On April 1, 2009, NBC Universal, Inc. (“NBCU”), Lifetime Entertainment Services (“Lifetime”) and The Weinstein Company settled a dispute over the reality television series “Project Runway.” Project Runway will now be telecast on Lifetime.
In February 2008, The Weinstein Company licensed the exclusive rights to future episodes of the show to Lifetime, starting with the sixth season of Runway. In April 2008, NBCU, the parent company of Bravo Media LLC (“Bravo”), which had been telecasting the program for its first five seasons, filed a lawsuit against The Weinstein Company in New York State Supreme Court. The lawsuit cited breach of contract and specific performance and claimed NBCU had a contractual right of “first refusal” to future episodes of Project Runway predating Lifetime’s license from The Weinstein Company. NBCU and Bravo did not name Lifetime as a party to the state court action. NBCU obtained a preliminary injunction enjoining The Weinstein Company from performing under its executed contract with Lifetime, including promoting, exhibiting or marketing Project Runway on Lifetime, until a trial on the merits could be held.
Thereafter, Cravath partners Evan R. Chesler and Stuart W. Gold became counsel for Lifetime, and, in October 2008, the state court granted Lifetime the right to intervene. Lifetime then brought an action against NBCU in federal court challenging NBCU’s claimed right of first refusal as invalid under the copyright laws. After nearly a year of litigation, an agreement was reached among NBCU, Lifetime and The Weinstein Company, which settled the litigations and enabled The Weinstein Company to permit Lifetime to telecast the series.