After losing coverage of the Eco-Challenge endurance competition to USA Networks, the Discovery Channel is back in the game. The cablecaster has signed a one-year contract – with options to re-new – as the exclusive media sponsor of New Zealand-based adventure race Southern Traverse (now billed as the Discovery Challenge Adventure Race).
Mike Quattrone, executive VP and GM for the Discovery Channel, says the cablecaster actively pursued a replacement for the Eco-Challenge, and turned to racers for advice as to possible events. ‘Southern Traverse kept popping up because of the fact that Geoff Hunt, who is the race director, is an adventure racer himself.’
While Hunt and his partner Pascale Lorre are organizing the ten-year-old event itself (which takes place November 11-18), Angus Yates of Arlington, U.S.-based prodco Catch & Release Communications will produce the four-hour program (which is set to air in April 2001).
Yates, who helmed the last four Eco-Challenge shows for Discovery, says he doesn’t anticipate huge differences in the filming of Southern Traverse. ‘What we’re going to do differently in terms of coverage will be trying to get more inside the experience of the racers – their minds, their bodies, the dynamic between team members, strategies and so forth,’ Yates explains. ‘There will be much greater attention placed on graphic information in order to explain a lot of the principles at play here.’ The production budget will be comparable to Eco-Challenge, he adds.
Fifteen camera crews will film the race, and Yates anticipates using local production staff for at least half of the field operations. Quattrone says they are still in discussions over the issue of shooting this race in HD.
Eco-Challenge founder Mark Burnett says he thinks the Discovery deal is a good move for the New Zealand adventure race. ‘It’ll be good growth for Southern Traverse [which previously was not broadcast internationally]. The people who own it are good friends of mine, so I’m very happy for them.’