"Steve is exactly like he appears on TV, and seems to be powered by adrenaline 24 hours a day," says Mr. Bunting, who, as exec VP-general manager of Animal Planet, has guided "Crocodile Hunter" since 1996. The 45-year-old Mr. Bunting, a longtime executive of parent Discovery Communications, this year moved up to assume the same title for Discovery Channel.
More than 110 million viewers now sit on the edges of their chairs in 60 countries watching Mr. Irwin wrestle crocodiles, alligators, snakes and hostile rhinos, and Crocodile Hunter-theme merchandise has become one of Discovery Communications' most successful franchises. "The merchandise shows no signs of slowing down, but to keep things interesting, we make sure Steve is going in new directions all the time, taking on new animals in new places," says Mr. Bunting.
By crikey, as Mr. Irwin would say, get ready for even wilder stuff ahead.