To borrow a phrase from recent Project Runway champ Christian Siriano, this here is a hot tranny mess. On April 7, Runway producers The Weinstein Co. dropped a bombshell: Following the upcoming fifth season (expected this summer), the hit show will ditch Bravo for Lifetime. Or will it? That same day, Bravo’s parent company NBC Universal filed a lawsuit against the Weinsteins, claiming that they’d failed to inform Bravo of Lifetime’s offer — estimated at $150 million — as they were supposed to do.
According to the suit, the two sides negotiated for more than a year, but hit an impasse when The Weinstein Co. demanded that NBC Universal ”pay many millions of additional dollars…to acquire a ‘package’ that included television rights to second-tier Weinstein films unrelated to Runway.” A lawyer for The Weinstein Co. deems the suit ”without merit.” And a source close to the show contends that Bravo was damaging the Runway brand by constantly airing reruns and surrounding the series with inferior copycats like Top Design and Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style. ”Look what happened to Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” says the source, referring to that show’s rapid rise and fall. ”Runway needs to be protected.” Perhaps, but it’s worth noting that Bravo’s marathons turned Runway into a hit during its first season in 2004. Since then, the show has grown substantially, nabbing 5.2 million viewers for last month’s season 4 finale.
For now, Lifetime is staying out of the bickering, and is focused on launching Runway’s sixth season in November. The network — long lampooned for movie-of-the-week melodrama and Golden Girls reruns — may not snag Bravo’s hip audience, but it does bring clout. It reaches 96 million homes compared with Bravo’s 88.6 million, and boasts Army Wives, a top cable drama among female viewers. Runway is likely to lend it some much-needed credibility. Says CEO Andrea Wong: ”I want [Lifetime] to evolve into an optimistic, energetic, vibrant place that’s aspirational and fun.” And, of course, fierce.