Discovery Networks plans to sell advertisers on an expanded platter of live and stunt programming as well as new scripted programming where it was previously scarce, the company said ahead of its upfront pitch to media buyers tonight.
Following the success of "Skywire Live with Nik Wallenda," Discovery Channel is now planning "Skyscraper Live with Nik Wallenda." This time, Mr. Wallenda will attempt to cross the Chicago skyline this, untethered. "Skywire Live" averaged 6.4 million viewers when it aired last June.
The network will also introduce "Everest Jump Live," where Joby Ogwyn will attempt the first wingsuit flight off the summit of Mount Everest.
But perhaps its biggest stunt programming will be a massive 42-day live, multi-platform event that has a lot in common with "The Hunger Games." "Survival Live" will follow eight people abandoned in a remote wilderness with nothing but the clothes on their backs. The network will live-stream their struggles, day and night, in addition to airing episodes of the show on TV each week. Contestants will be able to build relationships with the audience by talking to them through cameras, Discovery said, and those relationships could help them on their journey.
In its expanding scripted TV lineup, Discovery plans to air "The West," which will document the 40 years between the end of the American Civil War and turn of the 20th Century.
The network is also turning Monday nights over to a bit of a motor lineup, with returning series like "Fast N' Loud" as well as new programming like "#BikerLive."
Discovery will also pitch buyers on a digital studio it is creating with Ron Howard and Brian. The studio, called New Form, will focus on developing high-quality scripted and unscripted programming for digital viewers. The studio will license its content to a series of partners, with the possibility of expanding distribution across Discovery and partner platforms.
Discovery sibling Animal Planet is hoping it, too, can convince sell advertisers on scripted programming. Its first scripted show will be a retelling of the novel "Moby Dick" in the form of a two-hour film with the working title "Revenge of the Whale." The film, which is co-produced with the BBC, stars Martin Sheen as Old Thomas Nickerson, who tells the story of his life as a cabin boy on the ill-fated voyage of the whaling ship, the Essex.
Elsewhere at Discovery Networks, Velocity and Discovery Channel will air 100 hours of live coverage of the Barrett-Jackson car auctions starting in January.
Investigation Discovery will air "Vanity Fair Confidential," based on articles from the magazine, in partnership with Conde Nast. Vanity Fair writers Bryan Burrough and Mark Seal, among others, will appear in episodes.
Oprah Winfrey's OWN, which is coming off a strong year in ratings, announced its first scripted TV film, "My Name is Love: The Darlene Love Story," starring Toni Braxton as the backup singer who gained fame in the recent documentary "20 Feet From Stardom."
OWN is also developing a mini-series starting Octavia Spencer with the working title "Tulsa," about a 1921 race riot. Tyler Perry's "The Haves and Have Nots," as well as a previously announced new series with the working title "Single Moms Club," each received a 20-episode order.
Science Channel and Discovery will follow the Google Lunar XPRIZE 2015, a competition offering a $30 million reward for the safe landing of a private, unmanned spacecraft on the moon.