Project Runway: More Like Project Product Placement On The Run?

Was Harvey Weinstein's problem with NBC and Bravo all about product integration when it came to his company's "Project Runway"?

Weinstein stated in court papers he didn't like that Bravo senior executive Lauren Zalaznick was interfering with his ability to strike product integration deals for his show -- something all reality producers depend on to help defray production costs.

That might mean one thing: NBC and Bravo may have wanted greater control over such negotiations for traditional media as well as product placement deals. For years product placement has been the carrot for bigger traditional media deals at a cable or broadcast network. One $300,000 product integration deal on a show could mean many more millions in traditional TV commercial time -- something of a gold mine for networks.

For TV marketers and programmers, it typically comes down to this: If there is no high-profile product integration, then there is no big million payday for traditional TV ads.

Years ago NBC got a little burned from Mark Burnett and the early seasons of "The Apprentice." In an unusual agreement, Burnett controlled product placement to such an extent that TV advertisers didn't need to make a separate TV media deal with NBC -- much to the chagrin of NBC executives. Not only that, but Burnett charged $2 million to $3 million for "Apprentice" deals -- which could resemble a prime-time infomercial given the time and space devoted to a marketer's service or product.

Learning from that experience, NBC changed how it dealt with future reality show product placement/media deals. It demanded control -- or at least those big media deals linked to a product placement for a show.

Weinstein may have had such a hands-off agreement with Bravo -- something which NBC, still recent new owners of Bravo, may have wanted to change. Weinstein may have seen those unsigned program agreements with NBC -- as has been documented in court papers -- as a way to get out.

But, alas, a judge gave NBC a preliminary injunction against Weinstein, since virtually the entire TV programming world of business deals still works in this strange territory of unsigned agreements.

This brings us to Lifetime. What kind of deals did Weinstein sign for product placement and integration?

Lifetime isn't saying much these days concerning the "Project Runway" show it agreed to run. Considering preliminary injunction won by NBC against Weinstein, that part of the Lifetime-Weinstein agreement will probably remain a secret.



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