Project Parse It Up: Bravo vs. Lifetime

Tim Gunn, our favorite sartorial critic, is in the eye of the storm—again. As I chronicled in Fast Company's April issue profile "Project Rehab," the former head of Parsons' Fashion program has had a dizzying career trajectory since turning 50 (take note AARP!): landing his own TV show on Bravo, recruited to rewire Liz Claiborne Inc's $5 billion design culture, and of course, breakout stardom on Bravo's Project Runway.


Of course, being on top always has its consequences. Last month, the Weinstein brothers dealt a blow to NBC Universal (particularly "buddy" Jeff Zucker and Bravo turnaround star Lauren Zalaznick), when they decided to sell five-year Project Runway rights to the tear-jerking chick network, Lifetime, for $150 million. NBC Universal is now suing The Weinstein Company for not honoring its first right of refusal obligations.


The latest development, according to the Los Angeles Times, is that the battle continues to heat up. Project Runway's producers—Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz (the former Project Greenlight producers we mentioned in our Gunn story) and creators of show—have just signed an exclusive agreement with NBC Universal. That means now the talent is officially divorced: in Bravo's court are the brainchildren of Project Runway (and other Bravo hit Top Chef); in Lifetime's, statuesque Heidi Klum and every-woman's-B.F.F., Tim Gunn.


What this means for the future of Project Runway remains the lingering (and unfortunate) question. With the pool of talent carved up likes carnage from a Thanksgiving turkey, will both networks end up losing in the end? Will greed and ego (how unusual) be the downfall of one of the few innovative shows to surface on cable TV? I can imagine poor Tim—who in the time I spent with him reporting was clearly still too earnest for both Wall Street and showbiz—getting shuffled around like the child of freshly divorced parents.

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