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NBC Universal Wins Injunction on Project Runway - Broadcasting & Cable

NBC Universal Wins Injunction on Project Runway

Court ruling: The Weinstein Co. violated NBC Universal's right of first refusal in taking reality hit to Lifetime Television.
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NBC Universal said Friday that it obtained a preliminary injunction against The Weinstein Co. that would prevent it from moving Weinstein's hit, Project Runway, from Bravo to Lifetime Television.

"NBC Universal is pleased that the court granted our motion for a preliminary injunction against The Weinstein Co.," the company said in a statement late Friday.

NBCU told the New York State Supreme Court Weinstein, co-owned by brothers Harvey and Bob Weinstein, violated its right of first refusal when it announced a deal last April to take the show to Lifetime.

"After hearing all of the evidence,” the statement continued, “the court issued an order prohibiting The Weinstein Co. from taking the show or any spinoff to Lifetime.” The court also denied Weinstein's motion to dismiss the suit.

"We are disappointed with the court’s decision to grant the preliminary injunction against The Weinstein Co.," Lifetime said in a statement. "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. for season six of Project Runway.”

Because it won the injunction against the airing or promoting of the show on Lifetime, NBCU will have to post a bond of $20 million, the court said, although that is only one-tenth of the $200 million Weinstein asked for, which is what it said is the amount of its deal with Lifetime for the show.

According to a copy of the decision obtained by B&C, the court concluded that NBCU, which owns Bravo, and Weinstein had an enforceable contract, even though it had not been signed.

The court concluded that the TV business is pretty loose about signing contracts the parties still treat as binding. It said it was convinced by testimony that "the television industry is one that seems to have a disregard for legal formality and is indeed reckless by failing to execute long-form license agreements for the sake of the exigencies of time in getting television shows produced and broadcast."

The court said it was customary for parties in such agreements to "disregard formality" and, thus, for unexecuted agreements to be adhered to.

Having found that it was a contract, the court also ruled that it contained an enforceable right of first refusal for NBCU for future cycles of the show, relying on an e-mail from NBCU Entertainment co-chairman Marc Graboff to Weinstein to that effect following a meeting with Weinstein at the Four Seasons in Los Angeles.

That e-mail was, again, not made part of a written agreement, but a confirming e-mail from Weinstein closed the loop, the court said, and represented a valid agreement.

The court agreed that losing the show would cause significant harm to NBCU, in terms of viewership and money, but also as a platform to promote other shows.

The court's conclusion: "Plaintiffs have established a likelihood of success on the merits with respect to the claim that TWC is in breach of the spinoff provision of the 2003 licensing agreement."

The court did say that it was concerned that the injunction might keep the show off the air for an extended period of time -- it was scheduled to debut on Lifetime in November but was recently retargeted for January -- so said it would put the case on an expedited schedule.

The parties have been instructed to appear before the court Oct. 15 for a conference on the expedited scheduling.

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