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Special Report on Travel & Adventure: Getting There Isn’t Enough

'A couple of years ago, we were seeing the demise of adventure programming,' says tha senior vp Jean Horton Garner. 'You couldn't give it away. Broadcasters didn't want it.' It's a completely different story today. Broadcasters are looking for adventure -...
November 1, 1997

‘A couple of years ago, we were seeing the demise of adventure programming,’ says tha senior vp Jean Horton Garner. ‘You couldn’t give it away. Broadcasters didn’t want it.’ It’s a completely different story today. Broadcasters are looking for adventure – with a theme.

When it comes to adventure, it’s no longer good enough just to get there. This need has seen explosive growth in three sub-categories of travel and adventure programming:

Eco-tourism: Strands like Montreal-based Greenspace’s Earthwatch take viewers along for the ride, learning environmental conscientiousness from scientists and environmentalists.

Spiritual Travel: As the millennium approaches, broadcasters have started to look for this theme. Toronto’s Catalyst Distribution offers Mystic Lands, a program airing on tlc which follows journeys to spiritual, historical and religious places, like the Taj Mahal and Jerusalem.

Extreme: Audiences have shown immense appreciation for productions which risk lives in the incredibly dangerous pursuit of extreme footage. While most traditional travel producers shy away from it (one called it ‘the worst kind of voyeurism’), the market is attracting established producers and higher budgets. Alistair Gosling, ceo of X-Dream in Essex, says extreme is booming, especially in South America. X-Dream has done US$500,000 of business in Brazil this year alone. The company has also begun to do more extreme for kids. ‘It’s becoming less gap-filler, because the sponsors are requesting it,’ says Gosling.

Indicative of the genre’s corporate popularity, The Winter X Games in Colorado, known as the ‘extreme Olympics’, has a list of blue-chip sponsors this year, including Volkswagen, Nike and AT&T.

Even imax producers are moving into extreme-sports territory: Narrated by Christopher Reeves, Extreme, is expected November ’98 from Beyak Long de Jong Franken Productions.

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