Is "Project Runway" falling apart at the seams?
NBC Universal said Monday that it had signed an exclusive pact with the production team behind the hit cable program, a look inside the fashion industry.
The move comes less than a month after Lifetime Networks announced that it had sewn up the rights to the popular franchise, hosted by supermodel Heidi Klum, after outbidding NBC Universal, which had run the program on its Bravo cable channel since its birth in 2004.
NBC's move means that Weinstein Co., which owns the rights to the show, must scramble to put together a new production team. Weinstein Co. and Lifetime downplayed the move, saying they should have new producers hired in time for the show to launch this fall on Lifetime.
"It's the nature of television that outstanding series change some of the producers over their run," Lifetime said in a statement. " 'Project Runway's' success has been a collaborative process among many brilliant 'designers,' and that will continue."
Last month, Lifetime paid at least $150 million for the rights to "Project Runway" for five years, two other TV series and dozens of movies.
The channel plans to relaunch the show in November after its fifth and final cycle on Bravo.
NBC Universal last month sued Weinstein Co., claiming that Weinstein had reneged on its obligation to give NBC Universal a right of first refusal before moving the program to a competitor.
The show's producers, Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz of Magical Elves, said they planned to stay at NBC, where they also produce "Top Chef" for Bravo and "Last Comic Standing" for the NBC broadcast network. NBC signed them to an overall production deal giving it first dibs on any other programs that they might develop.
"They have been terrific producers and we wish them well," Weinstein spokesman Matthew Frankel said.
Weinstein has deals with Klum and fashion expert Tim Gunn, but it is unclear whether the two other judges on the show, Nina Garcia and Michael Kors, will move to Lifetime with the show. Other show veterans have said they are staying on.
"We're thrilled that Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn, the heartbeat of the show, and executive producers Jane Cha and Desiree Gruber, are all moving to Lifetime and that production will continue to be overseen by John Miller and Barbara Schneeweiss of the Weinstein Company," Lifetime said.
Cutforth and Lipsitz met in 2001 while producing "Bands on the Run" at Viacom Inc.'s VH1 channel, the former haunt of Bravo President Lauren Zalaznick and her boss Jeff Gaspin, president of Universal Television Group.