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Lifetime hopes to get fierce with 'Project Runway'

Almost 16 months after Lifetime Television struck a deal to snag the fashion reality hit "Project Runway" from Bravo the show will finally debut in its new home tonight.

A lot is riding on this for Lifetime, which needs "Project Runway" and its stars Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum to bring in a big young audience for its investment to pay off. According to Nielsen Media Research, Lifetime's prime-time audience has fallen in the last six years from an average of 1.7 million viewers in 2004 to 1.2 million this year, a drop of almost 30%. Among women ages 18 to 49 during the same period, the drop is 33% and for women ages 25 to 54 Lifetime is down 37%. While the network has had some recent successes with "Drop Dead Diva" and the drama "Army Wives," its median age is still hovering around 50.

So can one show heading into its sixth season turn everything around? Probably not, but it's a start. During its last two seasons on Bravo, "Project Runway" has drawn more viewers than Lifetime's prime-time averageRUNWAY2of the last few years. Its season five premiere took in almost 3 million people. No wonder NBC and Bravo were willing to put up such a huge fight to try to keep the show from moving.

Besides heavy promotion for the return of "Project Runway," Lifetime is also making it available online, something Bravo was unable to do in its deal. PaidContent's Staci D. Kramer broke news today that full episodes will be available at MyLifetime.com on the Saturday following the Thursday episode. It's the only place online to find the show, Kramer notes, since Lifetime isn't making it available on iTunes or other sites and outlets.

The cash-strapped Weinstein Co., which ended up paying millions to NBC in order to take it to Lifetime, also has some risks in the move. "Project Runway" used to be made by a production company called Magical Elves. But since Magical Elves does other shows with NBC and Bravo, the show is now produced by reality kings Bunim/Murray ("The Real World"), a company that's known to be quite expensive.

While the dog days of August may seem like an odd time to premiere such a big bet, Lifetime was obliged to launch "Project Runway" now as part of the settlement with NBC, people familiar with the matter said. That may turn out to be a blessing in disguise. After all, the competition is a little lighter and fewer people are taking vacations this summer because of the weak economy. Last week, AMC's "Mad Men" had record ratings in its season three premiere. 

Ironically, after all the fighting between NBC and Lifetime and Weinstein Co. over "Project Runway," the Peacock network may end up still profiting from the program. It's in talks with Lifetime's parents about merging some of their cable networks (which also includes A&E) into one entity.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: "Project Runway" stars Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum. Credit: Mike Yarish / Lifetime Networks

Comments () | Archives (11)

I was a HUGE fan of the show but moving it to LA, Lifetime and especially 10pm may be the death knell. It has been a long time coming back and may have lost a huge audience there as well Many folks have foound a "replacement" show. Too bad to see a good show die. The season opener will have to be a MEGA Event to retain those of us who are still interested.

The guest judges for the next season are all a big joke. Pop culture starlets with no knowledge of fashion. I probably won't watch, as it looks like Lifetime is not only hosting the show, they are changing it in negative ways.

I have waited for this and am happy with the move. When it was on Bravo they never gave the show justic. I can remember twice when the final episode was shown they moved the time. If the show looks anything like the prom it will be a hit. I tried to watch the lame show that Bravo put on a a knock off but the judges and hosts of that show did not have the it factor which makes a show work.

We are SO excited, we have been waiting for this show since the last one ended. Really great to see Tim and Heidi again and love all the all-stars they picked to come back except Santino. Why the heck do they keep showing him and all his verbal vomit purging out of his mouth. God he is sooo obnoxious. Hope he gets slamed first. We LOVE Uli and Korto. We like Jeffery but he already won, I think this will work against him. But, to stay positive, it is wonderful to see Mood and the sewing center where they create all the beautiful clothes. Bravo really blew it when they did not keep this show. We are beside ourselves tonight enjoying all the PJ show that are on all in a row. Thanks to LIFETIME for bringing it back and quenching our addiction like yearning to see it again. We LOVE you Project Runway.
Your devoted and totally psyched fans here in Napa
Rock on guys!!

Project Runway is quite simply a joyful experience to behold, taking in the immense talent of the designers coupled with their self identities and the twists and turns of a fine tuned reality show makes this program compelling to watch. Compelling programming does not have to worry about time of day it is on, network producing it, etc. The viewers will be there. I am CONFIDENT that, for Project Runway....the best is yet to come. Watch those numbers...they will be EYE popping for Cable....

I am a fan of Project Runway. I watched it every season and for at least 2 season I was disappointed in the out come. I am a designer and many times as I watched and listened I wondered who could wear the designs.I have seen some fantastic African American designers lose and I could not understand why. Tonight I watched the All-American Challenge and all of Kato's designs were fabulous and she lost. I was amazed at the judges terrible decisions. All of Daniel designs were terrible a child could have done what he did. I guess I am going to play the race card, Was Kato to black or to confident. Judges be fair or open your eyes please

What an odd channel for this show. Lifetime is so "Lee Majors and Barbara Billingsly show how much love a grandmother's heart can hold." The only people I know who watch Lifetime are gay dudes who like the Golden Girls reruns. PR hit just the right note on Bravo - a bit of attitude, high design, hip, new, bitchy, and exciting. Everything Lifetime is not. I smell failure.

I just watched Project Runway Allstars, and just figured out I must have no taste. Daniels collection was horrid, while Kortos was beautiful. She got the shaft for no reason.

I like Project Runway and think Heidi, Nina, Michael and Tim are all great. I don't care for Lindsey Lohan - what a mess she is. With all the real fashion talent out there this is really scraping the bottom. I don't care for Bravo's replacement show for Project Runway. The tone is different and the caliber of designers is way off.

If Lifetime wants to revitalize their ratings and capture more viewers under age 50 they need to stop with the soap opera shows. Too much melodrama!! Can we see some real shows about real people with real achievements? Let's have a show that demonstrates how far women have come in the last 30 or 40 years; what women have done to make the world a better place. Women are running the world now, not just juggling babies and homes. Let's hear about that. Not so many shows about teen pregnancies or battered women. Let's hear about Campbell Brown, Nancy Pelosi, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Christiane Amanpour, Astronaut Nicole P. Stott . These women are making a difference.

Yes, fashion is fun and we all love a good tear jerker, but mix in some substance.

Kudos to Lifetime for picking up Project Runway. I have always enjoyed this show. The Fashion Show does not compare!!! However, the Judges are a little bias. After having no negative comments abour Kortos collection, they picked Daniel's. Maybe I missed something, but his collection wasn't as good as Sweet Peas'!!! I guess I had to be there!!!

I think Koto Should have won the All American Challenge... I am starting to think Project Runway didn't choose her because of her skin color...


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