Nutopia is the UK-based documentary and reality production outfit founded by former Discovery Channel US president, Jane Root. The company is best known for its ‘mega-docs’ including 12-hour Emmy-winning series America: The Story Of US, which aired on History in 2010. It’s currently in production on another 12-hour series for History, Mankind: The Story Of All Of Us, along with How We Invented The World for Discovery International and The 80s: The Decade That Made Us for NatGeo US. Nutopia’s new appointments include promoting head of production Helena Tait to COO, with former deputy head of production, Josh Wilkins, moving up to head of production. Nav Raman has also joined Nutopia as executive producer and director of development. She was previously commissioning editor, factual entertainment at Channel 4. Rupert Brankin-Frisby, who previously consulted on legal and business affairs, is now commercial director.
Mark Burnett, who teamed with Sarah Palin for the highly-rated Sarah Palin’s Alaska on TLC, is back with another reality series set in Alaska, this time producing solo and for TLC’s sister channel Discovery. The series, Mark Burnett’s Alaska, will depict “the colorful people, amazing history and unforgettable places” of Alaska, the network said. This was one of four new series Discovery Channel will unveil at this afternoon’s Discovery Communications upfront presentation. With so much business in Alaska, Discovery Channel should probably open an office there – Mark Burnett’s Alaska joins returning series Deadliest Catch, Gold Rush, Bering Sea Gold, Flying Wild Alaska and Alaska: The Final Frontier, all set in the Northern state. Discovery’s other new series include One Car Too Far, featuring a former British Special Forces operative and an American car junkie dropped into the wilderness with a regular small car they have to turn into all-purpose and fund their way out, Fast And Laud, about mechanics restoring classic cars, and previously announced Top Engineer, a search for America’s brightest, boldest, out-of-the-box thinkers. The channel’s new specials include Robert Redford’s recently announced All The President’s Men Revisited, History of The World and programs about Amelia Earhart and Osama bin Laden.
Here’s a look at some of the offerings on other channels that Discovery owns:
EXCLUSIVE: Here is a competition show whose contestants will probably have the highest IQ in all of reality television. Discovery and top unscripted series producer Craig Piligian are introducing a new reality genre: an engineering competition show. Discovery Channel has ordered eight episodes from the untitled series. It will be set at WET (Water Entertainment Technologies), the renowned Los Angeles-based water/fire feature design and engineering firm that is behind some 200+ installations, including such technological landmarks as Fountains of Bellagio at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas and The Dubai Fountain, the world’s biggest fountain. The show, which will be produced by Piligian’s Pilgrim Studios, will have design engineers competing against each other in extreme challenges that push the boundaries of technology, creativity, ingenuity and craftsmanship. “Scientific exploration and experimentation is at the core of Discovery Channel’s DNA,” said Nancy Daniels, EVP, Discovery Channel Production and Development. “With its competition format, this new series will shine a spotlight on the exciting world of science and engineering in a completely new way.”
The joint-venture channels — OWN with Oprah Winfrey, and The Hub with Hasbro — aren’t included. What’s more, “there is not any specific content that Netflix is entitled to,” Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav told investors this morning at Goldman Sachs’ Communacopia Conference. He wouldn’t talk about the economics of the deal but says that they will “become apparent” the next time the company reports its quarterly earnings. He adds that while “we don’t know what’s going to happen with Netflix” — which is grappling with consumer fury after it raised prices 60% for those who want to stream video and rent DVDs –”right now we think that will not create an issue for us.” Here’s the release about Discovery’s new Netflix agreement:
Los Gatos, Calif. and Silver Spring, Md. — Netflix, Inc. and Discovery Communications today announced a two-year non-exclusive licensing agreement that allows Netflix members to instantly watch prior-season series and specials, including an expanded selection of additional seasons of popular series from Discovery, TLC and Animal Planet, as well as Investigation Discovery, Science and Military Channel. Among the highlights are Discovery Channel’s Man vs. Wild, TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress, and Animal Planet’s River Monsters and other titles from Discovery’s rich program library.
UPDATE: Discovery Chief Says 3D TV Growing “Slower Than Expected” As 2Q Company Results Beat Estimates
UPDATE, 6:50 AM: Not much from the conference call with analysts about the most interesting story at Discovery: the recent changes at its struggling joint venture with Oprah Winfrey, OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. Oprah recently named herself CEO and Chief Creative Officer. Zaslav says that “she is in place as CEO already,” and “we now have her creative team in place.” That means Discovery COO Peter Ligouri — named OWN’s interim CEO in May when the partners dumped Christina Norman — can “spend more time with us.”
TCA: Discovery Sets Launch Date For Velocity, Adds Big Names to ‘Curiosity’, Preps Science Channel’s ‘Trek Nation’, Introduces ‘Weed’ Team
Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
Discovery Communications announced this morning that it’s launching its new network Velocity Oct. 4 in an undetermined number of homes. It’s described as an upscale, male-skewed lifestyle network and is based on the global format Turbo TV, blending originals with acquired programming. The network also said that Robin Williams, Samuel L. Jackson and Brendan Fraser have joined the lineup of hosts for the Discovery Channel event series Curiosity that launches Aug. 7. The show, described as being dedicated to “capturing the sense of wonder” that humans have, will also feature Morgan Freeman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michelle Rodriguez and Morgan Spurlock. Also, the Science channel is partnering with Rod Roddenberry, son of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, for the feature-length special Trek Nation premiering fourth quarter of this year. The show explores the popularity and impact of the Star Trek franchise and includes interviews with George Lucas, J.J. Abrams, Stan Lee and others.
Discovery Communications’ networks will hold their upfront presentation in New York this afternoon. Here is the new programming they will be announcing. (The slate for OWN’s, Discovery’s co-venture with Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo, was announced separately.) Flagship Discovery Channel is adding four new unscripted series to its lineup, including Penn & Teller’s Secrets of the Universe. TLC has picked up new spinoffs of its Say Yes to the Dress franchise. New series also include the previously announced Homecoming, hosted by Billy Ray Cyrus, and I Kid, starring Brad Garrett. TLC also has acquired the U.K. series Big Fat Gypsy Wedding and will develop an American version. Animal Planet will add 14 new series to its lineup, including Romance is Dead, about a family running a taxidermy shop in Romance, Ark., and my personal favorite, Ned Bruha: Skunk Whisperer. On the heels of its recent facelift, Science announced a second season of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s An Idiot Abroad, An Idiot Abroad: The Bucket List. Here are descriptions of the new programs by network:
TLC exec Nancy Daniels has been named EVP production and development for Discovery Channel. Based in Los Angeles, she will report to Discovery Channel’s president and GM Clark Bunting. Daniels has served as SVP production and development for TLC since 2008, overseeing the launch of such series as Cake Boss, …
Sarah Palin and Kate Gosselin have helped Eileen O’Neill get a big new job at Discovery Communications. O’Neill, General Manager of Discovery’s TLC, home of such hit series as Jon and Kate Plus 8, Sarah Palin’s Alaska, 19 Kids and Counting and Sister Wives, will now also oversee the flagship Discovery Channel.
Silver Spring, Md. – Discovery Communications today named Eileen O’Neill to the newly created position of Group President, Discovery and TLC Networks. The expanded role overseeing Discovery’s two U.S. flagships was part of a larger restructuring of Discovery’s U.S. networks announced by Discovery Communications President and CEO David Zaslav.
“Eileen is a home-grown Discovery talent with a 21-year track record of success that is nothing short of astounding,” said Zaslav. “Each network she led has been infused with creativity, innovation and content that breaks through the clutter of the television landscape. Most recently, her big, bold swings at TLC have transformed that network and driven it into the top 10 for women with an incredible 31 series averaging more than 1 million viewers in 2010. We’re so proud and privileged to have Eileen at this company and I am confident her leadership will drive our biggest engines – Discovery Channel and TLC – to even greater success.”
Discovery Channel President and General Manager Clark Bunting will report to O’Neill, as will TLC Chief Operating Officer Edward Sabin, who is serving as interim General Manager of TLC.
Discovery Channel and the BBC today announced History of the World, an eight-part series that tells the story of human history. The two companies recently ended their 13-year-old channel partnership while reupping their co-producing pact through 2014.
Produced by Discovery Channel U.S., BBC Vision Productions, BBC Worldwide and The
The premiere date was announced at Discovery’s TCA presentation this morning. Also, TLC President Eileen O’Neill said Kate Gosselin will make an appearance fishing for salmon and hiking on glaciers with the former Alaska governor and her family. — Ray Richmond, Deadline’s TCA contributor
Another Discovery executive has been brought over to OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, Discovery Communications’ co-venture with Harpo. Maurizio Vitale has been named SVP marketing for the channel, slated to launch on January 1, 2011. He will oversee all on-air and off-air marketing and promotion, reporting to OWN CEO Christina Norman. …