Titans Clash in Court Over 'Project Runway'


NEW YORK Jeff Zucker, president and CEO of NBC Universal, and Harvey Weinstein, co-chairman of The Weinstein Co. (TWC), offered colorful and conflicting testimony Thursday at a hearing in New York State Supreme Court -- the first public skirmish in their dispute over the hit Bravo program Project Runway.

In April, NBC filed suit against TWC, which produces the show, for breach of contract for moving the series to Lifetime without giving NBC -- Bravo's parent -- the chance to match the offer. Runway will appear on its new network starting with the sixth season, currently set to begin in November. The show's fifth season launched last night on Bravo and continues through October.

Thursday's daylong hearing before Judge Richard Lowe in Manhattan featured testimony from Zucker, Weinstein and others on two motions, including a preliminary injunction request from NBC that would prevent Weinstein from moving the show to Lifetime before the case is fully tried. The second motion, from Weinstein, asks for a dismissal.

Judge Lowe did not rule on either request today, and it was unclear when he would do so.

Most of the testimony focused on a tense meeting between Zucker, Weinstein and Marc Graboff, co-chairman, NBC Entertainment and NBCU Television Studio, that was held on Jan. 15, 2007 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles, well after the relationship between Bravo and the producer had soured.

Zucker testified that during the meeting, he and Graboff secured from Weinstein a verbal promise of a right of first refusal to match any offer that Weinstein received to move the program to a competing network.

In exchange, Zucker testified, NBC approved the accelerated scheduling of seasons four and five of the show and agreed to move the series off Bravo -- possibly to NBC or USA Network for season six and beyond.

Zucker also said NBC agreed to reduce the "hold back" period -- to six months from one year -- as a de-facto non-compete clause barring Weinstein from promoting or airing the program on a competing network.

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