This story was written by Staci D. Kramer.
Project Runway, the competition-reality show that launched a genre on Bravo, is flipping housesunless NBC Universal (NYSE: GE) gets a court to back up its claim to the show. The Weinstein Company and Lifetime announced a deal today to move the show to the women's net for five years, starting with its sixth season this November, complete with supermodel host Heidi Klum and fashion guru Tom Gunn. (Klum is the one who kisses off losing contestants with "auf wiedersehen.")
It's a major blow to NBCU, where Project Runway is the heart of its Bravo reality competition slate including Top Chef, Shear Genius, and Top Design. NBCU claims it had first refusal and filed suit today in New York state court. Weinstein Company lawyer David Boies: "We believe that this lawsuit is without merit. While good for the market for lawyers, it is always unfortunate when parties try to win in court what they have lost in the marketplace." Meanwhile, Project Runway is auditioning now for its last scheduled run on Bravo, season 5.
Online repercussions: So why does this matter online? It's simple: the reality competition shows drive traffic and attract passionate, engaged fans. Compete.com has an interested comparison that shows why Project Runway should be meaningful to Lifetime online as well as on the air. Bravotv.com's numbers spiked during season four of Project Runway and the beginning of Top Chef"project runway's is the top search termwhile LifetimeTV.com, which has yet to really hit its online stride, could use a serious spike or two. In NBCU's case, Project Runway and other top BravoTV shows are important to its planned womens ad net strategy as well as synergies with other properties like iVillage and Todayshow.com.
NYT: "Even if NBC had retained the rights to the show, it was surely going to move off Bravo anyway. In initial talks with the Weinstein Company, one condition was that 'Project Runway' would have to move to a larger network. NBC Universal had promised to do so, moving it either to the USA cable network, or perhaps even its broadcast network, NBC."
By Staci D. Kramer