11:30am PT by Lesley Goldberg
'American Ninja Warrior' Producers Set 'Spartan Race' Series at NBC
NBC is looking to build on the success of summer hit American Ninja Warrior.
The network on Wednesday handed out a series pickup for Spartan Race, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
From the producers behind American Ninja Warrior, Spartan Race will see friends, families and co-workers team to push one another to test their physical limits as they race across specially designed Spartan courses engineered to test their determination, endurance and will. (Effectively the same skills required to complete the various courses on Ninja Warrior.) While NBC declined comment on episode count, sources tell THR that Spartan Race will feature at least six episodes if not more.
Spartan Race, which is currently casting at www.spartancasting.com, will see teams of five — two women, two men and an elite Spartan athlete — battle over mud, water and fire for a chance to win a large cash prize.
Spartan Race — voted Outside magazine's best obstacle race — is the world's leading obstacle race company and the first of its kind to feature timing and global rankings. More than 1 million people participate in 120-plus events in 20 countries. The race offers competition for all fitness level as well as competitive elite events. The high-level events culminate each year in the Reebok Spartan Race World Championship.
Spartan Race hails from American Ninja Warrior producers A. Smith & Co. Productions founders Arthur Smith and Kent Weed (Hell’s Kitchen, Ellen's Design Challenge) and Anthony Storm.
"Following the success of American Ninja Warrior, teaming up with Spartan Race and NBC to bring this popular and exciting sport to national audiences is a challenging and exciting opportunity for us," said Smith, CEO and co-founder of A. Smith & Co. Productions. "We are thrilled to be taking a brutally challenging race series and turning into a primetime event."
NBC renewed American Ninja Warrior earlier this month for its fifth season on the network and eighth season overall. The series, hosted by Matt Iseman, Akbar Gbaja-Biamila and Kristine Leahy, has rocketed to series highs this season as the stakes to the winner increased to $1 million. In its seven seasons, the series has yet to feature a winner to defeat the grueling 80-foot Mount Midoriyama in the show's grueling finals course.
The series made headlines last season when Kacy Catanzaro became the first woman to climb the show's famed 14-foot Warped Wall — twice — in clips that went viral. The fan favorite saw her effort to return to the Las Vegas finals shockingly end during the qualifying stages this season, though there's still a chance she could be invited back as a wild card.
The season finale airs Sept. 14 with a special three-hour event from 8-11 p.m.
For NBC, Spartan Race comes as broadcast networks have been looking for more uplifting unscripted fare. For its part, Ninja Warrior features brief documentary-style interviews and backstories with its competitors, with many overcoming physical and personal obstacles on their path to compete, often using the show as motivation.