The Weinstein Company has struck a major deal with Lifetime that will keep Project Runway at the network for three more seasons. The package also includes two seasons for spinoff Project Runway All Stars and one for Project Runway: Junior. But wait, there’s more! Lifetime (which is owned by A&E) will also give at least one season to TWC’s newest reality show Fashion Inc., and will pick up one Weinstein branded movie.
Overall the deal adds an estimated $50 million to TWC’s bottom line which Variety points out is a timely bump since the company is looking for an investor for their TV division.
This ensures Project Runway will air through its 18th season if it can hold on to its slowly declining viewer numbers. The show saw exponential growth at the start, jumping from a debut of just 354,000 watchers and topping out with over five million in the third and fourth season. Season four’s winner, the made-for-reality-TV designer Christian Siriano, marked a major turning point, however as subsequent competitors and seasons failed to bring the same heat.
Even without catapulting a new fashion star into New York every year the show appeals to key demographics as it illuminates the mysterious minds behind clothing design. Season fourteen’s finale drew 2.5 million viewers including 1.2 million adults 25-54 and 993,000 adults 18-49. And although it’s never won, Runway has been nominated for the Outstanding Reality-Competition Program Emmy every year since its debut. Twenty-seven countries have tried their own version of the format, though none have lasted even half as long as Runway.
While All Stars and Junior appeal to more niche audiences, the diversity of shows has allowed Lifetime to keep new episodes of the same basic format in steady rotation nearly all year around. (More Tim Gunn is never a bad thing.) The new show being added, Fashion Inc., is not a direct descendent of Runway and will put a new spin on the industry with a Shark Tank style setup. It will still be set in New York’s fashion district but will feature entrepreneurs in beauty and fashion competing for funds from a panel of expert investors. Season one panelists include Katia Beauchamp of Birchbox; fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff; Christine Hunsicker of Gwynnie Bee; and Gary Wassner of Hildun Corporation and Interluxe Holdings.
Fashion Inc. is part of Lifetime’s new Fempire programming initiative designed to promote brand awareness of Lifetime as a sort of feminist ally. In a press release, the network described Fempire as dedicated to entertaining and engaging the next generation of feminists by creating content for women, by women, about women. In addition to Fashion Inc. there is a Selena Gomez Project, movie deals with Janet Jackson, Serena Williams and Ronda Rousey along with an aggressive digital programming plan.
Lifetime EVP and Head of Programming Liz Gately added “With content and conversations curated around the fourth wave of feminism, The Fempire will be a place where women come to share videos and conversations, connect with friends, learn new things and most importantly, be entertained. It still sucks to be a woman in America because women feel dismissed in both big and small ways throughout their day every day. We know our viewers come to Lifetime because we empower them. Building on the momentum of our critical hit, UnREAL, along with our movies and growing unscripted success, our content will be centered around strong, complicated characters who stand up for themselves and refuse to be disqualified, and are overcoming the same obstacles our audience faces every day. We will deliver on that with exciting new talent partnerships in both linear and digital. No studio or network is giving women creators a bigger platform to freely express themselves and see their stories get made.”