One year, one lawsuit and one network later, Project Runway came back stronger than ever in its new home.
Thursday night’s sixth season premiere of Runway outperformed its Bravo peak, drawing 4.2 million viewers at 10 p.m. Thursday on Lifetime.
That’s an astounding 45% increase from season five’s Runway premiere on Bravo last July and marks the most-watched series premiere ever for both Runway and Lifetime. In Lifetime’s key demo of women 18-49, “Runway” drew a 3.2. Lifetime’s “Runway” spin-off series “Models of the Runway” (1.9 million viewers, 1.4 rating) also performed well at 10 p.m.
The numbers should come as a relief to the beleaguered Weinstein Co., which sold the series to Lifetime after negotiations for a renewal fell apart at Bravo. The network’s parent company NBC Universal sued the Weinsteins over the move, which delayed the premiere of season six and allowed Bravo to get a running head start launching its own copycat series, the underwhelming “Fashion House” (which averaged about 1.2 million viewers this summer).
“We’re extremely happy,” said Andrea Wong, president and CEO of Lifetime. “This gives us a great beachhead in the unscripted space. Runway is the No. 1 competition show on cable and has such huge cultural significance and certainly brings new viewers to Lifetime. It also gives us the opportunity to promote our other shows.”
Runway’s season five opener drew 2.9 million viewers. That was on par with the year before despite Bravo moving the show from its usual 10 p.m. perch to an earlier time period after news broke of the show’s defection to Lifetime. The strong boost on Lifetime is partly explained by looking at audience levels for the networks. During the second quarter, Lifetime was the 15th-most-watched cable network in primetime; Bravo was the 30th.
“Not only has this premiere generated the series’ highest rating, but the reviews have been the best we have ever received,” said Harvey Weinstein, co-chairman of the Weinstein Co. “I was thrilled to get our friends Nicole Kidman, Kate Hudson, Fergie, Lindsay Lohan and Diane von Furstenberg to help us launch this season, and I look forward to many more surprises in the coming months.”
Also last night: Fox won the evening with pre-season football (6.6 million viewers, 2.4 preliminary adults 18-49 rating). CBS was solid, though Big Brother (7.3 million, 2.4) slipped from its most recent surge. NBC was third with repeats. ABC placed fourth with Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (6.8 million, 1.4) and repeats.