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Lifetime Wants To Shift 'Runway' Battle To Federal Court

Lifetime is looking for a change in legal venue in the battle to move Project Runway to its air.

The women’s targeted-network, just hours before lawyers for The Weinstein Co. and NBC Universal were scheduled to meet with a New York Supreme Court judge about the next phase of the case, asked that the action involving the hit reality series' future be shifted to federal court.

Late last month, the New York court okayed NBCU's request for a preliminary injunction, stopping The Weinstein Co. from moving the reality series to Lifetime from Bravo, which wrapped up its fifth turn with the show Wednesday night. The parties had been expected to meet in court that day, Oct. 15, but the Jewish holidays had backed up the schedule and pushed the meeting to Oct. 17.  

Last spring, Lifetime reached a five-year deal for the show, beginning with a sixth season that was originally expected to bow in November. The Lifetime launch was subsequently pushed into January, before the latest round of legal wrangling commenced. .

"Lifetime today removed the Project Runway lawsuit from state court to federal court," the network said in a statement. "We did this because any issue relating to Lifetime's exclusive right to air future cycles of ProjectRunway is a matter of federal copyright law and therefore should be heard by a federal court. We continue to believe that Lifetime has rights superior to NBCU's claimed right of first refusal on future cycles of Project Runway."

NBCU issued its own response: "Hours before the state court judge was to set a trial schedule, Lifetime chose to pursue legal maneuvers to shift the case to federal court, which will only delay the proceedings. NBC Universal will vigorously fight this eleventh-hour move and intends to file legal papers seeking to remand the case to state court."

Weinstein officials weren’t immediately available for comment.

The Weinstein Co. in April reached a reported five-year, $200 million deal with Lifetime for distribution of ProjectRunway. However, Bravo sued Weinstein over the contract, arguing that the company did not honor NBC Universal's and Bravo's right of first refusal before signing a pact with any other company for new seasons of the show.

On Sept. 25, New York State Supreme Court judge Richard Love III granted NBCU and Bravo a preliminary injunction against The Weinstein Co. from taking the series or any spin-off thereof to the women’s-targeted cable network.

A franchise series for Bravo, the Heidi Klum-hosted competition show finished its fifth campaign on Oct. 15 in record form. Despite running head-to-head with the third Presidential debate, Project Runway, in which Leanne Marshall sewed up the title, drew 4.79 million viewers and 3.17 million adults 18 to 49, its best-ever marks in the 9 p.m. time slot. With encores at 11 p.m. and midnight, the fifth-season finale cumed 7.16 million watchers and 4.79 million of the Madison-Avenue-coveted demo.

For the season, Project Runway scored its Bravo-best averages of 3.58 million viewers, up 9% from 3.29 million in the fourth campaign, and 2.38 million adults 18 to 49, 4% more than 2.29 million the prior year.