With winter behind us, broadcasters are prepping for the summer season.
As part of its summer lineup, the Travel Channel has planned a water-themed programming event titled “Dive In” beginning Sunday, June 4. It features news episodes of Xtreme Waterparks, Top Secret Swimming Holes and Pools With A View.
According to Courtney White, senior vice-president programming, Food Network, Travel Channel and Cooking Channel, “Dive In” represents the channel’s kick-off to summer.
White says that over 10-million viewers tuned into “Dive In” programming last summer, growing the network’s Sunday P25-54 prime time ratings more than 33% over the prior year.
Xtreme Waterparks, in particular, will pass a milestone in this year’s programming. The High Noon series has been ordered for a sixth season, and will air its 50th episode in July. White says Travel Channel viewers love to discover new places where they can ride some of most unique slides anywhere, and the series helps them live vicariously through the riders.
For Travel Channel, Xtreme Waterparks represented an opportunity to expand on an “Xtreme” franchise. In the fall, the channel will launch Xtreme Screams, which will coincide with the Halloween season.
“In the ‘Xtreme’ franchise, what ties these shows together is the emotional rush our viewers get when they take a leap of faith on this thrill-seeking journey,” says White.
The new season of Xtreme Waterparks airs this Sunday June 4 at 9 p.m EST on Travel Channel. realscreen spoke with Jim Berger (pictured, right), CEO of High Noon and Scott Feeley (pictured, left), SVP of programming for High Noon about the new season and what makes Xtreme Waterparks so successful year after year.
What was the inspiration for Xtreme Waterparks?
Jim Berger: We’re curious about visceral experiences and how that affects us as humans, so what better moment of sheer panic can there be than a 15 story drop into water?
Why did you think there would be an appetite for this show?
JB: Visceral moments are electrifying. Viewers of all ages can relate.
What challenges did you face with production?
Scott Feeley: More than anything, weather. First, there’s a waterpark season. These parks are only open during the summer. So, we have to create a production schedule that basically follows the sun. That means shooting in the southern hemisphere during our winter and then racing to get enough production days in during the season here in the U.S. and Europe. Second, our production schedule is constantly being interrupted, or flat out ruined, by extreme weather of all sorts. One summer, we had to cancel two shoots in Jamaica because of Hurricane Matthew.
Another big challenge is keeping our equipment safe and intact. Obviously, there’s the issue of protecting everything from water, but also damaging or losing the equipment is an issue. We once lost an A camera in a class five rapid during a rafting shoot.
Finally, directing these shoots can be a logistical nightmare. We usually have an A camera, three GoPros, two high speed slow motion cameras, and a drone running for each ride. But often the most difficult shot to get is the one capturing the riders’ faces. That’s the shot that sells the whole experience. It doesn’t matter how many beautiful shots you have of water and the slide, because if you can’t sell the emotion of the ride, the show doesn’t work.
What audience do you think this appeals to?
SF: Basically anybody who loves to have fun will like this show, but we think it skews younger. We cast younger riders, and it’s cut faster with music that appeals to a younger audience.
What did you learn during the production of this project that you think would be valuable to other professionals in the industry?
SF: First, this show is not really about the slides — it’s about the experience riders have on the slides. The key is capturing the emotion, trepidation, thrill, and fun that riders experience on these rides. There’s a whole lot more character and personality in this show than you’d expect. For that reason, casting is of highest importance. We spend a lot of time finding people who are going to make the ride fun to watch.
Second, on a logistics side, you have to be able to scale up your production quickly. In an average season, we’ll shoot over 50 locations across the globe inside of three and a half months. You have to be able to run four crews at a time on two or three continents.
Why is Xtreme Waterparks a fit for High Noon?
JB: Our brand is centered on discovering real people who are passionate about the world we live in. This show depends on finding characters who live for these thrill rides, and when that human passion meets a super scary moment in life, you have a show.
How did you know there would still be an interest from audiences after five seasons?
SF: Simple. Because it’s fun to watch. Everybody loves waterparks. We think it’s perfect summer time programming.
What are some of the highlights of this upcoming season?
SF: This season features some of our most insane rides yet, including…
- The highest commercially rafted natural waterfall in New Zealand. It’s a twenty-seven foot fall, straight down, in a raft.
- The Slip-n-Soar slide at Olympic Park in Park City, Utah. One day a year the Olympic Training Center opens its aerial ski jump training ramps to the public. But instead of skiing off the jump, people slide head first off the ramp, flying as high as 30 feet into the air.
- “The Cage of Death” at Crocosaurus Cove in Darwin, Australia where visitors are put into a capsule and lowered into the water with a 20 foot long “salty” crocodile, and watch as it feeds, inches away from their faces.
- A traveling “black light” slide, where people douse themselves in body paint and launch themselves down a 45 foot tall inflatable slide after dark.
The new season of Xtreme Waterparks airs this Sunday June 4 at 9 p.m EST on Travel Channel.