American commercial broadcaster CBS is preparing for a real-life manhunt encompassing the majority of the Southeast U.S. in the reality competition-cum-thriller Hunted.
Slated to debut Sunday (Jan. 22) at 10 p.m. ET/PT following the National Football League’s AFC Championship game, the Endemol Shine North America-made series will challenge nine teams of two on a real-life manhunt as they attempt to disappear and evade capture by an elite team of former law enforcement investigators.
Hunters in the field and Command Center investigators will utilize state-of-the-art tracking methods and traditional tactics – from searching the targets’ homes to scouring their cellphone and internet history – to identify behavioral patterns in order to apprehend each “fugitive.”
Each team that avoids capture for up to 28 days, however, will receive a grand prize of US$250,000.
The series is based on the Channel 4 format of the same name, originally created and produced by Shine TV, which delivered an average audience of 2.26 million viewers and a 8.5% market share (+28% above the broadcaster’s primetime average) across its two seasons. Season one served as C4′s highest-rated unscripted series launch of 2015 for adults 16-34 in the UK.
“It’s proved incredibly popular,” Lisa Perrin, CEO Endemol Shine Creative Networks, told realscreen. “It was up against The Apprentice on BBC so it had tough competition, but it consolidated very well and did very well in the 18-24 age group. We’re talking to Channel 4 about season three.”
Across the pond, the American version of Hunted will feature the same drama, filming techniques, premise and powers of the state to locate contestants as featured in the original C4 series. But like all formats adapted to the U.S. marketplace, the adaptation on CBS Corporation’s flagship property, Perrin said, has been scaled up for the American audience.
The series, despite its many similarities, will feature two big differences.
Whereas contestants in the British version are confined to the mainland UK, American contestants have been limited to a 100,000 square mile area in the Southeastern U.S. – an area encompassing the states of Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and Alabama.
“The reason we chose that area was because it was an absolutely perfect area that had a variety of terrains, locales – there were beaches, rivers, lakes, mountains – there are a million different ways for the fugitives to hide and for us to try and find them,” explained Robert Smith, head of unscripted television and EVP of Endemol Shine North America.
In the UK, the country’s security apparatus serves as a highly elaborate centralized service with its two primary components: the CCTV surveillance system and the accompanying ANPR, an automatic license plate recognition service for its highways. While the U.S. has surveillance cameras and license plate recognition scattered about the country, systems are much less centralized and are instead are operated by a variety of private and public entities.
The United States also has a very different multi-agency jurisdictional response to crime, which runs across the federal and municipal levels, from the FBI, CIA and NSA to local police. As a response, Hunted‘s U.S. Command Center will represent a melting pot of those law enforcement entities.
For the purposes of this series, however, some powers of state have been replicated, including CCTV and ANPR. Because Endemol Shine is a private entity, there are things that the government would have access to that the prodco wouldn’t, from license plates and vehicle registration to drivers licenses.
“Obviously we’re not going to go into sheriffs’ databases on this show so we would provide that to them – that’s the kind of replication we did,” Smith said. “I don’t think it takes away from the authenticity at all. We were really die hard about making sure this is what would happen as much as possible in a real life investigation.”
In Spain, the local version ranked as the highest-rated show in its timeslot on broadcaster Canal+’s Cero in 2016, performing well for younger Spanish viewers and outperforming the net’s slot average share by +134% for adults 13-24.
Locally adapted in Denmark, Hunted ranked as the highest rated show in its timeslot for key younger audiences, while in the Netherlands, the format has so far achieved a market share three times higher than the channel’s primetime average share for adults 20-34, according to numbers from Endemol Shine Group.
What makes this format so easily adaptable to suit the culture and budget for the international market is the flexibility of the budget, Perrin said.
“It’s a testament to the format and the skill of the producers in Spain, Denmark, Holland that have [produced Hunted on a smaller dime] – it’s an awful lot less than the budget in the UK and U.S.,” she stated. “We’ve worked really hard in being able to scale this format up and down depending on the budget.
“There is a trend for big-scale factual that has drama ambitions, the kind of real drama chops in the way it looks. [Hunted is] timely and it captures people’s imaginations. It’s a pub conversation that people talk about with their friends – ‘What would you do if you had to disappear?’ There’s a water-cooler feeling about the show.”
- Hunted debuts Sunday (Jan. 22) at 10 p.m. ET/PT.
- Following the premiere, Hunted will settle into a primetime slot each Wednesday night beginning Jan. 25, airing at 8 p.m. ET/PT.
- Check out a sneak peek below.