EXCLUSIVE: Discovery has had a change of heart about its Naked And Afraid after-show, Discovery After Dark — but it’s not what you think. The cable network isn’t chickening out after announcing the after-show with surprisingly little fanfare last month – it’s changing the name and the host, to the much better Naked After Dark, and to Josh Wolf, respectively. Wolf, known to some for his panelist appearances on Chelsea Lately, is maybe best known to Discovery viewers as host of its wildly popular Shark Week after-show Shark After Dark.
Discovery Channel, looking to top Nik Wallenda‘s made-for-TV tightrope walk across the Grand Canyon, has signed Joby Ogwyn to attempt the first wing suit flight off the summit of Mount Everest, live on Discovery Channel in May. The jump — a descent of more than 10,000 vertical feet at speeds of over 150 mph – will be telecast live in 224 countries and territories.
Discovery’s had good luck with live daredevil specials. In July, an average of 13 million people watched Wallenda slowly walk a wire across the Colorado River Gorge while conducting a running dialogue with God and Jesus. “Oh, I praise you, Jesus. Lord, help this cable to calm down — command it,” the 34-year-old aerialist suggested a few yards into his quarter-mile Skywire Live With Nik Wallenda. Wallenda was not wearing a harness but had a microphone and two cameras — including one that looked down on the dry Little Colorado River bed and one that was focused dead ahead. Discovery telecast the ratings grab with a 10-second delay in the U.S. and a couple hundred other countries. The two-hour event delivered 8.5 million total viewers — jumping to 13 million during the actual walk. It became the third-highest-rated telecast of all-time in Discovery Channel history and was the most-watched TV program that night, beating everything on the broadcast nets and cable.
Discovery Channel will premiere The Making Of Mandela, a documentary celebrating the life of South African leader Nelson Mandela, on Sunday — coinciding with its premiere on Discovery Channel South Africa and two days after its premiere on Discovery Channel UK tonight. The Making Of Mandela, which will also roll out across 224 territories beginning tomorrow,
is produced for Discovery Channel by DNI and Darlow Smithson Productions, with Sarah T. Davies serving as executive producer for DNI, and Iain Riddick for Darlow Smithson. But the cable network said the film would premiere without credits “as a mark of respect for Mandela.” Mandela died yesterday at age 95. The film premieres Sunday at 12 PM ET/PT.
Funny or Die is expanding its TV slate with a new untitled sports docu-series that features strength and conditioning coach Mike Barwis and a rotating cast of pro athletes. Each of the eight hour-long episodes will feature Barwis working with …
EXCLUSIVE: Discovery Channel has decided to simulcast Science Channel’s first stab at scripted programming — the 90-minute The Challenger Disaster — when it premieres on November 16 at 9 PM, to ensure it gets the biggest possible audience and because the movie fits Discovery’s footprint. Discovery Channel this calendar year, is averaging 1.3 million viewers – 660,000 of them aged 18-49. Science Channel this year is averaging 304,000 viewers – 117,000 of them in the demo. When Science first announced the project in July, its GM Debbie Myers said it was the “biggest swing” in the network’s history. Produced in collaboration with the BBC and based on Dr. Richard Feynman’s memoir, What Do You Care What Other People Think?, the movie details Feynman’s participation in the Presidential Commission put together to investigate the Challenger explosion. William Hurt plays Feynman – the Caltech physicist/Nobel laureate who, in a televised hearing, demonstrated that the Challenger’s O-ring was not sufficiently pliable, submerging a piece of it in a glass of ice water, causing it to grow stiff and bend, and Feynman to note, “I believe that has some significance for our problem,” according to press reports. At the investigation’s conclusion, Feynman’s report, “Appendix F – Personal Observations on the Reliability of the Shuttle,” was presented to POTUS, independent of the commission’s report.
The Challenger explosion was one of those where-were-you-then moments in American history; millions of TV viewers watched in horror on January 1986 as the space vehicle burst apart, killing all seven astronauts on board, including the first teacher in space, Christa McAuliffe, who’d been added to the crew because space travel was considered that safe; she was going to provide terrific PR for the space program by teaching some classes to school children from space.
Discovery Channel announced this morning it will air a two-part special, NFL In Season, in which the network goes on the road with the NFL as the Pittsburgh Steelers, Minnesota Vikings, San Francisco 49ers and Jacksonville Jaguars prepare for two “critical regular season games” — in London. It will be produced by NFL Films. The two-part special will premiere Friday, October 4, and Friday, November 1. In this way the special will book-end PBS’ Frontline special about head injuries sustained by NFL players, League Of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis, which is now scheduled to debut on PBS on October 8. The Frontline project was originally scheduled to debut as a two-parter October 8 and October 15, but that was before ESPN pulled out of that documentary, calling it a “branding” issue. Anonymous sources in August told the New York Times that ESPN, which reportedly pays the NFL upwards of $1 billion a year for Monday Night Football rights, succumbed to pressure from the NFL, which the NFL denied. This morning’s announcement:
Discovery Channel raced this morning to announce it would document the raising of the Costa Concordia, and get it on the air lickety split — this Friday at 10 PM ET. As Discovery put out the word, engineers in Giglio, Italy, on Monday had begun raising the cruise ship that ran aground nearly two years ago during what was supposed to be a weeklong Mediterranean cruise, killing 32 of its 4,229 passengers and crew members. Discovery learned the hard way last year the price of delay when it comes to cruise-ship disaster docus, after getting bloodied in a major battle with National Geographic Channel.
Back in January 2012, just days after the cruise ship ran aground off the Tuscan island, Discovery Channel had announced it would “dissect the anatomy” of the Friday the 13th disaster — with the quiet confidence of a network long used to being the only game in town — and said the docu would air “this spring.” But on the same day an Italian court refused to lift the house arrest order for the ship’s captain, Discovery nemesis National Geographic Channel attacked, announcing it had hired the producers of the quick-turnaround British documentary Terror At Sea: The Sinking Of The Concordia — which had already aired on the UK’s Channel 4 — to rework it for this market, rename it Italian Cruise Ship Disaster: The Untold Stories, and slap it on the air that Sunday, beating Discovery’s Cruise Ship Disaster: Inside The Concordia by a week. “Just announced! National Geographic Channel to air first U.S. documentary detailing the Italian cruise ship disaster moment-by-moment,” NatGeo bragged back then.
EXCLUSIVE: Denise Contis has been promoted to EVP Production and Development at Discovery Channel — West Coast. She’s replacing Nancy Daniels, who earlier this week was named GM of TLC network, replacing Amy Winter, who stepped down from the post last month for personal reasons but remains with the network as EVP Brand Marketing. Contis most recently served as SVP Production and Development at Discovery, overseeing all execution for the channel’s programming. She oversaw its highly rated white-knuckle special Skywire Live With Nik Wallenda, which was the No. 1 program on all of TV in overall audience and key demos the weekend of June 22. Contis also spearheaded Discovery’s much discussed clothing-challenged survivalist series Naked And Afraid. During her tenure, she helped launch such Discovery staples as Fast ‘N Loud, Alaska: The Last Frontier, and Yukon Men and kept tabs on Deadliest Catch.
Citing a concern with the bottom line over safety, the widow and children of a Special Forces vet killed in February while filming a military-themed Discovery Channel show took its parent company to court this week in a wrongful death and negligence suit. Grisel Donatelli, Amanda Donatelli and Dominic Donatelli named Discovery Communications, producers Eyeworks USA, Bongo Inc, Van Nuys Copters, Crossbow Helicopters and Orbic Air and others in the complaint (read it here) filed late Thursday in LA Superior Court. Cast member Michael Donatelli, cameraman Darren Rydstrom and pilot David Gibbs died in the early morning of February 10 when the helicopter the trio was in crashed in an open field at the Polsa Rosa Ranch in Acton.
The new complaint alleges this accident and others like it occurred in part because Discovery and other defendants wanted to save a buck and increase their profits. “Discovery, Discovery Talent, Eyeworks, Bongo and Does 51 through 100 and each of them, also have had an extensive history of knowingly failing to provide adequate safety measures for the filming of reality series such as this one,” the filing says. “These safety problems were the result of cost-cutting measures aimed at increasing profits as a result of conscious disregard of the additional, unacceptable safety risks imposed. These safety problems have resulted in injuries and death in the filming of such television series, and have continued to do so following the death of Decedent Donatelli,” it adds.
EXCLUSIVE: Amy Winter has stepped down as General Manager of Discovery Communications’ TLC network but will remain with the net as EVP Brand Marketing. According to an informed source, Winter told staff that her plans to relocate her family from Atlanta didn’t work out as planned. Winter has three children under age 7, and her husband works in Atlanta.
As TLC’s GM, she gets credit for Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, Long Island Medium, and Breaking Amish and Secret Princes and their spinoffs; she also greatly expanded the network’s Friday’s Bride Day programming thread. Winter, a longtime TLC marketing exec, was named General Manager and EVP of the network in February 2011, replacing Eileen O’Neill when she was named Group President, Discovery and TLC Networks.
(Silver Spring, MD) Discovery Channel U.S. and Discovery Networks International (DNI) today announced the launch of a new Global Landmark Development Fund in the amount of $500,000 to fuel the next generation of groundbreaking epic series and landmark events. In its continued commitment to developing and producing the world’s most ambitious, highest quality programming, Discovery Channel and DNI are working in partnership to kickstart the creation of the next big breakthrough programs in science, adventure, history, engineering, natural history and more. The Global Landmark Development Fund will invest in the most impressive and daring ideas from the production community around the world.
Miniseries, limited series – whatever you want to call them – are so hot right now the industry is starting to dust off some of the old ones. Discovery Channel, for example, which just announced it has ordered a remake of North And South from Lionsgate. North and South is the name of an 1980’s trilogy of novels by John Jakes. ABC made North And South into a miniseries that aired in 1985 and which remains one of the highest rated miniseries in TV history, averaging just under 40 million viewers. It starred Patrick Swayze as a soldier from South Carolina, and James Read as a solder from Pennsylvania, who became BFF’s while attending West Point, only to find themselves on opposite sides in the Civil War. The star-studded cast also included Elizabeth Taylor, Kirstie Alley, Hal Holbrook as Abraham Lincoln – even Gene Kelly and Robert Mitchum got in on the act.
The miniseries in development with Discovery and Lionsgate will re-dramatize this storyline: George Hazard and Orry Main meet as young men at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, families become close, “shows the vastly different ways of life for the Main and Hazard families which threaten to drive them apart, fracture marriages and poison sibling relationships… put to the ultimate test as fathers, sons, brothers and friends fight each other on the battlefields of the deadliest war America has ever seen.”