A first for Project Runway as it (finally) starts a new life with season six on Lifetime Thursday night: full episodes of the show will stream on demand at MyLifetime.com after they premiere on cable, paidContent has learned. The show was on *NBC Universal* CEO Jeff Zucker’s list of Bravo hits that he didn’t want to make available in full for free online to protect the value to MSOs. But The Weinstein Company yanked Runway from Bravo for a new home at Lifetime (after the requisite dueling lawsuits) — and a new online strategy with streaming replays as a key, along with a real-time Buzz Room, behind-the-scenes video and gaming. [Some screenshots.]
Unlike the broadcast nets, which usually post episodes online the day after a premiere, Lifetime will wait until Saturday mornings — after the Thursday night premiere and the Friday night encore. The ad-supported episodes will be available on demand online at the same time as they show up in cable operators’ video on demand queues, removing one area of possible contention. Another difference: if you want to watch Project Runway online (legally), you’ll have to go to MyLifetime.com. No syndication. No season pass on ITunes. No downloads. The same strategy will be followed for new show Models of the Runway. Available episodes will include the current show and the last four to air.
Lifetime Digital’s Dan Suratt explains: “I think what it really goes to is we firmly believe in the power of our site to drive people to our channel and that’s what we use it for.” He thinks that helps account for a relatively high completion rate: delivery of all five segments per show to online viewers of hit Army Wives has gone as high as 84 percent. Suratt understands Zucker’s point about not streaming shows like Runway: “If we felt in any way it was not reinforcing the ratings, it would be a different conversation.”
What is an issue is how well the show will translate after its long hiatus and the move away from Bravo, where it was surrounded by a lot of simpatico programming. The network irked TV critics by failing to trust them with who didn’t make the cut in the premiere review version but has fared well so far with fan sites. In the end, the viewers have to feel that the only major change is an address, while Lifetime has to make the most out of this chance to continue a brand transformation. The online video streaming is part of a bigger strategy, says Suratt: “What can we do to make sure this product is as well received as it was historically. We have the ability to make that available, to create that awareness.” Other elements:
— Community: While Bravo did a good job of building community, Lifetime Digital is taking it a step further with something called the Project Runway Buzz Room. The aptly named Buzz Room, developed by Room 214, will aggregate all the public Twitter and Facebook API feeds plus posts from show designers and models, past contestants, and “key” sites/bloggers like Project Rungay. Users can log in with Facebook Connect or Twitter and can integrate posts in the Buzz Room with either.
— Gaming: Lifetime Digital acquired virtual dress-up site Roiworld and launched a new gaming studio late last year. Each week, a Project Runway dress-up game will get new clothes based on designs from the show. But Lifetime doesn’t have exclusive gaming rights, which may explain why there’s no King.com skill-based game being announced now to go with the new partnership the two just started.
— More video: Streaming replays aren’t the only video. Lifetime is promising 500-plus “exclusive clips” that go behind the scenes, videos from host Tim Gunn, video of everything judges Heidi Klum, Nina Garcia, Michael Kors and guest judges say to each designer every episode, vlogs by designers, models and guest judges, and more.