million bond that they would have lost had the injunction been lifted.
Another source scoffed, countering that the bond would only have been a factor if the Weinstein Co. won and could have proven damages.
"I don't know what sort of damages they could have had because Lifetime paid them a lot of money," that source said.
Despite the legal feud, Zucker and Weinstein still have a joint project on the feature side, Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds."