$8 million. Does that seem like a lot of money for a company to pay to have mediocre models use their hair products on a mediocre cable show for a few seasons? It kind of does. But that's how much The Weinstein Company, run by entertainment mogul Harvey Weinstein, is trying to squeeze out of L'Oreal for three seasons of sponsorship of Project Runway. Of course, Weinstein has a long history of pimping out the fashion reality show to every company on earth willing to pay a dime to be on it, using it as a profit machine to support his company's less sure-thing ventures. And he's still milking it for every cent. How do we know? Because he left all the evidence in a public trash can:
Project Runway was a big hit on the Bravo network. But Weinstein decided to move the show to Lifetime, which agreed to up his cut to around $1 million per episode. He also screwed Bravo by lining up sponsors for the show on his own, which precluded the network from selling ads to other companies in the same categories. Weinstein even ended up favoring a Wal-Mart placement on the show over a Macy's one, proving he wasn't in it for taste.
Still, the show is a hit, and a cash cow. Project Runway has been successful enough to demand that fashion magazines like Elle and Marie Claire pay for the privilege of being featured on the show. Hardcore media hardball.
And a treasure trove of new evidence dug out of Weinstein's trash can by the Village Voice's Tony Ortega shows that the mogul himself is closely involved in the show's sponsorship choices. An email from a former Weinstein Co. employee shows the calculating negotiation process:
"I wish there was more time. Twc [The Weinstein Company] has already gone to great lengths with new partner at lifetime to not only secure both categories for you but also to be flexible toward loreal in coming up with an alternative for you on their packaging of [seasons] six + seven. Unfortunately, due to filming of season five and tresemme's feeling that they are being iced out of season 6, there just is not more time to give. As you know, season five commences in days...twc is now at risk that tresemme will pull out of season 5, which puts twc at risk for 1.1m [$1.1 million]. Carol is welcome to call hw [Harvey Weinstein] or me, but the deadline has to remain at close of business tuesday for loreal to decide on hair category for [Project Runway]/models for season 6 and structure of [seasons] 7/8. I would additionally say that the whole reason we are to this point is a result of the relationship! Without the relationship and the history, l'oreal would not have the opportunity to even engage in the opportunity to obtain the hair category."
Good thing they have such a good relationship! Or this sponsorship thing would really be nasty. And here's how much the company is expected to cough up to Weinstein in order to have its goop featured on the faaabulous production:
"Hw - if you get a call from carol hamilton it will be regarding [Project Runway] season 6 and beyond. I've imposed a tuesday, close of business deadline for them to commit to hair category in addition to make up. They have two choices: 1) Take both hair and make up for [$2 million] plus [$1 million] to twc (no split) for season 6 and [$2 million] for hair and makeup for season 7 plus [$1 million] to twc for a total of [$6 million]. 2) Commit to season 6 only for [$2 million] hair/make up plus [$1 million] to twc] and then by 3rd episode must pick up both season 7 + 8 for a total of [$8 million] (but must take additional [$1 million] to twc regardless) They have asked for additional time and I have declined that citing tresemme and season 5 which starts shooting shortly. Call me if you have questions. Best, lori"
A mogul's life: not so different from a used car salesman. Buy now! There's a guy on his way here right this minute to take it off my hands if you don't want it.....