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OCT
3
10 MOS

Mark Burnett's Space Competition Series Lands at NBC

More than a decade after first developing a space series at NBC, the "Voice" producer partners with Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic to have contestants vie for a seat on the pricey fleet.

CASES HEADED TO COURT: Mark Burnett
Mark Burnett

NBC is placing yet another bet on The Voice producer Mark Burnett.

Following Voice's monstrous ratings and an unprecedented Emmy win, the network has ordered Space Race from the producer's One Three Media. The competition will feature everyday people vying for a trip on Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo, the commercial spaceline from Sir Richard Branson.

"The scope of this endeavor is so staggering, that it took these two titans to even imagine it," said NBC Entertainment president of alternative and late night programming Paul Telegdy. "The term 'trip of a lifetime' has for once been delivered on! This will be a remarkable experience for anyone who has looked at the night's sky and dared to dream of space flight."

To be sure, this isn't Burnett's first attempt at a show about space. The producer first sold Destination Mir to NBC in 2000. The series, whose finalists would have been teamed up with professional cosmonauts to go through training at Russia's Star City facility, was poised to end with an ordinary American taking a televised trip to the aging Mir space station. The pricey project, also at the center of a multinetwork bidding war, was shuttered when Mir was brought down the following year.

"For the past 10 years I have relentlessly pursued my dream of using a TV show to give an everyday person the chance to experience the black sky of space and look down upon Mother Earth," said Burnett. "Last year I spent time in New Mexico at the state-of-the-art facility and last week spent time in the Mojave Desert with Sir Richard and his impressive team. We got to see the spaceship up close and hear of Sir Richard's incredible vision of how Virgin Galactic is the future of private space travel. I am thrilled to be part of a series that will give the everyday person a chance to see space and that NBC has come on board too so that viewers at home will have a first-class seat."

Branson's partnership in the project is quite important, as seats on Virgin Galactic are currently being sold for $250,000 a pop.

"Virgin Galactic's mission is to democratize space, eventually making commercial space travel affordable and accessible to all," said Branson. "Space Race allows us to extend this opportunity of a lifetime to as many people as possible right at the start of our commercial service -- through direct experience and television viewing. All of us at Virgin Galactic and our partner Aabar Investments are delighted to be collaborating with NBC and Mark, who is a true pioneer and creative force in television programming."

These days, Burnett is often credited as a key piece of NBC's hoped-for turnaround. Already, two nights of Voice, coupled with Sunday Night Football, enabled the network to notch its second straight premiere-week victory, averaging a 3.1 rating in primetime for its best kickoff showing in five years and the widest victory margin for any net since 1997.

The news comes the same week as Burnett's Shark Tank, on ABC, announced an off-net syndication deal with NBC corporate cousin CNBC. Over at NBC, Burnett is also prepping a sequel to History's ultra-successful Bible miniseries. A.D., as the follow-up is currently titled, is expected to begin in the days after Jesus' death as his disciples look to survive. Burnett's other credits include CBS' Survivor and NBC's The Apprentice franchise.

One Three Media will start shopping Space Race at MIPCOM TV in Cannes.

E-mail: Lacey.Rose@THR.com
Twitter: @LaceyVRose