The legal mêlée over the rights to Project Runway could keep the show off the air until next summer--and while a delay would put a crimp in Lifetime's winter programming plans, neither the network nor its advertisers have cause for undue alarm, it seems.
Runway will wrap its fifth and highest-rated season on Bravo Oct. 15, hours after a New York court gavels in the latest phase of litigation between NBC Universal and The Weinstein Co. (TWC).
On Sept. 26, New York State Supreme Court Judge Richard Lowe granted NBCU a preliminary injunction against the show's creators, enjoining TWC from exhibiting or promoting a new cycle of Runway on Lifetime until the dispute with Bravo's parent is resolved.
Lowe encouraged both parties to weigh the merits of an out-of-court settlement. "While it appears that resting Project Runway for a period of time will not cause harm to the show, the court must ensure that it is not off the air for an excessive period of time," Lowe wrote.
If an "alternate dispute resolution" isn't reached, it appears increasingly unlikely that Lifetime will be cleared to air the sixth installment of Runway in January 2009, the latest the show can premiere if the season finale is to sync up with New York Fashion Week in February. As such, Lifetime would not be expected to go forward with the show until next summer.
"If it's not on the air by September of next year, then they start having some interesting conversations with their clients," said one media buyer. "But the Runway money is segregated from the rest of the money Lifetime took in during the upfront."