In a shocking blow to Lifetime, a New York judge issued a preliminary ruling against the Weinstein Co. that prevents it from airing the sixth season of Project Runway on the women's cable network. Production of the reality show, which was swiped from the NBC Universal-owned Bravo last summer, is already under way, and the show was expected to debut in January. ''The overwhelming evidence demonstrated that The Weinstein Company violated NBC Universal's right of first refusal to future cycles of Project Runway,'' according to an NBC Universal statement. ''After hearing all of the evidence, the court issued an order prohibiting The Weinstein Company from taking the show or any spin-off to Lifetime.''
The preliminary ruling is a long way from bringing the show back to Bravo, but the court action could be a critical first step in NBC Universal's quest to block fully the deal made by Lifetime and Weinstein last summer. NBC Universal's lawsuit alleged that the Weinstein Co. failed to give Bravo the right of first refusal when it got the offer from Lifetime. NBC Universal also wanted to block Lifetime from promoting that it had future cycles of the show.
''We are disappointed with the court's decision to grant the preliminary injunction against The Weinstein Co.,'' reads a statement from Lifetime. ''It's unfortunate that the people hurt most by this ongoing dispute are the loyal fans of Project Runway. In the meantime, Lifetime will pursue all measures to uphold its valid and binding agreement reached with The Weinstein Co.''
According to a Weinstein spokeswoman, production on the sixth season will continue. Casting has already been completed and production was under way on both coasts for the new cycle, which is being executive-produced by Bunim-Murray Productions (The Real World). The company was hired by Lifetime and Weinstein to replace Runway's original producers, Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz of Magical Elves, who signed an exclusive development deal with NBC Universal after Lifetime picked up Runway.
The next phase of the court dispute is expected to begin in New York in November.