UPFRONT & CENTER: Lifetime Television Sets Project Runway Companions

Lifetime Television is developing two complementary reality series to Project Runway, which is scheduled for a November premiere after being snatched from Bravo.

The Hearst/Disney-owned cable network and digital-media operator is also lifting investment in TV movies and scripted series, parent Lifetime Networks said in a media luncheon presentation Monday.

Project Runway producer The Weinstein Co. is developing Project Pygmalion, in which drab working-class women get a fashion makeover; and Models of the Runway, which will present behind-the-scenes look at the lives of fashion professionals.

Speaking to the assembled journalists, producer Harvey Weinstein promised that Project Runway will “be the same, only better” on its new channel.

Lifetime also remains strongly committed to original made-for-TV movies and is planning to spend 25% more to make them for upgraded star value. Output for the 2008-09 season will still be at around 40 titles, but Lifetime Movie Network will go to 18 titles from 12. The flagship channel will have fewer, but more costly TV movies.

Lifetime Networks president and CEO Andrea Wong said she hopes to convince The Weinstein Co. to produce TV movies for the company, as well, down the road.

The performance of The Memory Keeper’s Daughter validated TV-movie investment, becoming the most watched movie on the flagship network since 1995 with 4.5 million homes and 4.5 million women aged 18-plus in its April 12 premiere. And LMN experienced seven consecutive months of audience growth.

Lifetime also commissioned sitcom and drama series pilots, some of which are expected to be picked up as first-run series next fall.

“We will let women move from watching a water-cooler original-movie event to joining a Project Runway community at MyLifetime.com to tuning in for a new episode of Army Wives and then to playing a hot new casual game online -- all under the Lifetime banner,” Wong said.

NBC Universal filed a lawsuit on behalf of its Bravo network when The Weinstein Co. shifted Project Runway in a deal announced April 7, and Harvey Weinstein humorously alluded to his fractured relationship with NBCU president and CEO Jeff Zucker.

“Over the next three years, when I finish my servitude [doing menial household chores in the Zucker house], I think we’ll be friends again,” Weinstein said.

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