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Corporate Press Release Theater: Project Runway to… Lifetime?

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It’s out! / BRAVO

Well, I wasn’t expecting this one. Project Runway—not the reruns, mind you, the actual series—is moving from Bravo to Lifetime. Yes, that Lifetime. The one with Army Wives and the Nora Roberts movies.

Excerpts from the Weinstein Company press release and a few thoughts after the jump:

“PROJECT RUNWAY” HITS THE CATWALK AND STRUTS OVER TO LIFETIME IN NOVEMBER ’08

– Groundbreaking Agreement for the Seven-Time Emmy®-Nominated and Peabody Award-Winning Hit Series –

NEW YORK — Lifetime Networks and The Weinstein Company have entered into a groundbreaking partnership that will move cable’s top reality series, “Project Runway,” to the top network for women, Lifetime Television, beginning November 2008 with the premiere of season six. In its most recent season, the hit show averaged a 3.8 W18-49 Live + 7 day rating* and the Live + 7 rating for the March 5th finale was a 6.1 W18-49 AA%.

Heidi Klum, “Project Runway’s” international supermodel host, and Tim Gunn, Chief Creative Officer at Liz Claiborne, Inc. and mentor to the show’s contestants, are both fashioning their new home at Lifetime.

The pact, encompassing a five-year deal for the seven-time Emmy®-nominated and Peabody Award-winning series “Project Runway,” was announced today by Lifetime Networks’ President and CEO Andrea Wong and The Weinstein Company’s Co-Chairmen Harvey and Bob Weinstein.

Wong said, “‘Project Runway’ is one of the best television programs on the air today on broadcast or cable. I am a huge fan. All my friends are huge fans. Having watercooler movies, dramas, and reality shows like ‘Project Runway’ is what Lifetime Television is all about. We welcome The Weinstein Company, Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn to the Lifetime family for many walks down the runway to come.”

Wow. For Bravo—which has no show more central to its brand identity than Runway—that has got to sting. Enough that NBC Universal has filed suit to prevent the move. You’ll note, incidentally, that the release says “season six” will be on Lifetime this fall—which assumes a fifth season on Bravo between now and then.

As I was writing this morning, we’re in the era in which people watch shows, not networks, and I imagine most of us and/or our DVRs will manage the migration just fine. Still there seems a little cognitive dissonance in the marriage of the brands. Bravo = arch, urbane, bitchy; Lifetime = earnest, warm, aspirational.

Then again, brands change—remember when Bravo was cable’s “arts channel”? Yeah, me neither.

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