Discovery to Strand Contestants in Wilderness for Live Reality Show (Exclusive)

Naked and Afraid - H 2014

Naked and Afraid - H 2014

Discovery will strand eight people in the wilderness for 42 days with only the clothes on their backs for a new live television event.

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Survival Live will air two episodes each week -- one pre-recorded and one live. Viewers will be able to track the survivalists' progress via a 24/7 Web platform that details their biometric data, which will reveal who is physically struggling. But in a twist on the webcam popularized on CBS' Big Brother, contestants also will be able to ask viewers for help. The onus is on each survivalist to build a social network to help them through their ordeal by getting them things such as a phone call from a loved one for a pep talk or food, clothing, even dental floss.

Each week, the weakest contestant will be extracted during the live episode, while pre-recorded weekly episodes will detail the contestants' progress. Survival Live -- a sort of Naked and Afraid with clothes -- is set to premiere later this year.

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“It's a really fascinating opportunity to take one of our strongest genres, survival, and mash it up with a live environment, but also do it in a very social and digital way,” Eileen O'Neill, group president of Discovery, Science and Velocity, tells THR.

The network already has mounted live versions of multiple series including American Chopper. And O'Neill has made big-scale live stunts a priority at Discovery, because while event TV is expensive, in an increasingly time-shifted television universe it pays big ratings dividends. Austrian jumper Felix Baumgartner's leap from the stratosphere gave the network a record daytime audience of more than 4.2 million viewers, while Nik Wallenda's high-wire walk over the Grand Canyon was watched by more than 13 million viewers last summer. Wallenda will announce the location of his next stunt at the network's annual upfront presentation in New York on Thursday, Apr. 3. And coming up in May (weather permitting), Discovery will present Everest Jump Live, during which free jumper Joby Ogwyn will climb Mount Everest and then leap from the summit in a custom-made wing-suit.

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Survival Live (working title) is produced for Discovery by Adjacent Productions. The contestants will most likely be stranded somewhere in the Pacific Rim, according to O'Neill.

The success of unscripted adventure shows including Survivor, Amazing Race and Discovery's Naked and Afraid (in which one male and one female contestant are dropped in the jungle with no food, no water and no clothes) has primed the pipeline of contestants eager to test their skills and possibly achieve (temporary) TV stardom. But O'Neill notes that only experienced survivalists need apply for Survival Live.

“We have a lot of people who want to test their mettle on our survival shows,” she says. “These are pretty rugged environments, so we do background checks and psych checks, and that reduces the pool to choose from pretty quickly.”