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UPDATE: ‘Naked & Afraid’ Employees Ratify IATSE Contract

By | Sunday November 24, 2013 @ 5:28pm PST

2nd UPDATE, 5:28 PM: Naked And Afraid’s post production team voted today to ratify the deal the Editors Guild and producers Renegade 83 came to on Saturday for the Discovery Channel show. The IATSE contract means the Naked And Afraid employees will receive retroactive health and pension contributions, increased assistant editor pay, and overtime will now be paid at appropriate rates. After going on strike on November 18, the Naked And Afraid post production team will return to work on Monday. 

1st UPDATE: Nov. 23, PM:  After almost a week, the Editors Guild and IATSE picket line is down at the Sherman Oaks offices of production company Renegade 83. “#NakedAndAfraid picketing is suspended until further notice. Please do not report for picket duty this afternoon,” tweeted out the Guild today. While details are sketchy, the two sides have reached a tentative agreement over an IATSE contract, I’ve learned. That also means that the two-hour Naked And Afraid special scheduled to air on December 8 and lead the weeklong “Discovery Unwrapped” block on Discovery Channel‘ will more than likely make its air date after all. The crew of the reality TV show and the union went out on November 18 in search of an agreement. 

PREVIOUSLY, NOV, 18 AM: Editors on Discovery Channel‘s Naked & Afraid walked … Read More »

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‘The Challenger Disaster’ Discovery/Science Simulcast Clocks 2 Million Premiere Viewers

Adding a Discovery Channel simulcast into the mix pumped up viewership on The Challenger Disaster to nearly 2 million premiere viewers, and 5 million unique viewers during its debut weekend. On Science Channel, which co-produced the project with BBC, Challenger Disaster drew an average of 730,000 viewers in its Saturday premiere, making it the network’s most-watched program of 2013. The William Hurt-starrer is also the third-most-watched program in Science Channel history, tied with Firefly: Browncoats Unite. On Discovery Channel, the drama delivered 1.2 million total viewers in its premiere. Read More »

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Discovery Channel To Debut Funny Or Die Sports Docu-Series

By | Wednesday November 13, 2013 @ 2:00pm PST

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 a different athlete at his Barwis Methods Training Center in Detroit, MI. The pilot, which Funny or Die has already shot, features the NFL’s Tyrann Mathieu (AKA “The Honey Badger”) who has had a breakout rookie year with the Arizona Cardinals. Production begins in January on the other seven episodes. Barwis has served over 10 years as head strength and conditioning coach at West Virginia University and the University of Michigan. He has owned Barwis Methods Training Center for two years.
 The series was created by brothers Mike and Chris Farah who also executive produce along with Rebecca Mayer. Anna Wenger and Joe Farrell are co-executive producers. The series is slated to air on Discovery Channel in 2014. Other shows on Funny or Die’s TV slate include @midnight and Brody Stevens: Enjoy It on Comedy Central, Funny Or Die’s Billy On The Street on Fuse, Spoils Of Babylon on IFC, and We Are Miracles, the upcoming Sarah Silverman special for HBO.

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British Indie Nerd TV To Set Up Shop In Los Angeles

By | Tuesday November 12, 2013 @ 2:03am PST

British independent production company Nerd TV specializes in documentaries and non-scripted entertainment. Its LA-based operation will open this month following commissions from OWN, Discovery and A+E. The office will be managed by Nerd co-founder and creative director John Farrar and will focus on creating high-end non-scripted series for U.S. channels. Nerd is developing three pilots for three undisclosed networks, including its first factual entertainment series and a presenter-led documentary with former street boss for the New York mob, Lou Ferrante. That is a separate show to the five-part hourlong series Inside The Gangsters’ Code, which Ferrante fronted and which went out on the Discovery Channel in 217 countries this past February. Nerd is also producing 10-part series Dogfellas, which is set in a dog grooming parlor run by former notorious mobster James “Head” Giuliani. A+E also picked up Nerd’s 12 Year Old Lifer, a documentary that recently aired on UK broadcaster Channel 4, about one of America’s youngest convicted killers who is now serving a life term for murder. Nerd was founded by Jago Lee and Farrar in 2010. Last year, Red Arrow Entertainment Group took a majority stake in the shingle. Red Arrow International handles distribution rights for Nerd’s content.

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Discovery To Simulcast Science Channel’s First Scripted Film ‘Challenger Disaster’

EXCLUSIVE: Discovery Channel has decided to simulcast Science Channel’s first stab at scripted programming — the 90-minute The Challenger Disasterwhen 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. Read More »

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Discovery Orders ‘Dukes Of Haggle’ And Shuffles Schedule To Debut Oct. 1

By | Monday September 30, 2013 @ 3:41pm PDT

Imagine if American Pickers and Duck Dynasty had a love child. You’d have Dukes Of Haggle – the latest iteration of the still-going-strong  “found money” reality TV genre. Discovery Channel has ordered 12 episodes of Dukes Of Haggle, to debut tomorrow night. It’s about four rival teams of barterers working in the “barter economy that exists along the backroads of the American South,” the network explained. These teams scour the south to barter-up at barns, swap meets and other, less likely places. Apparently  the bartering business is becoming more competitive there. Once they’ve collected their Prohibition-era kegerators, Civil War swords, Colonel Sanders windvanes and giant faux corn ears, they take them to auction Friday night at Neal’s Auction House which is apparently a community ritual second only to Sunday church going. Dukes Of Haggle is produced by MAK Pictures for Discovery Channel.

Mark Kadin, Will Ehbrecht, Ed Cunningham, Calvin Simmons, and Tucia Lyman are Executive Producers for MAK, while Denise Contis and Joseph Boyle Executive Produce for Discovery Channel.

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Discovery Channel To Document Life Of Evel Knievel

By | Thursday September 26, 2013 @ 11:15am PDT

EXCLUSIVE: Discovery Channel, which snared 13 million viewers in June when it telecast Nick Wallenda slowly walking a wire across the Colorado River Gorge while conducting a running dialogue with God and Jesus, will premiere a docu on the controversial life of motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel on October 14. True Evel traces Knievel’s early childhood in Butte, MT, and rise from simple stunt man to American brand, inspiring countless entertainers, a line of toys and even a Marvel Comic by harnessing the power of publicity and marketing with outlandish stunts. The one-hour special will use archival footage and interviews with family, friends and colleagues to document his rise from small-town fairs to sold-out stadiums and infamous jumps, such as the one over the fountains at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, winding up with his final, penniless days. The man marketed as an American hero had another side, Discovery says. “He would [tell] kids — study, go to school, get good grades, treat your mom and dad right,” motorcycle racing star Skip Van Leeuwen says in the docu. “Two hours later, he’d be chasing 15 girls naked around his boat. It was nuts.” True Evel is produced for Discovery Channel by Kowalski TV. Craig Coffman serves as executive producer for Discovery.

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Discovery Channel’s NFL Two-Parter To Be Produced By NFL

By | Thursday September 19, 2013 @ 10:25am PDT

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: Read More »

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Discovery Channel Races To Plant Flag In Costa Concordia Recovery Project

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. Read More »

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Discovery Ups Denise Contis To West Coast EVP

By | Thursday September 5, 2013 @ 8:30am PDT

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. Read More »

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Discovery Reality Show Chopper Crash Due To “Cost-Cutting Measures”, Says New Lawsuit

By | Thursday August 29, 2013 @ 6:47pm PDT

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.

Related: Three Killed During Discovery Channel Reality Show Filming 

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. Read More »

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Amy Winter Steps Down As TLC GM; Transitions Back To Marketing

By | Friday August 23, 2013 @ 12:17pm PDT

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. Read More »

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Discovery Creates $500K Development Fund To Kickstart Global Series & Events

By | Friday August 23, 2013 @ 5:47am PDT

(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.

Read More »

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Discovery, Lionsgate Re-Making ‘North And South’ Miniseries

By | Thursday August 22, 2013 @ 10:16am PDT

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.” Read More »

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Shark Week Snaps Up Ratings Records for Discovery Channel

By | Tuesday August 13, 2013 @ 1:32pm PDT

EXCLUSIVE: When the dust settled, Discovery Channel’s Shark Week 2013 emerged as the most watched in the franchise’s 26-year history. An average of 2.12 million people watched Shark Week in primetime, Discovery says, and nearly 29 million unique viewers sampled the orgy of shark-dom. Sunday’s kickoff faux-documentary Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives survived the week as the most-watched program in the franchise’s history, with an average of nearly 5 million tuning in.

Shark Week was TV’s highest-rated franchise among 18-to-49-year-old guys last week, beating all cable nets and broadcast ones too — even NBC, with its returning NFL Sunday night preseason football. Overall, the franchise coughed up Discovery Channel’s best-ever week among 18-49. That’s because Shark Week programming bagged the highest-rated premieres in franchise history for their respective nights in the demo, starting with Megalodon on Sunday, Voodoo Sharks (Monday), I Escaped Jaws (Tuesday), Great White Serial Killer (Wednesday), Alien Sharks (Thursday) and Great White Gauntlet (Friday).

Read More »

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Shark Week Continues Ratings Records Despite Opening-Night Outrage

By | Thursday August 8, 2013 @ 4:26pm PDT

The monstrous outrage over Shark Week’s opening-night fake documentary does not appear to have taken a bite out of the franchise’s performance. Wednesday, Great White Serial Killer clocked an average of 3.2 million viewers at 10 PM, to become Shark Week’s most-watched Wednesday program in the franchise’s 26 years. (Top Ten Sharkdown delivered 2.78 million viewers at 9.) Interestingly, Wednesday’s Serial Killer netted a bigger crowd than either of Shark Week’s Tuesday programs: I Escaped Jaws (2.71 million) and Spawn of Jaws (2.77 million).

Discovery’s Shark Week Facebook page was swamped Monday with self-described longtime viewers who raged against Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives – the opening-night premiere, in which actors playing scientists bloviated about the “return” of a monster shark that became extinct 1.5 million years ago. It appears that Shark Week fans are not regular viewers of Discovery’s Animal Planet channel, or they’d be wise to the whole fake docu programming thread that’s taking hold at the company. Just this past June, after Animal Planet’s fake docu, Mermaid: The New Evidence (a follow-up to its earlier fake docu, Mermaids: The Body Found) snagged  that network’s biggest haul in its history (nearly 4 million viewers), the mermaid show’s creator was promoted to oversee a newly created Original Content Group for Discovery’s whole company of networks. Read More »

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‘Shark After Dark’ Devours Cable Talk Rivals For 2nd Night; Discovery Tops Cable In Demo

By | Wednesday August 7, 2013 @ 3:55pm PDT

Think Discovery Channel is fazed by the backlash that greeted the fake Megalodon documentary that kicked off its Shark Week on Monday? Not when its new late-nighter Shark After Dark made chum out of the talk show competition again Tuesday. The Josh Wolf-hosted talker bit off 1.19M total viewers, topping Conan, The Daily Show, Colbert et al. for the second consecutive night. It also beat the competition in the key demos. Shark Week programming led Discovery to win the Tuesday primetime cable race outright in adults 25-54 and several other demos, with Spawn Of Jaws and I Escaped Jaws ranking as cable’s highest-rated shows in 18-49. No official numbers yet in the seals 0-40 demo.

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Shark Week Nets Biggest Crowd Ever In Opening, But Some Fin-atics Attack Kickoff’s Fake Docu

By | Monday August 5, 2013 @ 1:17pm PDT

EXCLUSIVE: Discovery Channel’s Shark Week clocked its biggest audience in its 26-year history Sunday night. Nearly 5 million “fin-atics”  (blame Discovery, not me) tuned in for the two-hour fake docu, Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives – not all of them happily. Megalodon was up 141% in the 25-54 demo compared to the same two hours of 2012. Later, Shark After Dark, Shark Week’s first ever late-night talk show, clocked 2.1 million viewers. Discovery noted this afternoon that Shark Week continues to dominate social conversation year after year. On Sunday, it was responsible for the #1 most social show  — Megalodon — across broadcast and cable, according to SocialGuide, beating the NFL Hall of Fame Game — and even Justin Bieber: Never Say Never! Shark Week conversation on Twitter grew 66%, year over year, in primetime and late night, and was responsible for nearly 1 million Tweets for the day.

Related: Discovery Harpoons Mark Cuban, Others For ‘Shark After Dark’

According to Facebook, Shark Week generated 3.4 million total interactions Sunday, and #SharkWeek was the top hashtag on the platform. Meanwhile, #Megalodon, Megalodon and #SharkAfterDark all trended worldwide on Twitter, in addition to #SharkWeek, Shark Week and #AirJaws trending in the United States. But a lot of that Facebook noise was not happy. Discovery’s Shark Week Facebook page on Monday was drowning in angry comments about Megalodon from some of those “fin-atics.” In keeping with this year’s more “humorous” approach to Shark Week, the network kicked things off with two-hour fake docu  –  which resembled those fake mermaid docus Discovery has run to record crowds. Read More »

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‘Sharknado!’ Star Ian Ziering To Stop By ‘Shark After Dark’

By | Sunday August 4, 2013 @ 6:59pm PDT

Sharknado! star Ian Ziering has been added to the guest list on Discovery Channel‘s first Shark Week after-show, Shark After Dark. Also signed: original Baywatch star David Hasselhoff, shark-diving WWE Wrestler Justin Gabriel, world-level surfer Laird Hamilton, as well as Alison Sweeney and Tom Green, despite their lack of known shark connections. Shark After Dark premieres tonight and will air each night during Shark Week from 11-midnight ET/PT. Josh Wolf — best known for his regular appearances on E’s Chelsea Lately — is hosting, despite having no love for sharks. Back when Shark After Dark was announced — from after-show impresario Michael Davies (The Talking Dead, Watch What Happens Live) and CBS late-night host/avid Shark Week fan Craig Ferguson — Discovery Channel said it was lining up guests for its first late-night Shark Week after-show who were Shark Week-passionate or had shark connections.

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