9:00am PT by Lesley Goldberg
Discovery Sets Nik Wallenda's Follow-Up, Renews 'Mythbusters,' 'Gold Rush,' Orders 7 New Series
Discovery Channel is looking to live events (high-wire master Nik Wallenda), reliable performers (Gold Rush) and a slate of seven new series to continue its momentum in to the 2014-15 season.
The cable network presented an ambitious slate featuring 15 series renewals and seven new shows as well as a handful of natural history and automotive-themed programming in addition to its first-ever scripted series during its upfront presentation on Thursday.
STORY: Discovery Channel Greenlights Series About the American West From Robert Redford
Following its ratings breakout Skywire Live With Nik Wallenda, Discovery announced that "The King of the High Wire" will next head to Chicago to attempt to cross its skyline, untethered, in the fall as part of Skyscraper Live With Nik Wallenda. That one-off special joins live programming including the upcoming Everest Jump Live and series Survival Live. Also joining the slate is new series #BikerLive, during which viewers watch as three competitors get a window into a bike build, with a winner crowned every week based on live audience votes. In addition, Discovery has renewed live talk show Shark After Dark for a return to its popular Shark Week programming block.
"I am excited about Discovery's upfront programming slate with even bigger live events, including our follow-up to Skywire Live," said Eileen O'Neill, Discovery, Science and Velocity group president. "The past year has been filled with history-making live events, landmark original programming, scripted programs, compelling characters and amazing storytelling. Our next year will be epic."
Discovery, fresh off its most-watched first-quarter since 2002 among total viewers, finished 2013 among the top 10 cable networks among its target demo, adults 25-54, and will see rookie series American Muscle, #BikerLive, Edge of Alaska, Fat N' Furious, Kodiak, Siberian Cut and Tree People join its slate. They will join staples Alaska: The Last Frontier, Amish Mafia, Bering Sea Gold, Deadliest Catch, Dual Survival, Dude You're Screwed, Fast N' Loud, Gold Rush, Moonshiners, Mythbusters, Naked and Afraid, Sons of Guns, Street Outlaws, Shark After Dark and Yukon Men, all of which have been renewed for additional seasons. They will all be joined by Discovery's first scripted series, the previously announced Robert Redford-produced drama The West.
Discovery will also return with its annual Shark Week festivities, marking cable's longest-running summertime ritual. The cabler will also stick with its Motor Mondays programming block, expanding it to 52 weeks a year.
STORY: Tightrope Walker Nik Wallenda Successfully Completes Grand Canyon Walk on Live TV
Live events -- including awards shows -- have become increasingly valuable to broadcast and cable networks in an era of increased competition and DVRs. Discovery's live broadcast of Wallenda's Grand Canyon walk broke network records in June, collecting 13 million viewers and topping its December telecast of Felix Baumgartner's record-breaking skydive from the stratosphere.
"Chicago is home to the first skyscraper and has played host to countless world events, and this will be one for the history books,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. "We are thrilled Nik Wallenda has chosen our great city with its iconic skyline as the site of his next walk."
Discovery's push into original scripted programming with The West comes after the network found modest success and critical success with its three-night, six-hour miniseries Klondike earlier this year. The network marks the latest cabler to join the ranks of those entering the original scripted series programming space.
STORY: Discovery to Strand Contestants in Wilderness for Live Reality Show (Exclusive)
A closer look at Discovery's new series and specials follows:
NATURAL HISTORY SPECIALS
DOLPHINS: SPY IN THE POD
Using robotic cameras, extraordinary imagery, humor and never-before-seen behavior, Discovery Channel explores the secret lives of one of the world's most popular animals – the dolphin.
GIRL GANG OF TALIA
Tigers are believed to be solitary hunters. However, in the forests of central India, a gang of four tigresses is turning this notion on its head. Four sisters have reunited and learned to hunt cooperatively and they’re taking down large, dangerous prey like bison and sloth bears. This hunting behavior, extremely rare in the wild, has never been filmed before.
Fit isn’t a just destination. It’s a way of life. And Discovery introduces viewers to that way of life with this all-new Funny Or Die sports docuseries. Legendary strength coach Mike Barwis, trainer to more than 500 Olympic and professional athletes, and his staff of dedicated trainers take on everyone from troubled NFL players to Wild West bull riders and paraplegics looking to walk again. From the his gritty Detroit-based Bawris Methods Training Center, each episode features high-profile athletes who have made the trek to Detroit to work one on one with Barwis. These professional athletes want to be the best. And to be the best, they have to train with Barwis.
In this new series, viewers get an up-close look at bike-build competitions featuring three regional competitors per episode and an interactive live-voting component. Each week a winning bike is crowned, based on audience votes.
STORY: Discovery, Science to Televise Live Moon Landing
EDGE OF ALASKA
This all-new series follows frontier life in an "Old West" town in eastern Alaska. A town at the end of America, where young men go to prove themselves, and old outlaws go to die; home to wolf hunters, gold miners, gun smiths, backwoods survivalists -- people willing to risk their lives to live truly free.
FAT N’ FURIOUS
In the Rust Belt State of Ohio, speed reigns supreme -- the faster the car, the fatter the profit and every second counts. With a waist size that rivals the Rust Belt itself, Tommy Christmas and his family are known for driving big and living even bigger. FAT N’ FURIOUS follows the hilarious car junkies of Christmas Automotive as they hunt down left-for-dead cars and bringing them back to life and to the racetrack.
Kodiak Island is remote. For three multi-generational families risking it all to make a living in this dangerous environment, each day is a roll of the dice. Home to some of the best fishing and deadliest hunting on the planet, Kodiak Island is a land of natural treasures and populated by as many as 3,500 Kodiak bears -- one for every square mile of land – each weighing in at over 1,500 pounds. Too many bears ultimately means starvation for the species, so carefully regulated hunting is the only solution. And there is also fierce weather to contend with. Kodiak Island averages 70 inches of both snow and rain per year – and fog is common. Those who reside here truly live on the edge. For the bush pilots, master guides, expert hunters, survival experts and adrenaline junkies who call Kodiak Island home, each and every day brings new challenges.
SIBERIAN CUT (working title)
This series follows American logger Sean Vann as he attempts to build a new logging operation in the frozen forests of Siberia. Vann has been logging in Russia for 17 years and landed a contract to log the world’s largest forest in Siberia. Vann looks to American loggers who are experiencing a recession and convinces a group of men from Montana and Oregon to leave the forests of America and seek their fortunes in the sub-zero ground of Siberia where they must work side by side with a Russian crew who has a very different view of the world, and a completely different way of working. The two crews will face each other, drive their convoy of logging machines deep into the forest, confront angry villagers, and cross the Trans-Siberian Railway during a storm all before they even begin to cut the timber that they hope will earn them their fortunes.
Hidden in America’s Pacific Northwest, among the tallest trees in the world, are a select group of people that call the treetops their home. The 3,000 miles of forest are filled with punishing weather conditions, deadly animals and the hardened descendants of those who passed through the Oregon Trail beginning in the 1840s. With no modern amenities, these tight-knit communities don't take kindly to outsiders and fight to keep what is rightfully theirs. They live off the trees and the forest.