Nik Wallenda, the daredevil who crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope last year, will try a similar stunt at the Grand Canyon in June, he announced on Monday.
The cable channel Discovery won the bidding war to televise the stunt, and will show it live — and potentially in prime time — on June 23, if all goes according to plan.
Discovery was also the exclusive television home of another death-defying stunt, Felix Baumgartner’s jump from a capsule 24 miles above earth, which took place last fall. The channel is interested in televising more live events, having had success with Mr. Baumgartner’s free-fall and with several special live editions of “Gold Rush” and “American Chopper.”
Discovery apparently bested ABC News in the bidding for Mr. Wallenda’s Grand Canyon walk. ABC carried the Niagara Falls walk live last June, lifting the network to a rare first-place finish in the ratings. From 10:30 to 11 p.m., when he finished the walk, ABC averaged more than 13 million viewers — surpassing even the highest expectations of executives at the network. The walk was also a phenomenon on Twitter and Facebook, where viewers chatted about the stunt as it happened.
But there was some concern within ABC that another tightrope walk would seem repetitive. And maybe more important, the network wasn’t willing to pay what Discovery was, according to an executive with direct knowledge of the negotiations who insisted on anonymity. A spokesman for ABC News declined to comment.
A spokeswoman for Discovery also declined to say how much the channel had paid for the exclusive television rights to the Grand Canyon walk. To promote the news, the channel booked Mr. Wallenda on ABC’s archrival in the mornings, NBC’s “Today” show. “This is a dream of mine, as was Niagara Falls,” Mr. Wallenda said on “Today” on Monday morning.
The telecast of the walk will be produced by Peacock Productions, a unit of NBC that produces series and special events for a wide array of channels.
For Mr. Wallenda, a big issue in the negotiations was the harness that ABC required him to wear while walking over the falls. Discovery will not require him to wear one at the Grand Canyon.
He said on “Today” on Monday, “It was my dream to walk over Niagara Falls since I was about 5 or 6 years old, but part of that dream was taken away because I had to wear that harness. The exciting thing about this event is that I will not be wearing any tether or any safety whatsoever.”
In its pitch to Mr. Wallenda, Discovery also emphasized its international footprint. The channel is available in many territories around the world.
Discovery did not specify what time the walk would be televised. But prime time on the East Coast might overlap nicely with sunset at the Grand Canyon. The channel will most likely show the walk live in all time zones, unlike ABC, which was criticized for tape-delaying their Niagara Falls coverage for the West Coast.
Eileen O’Neill, the executive who oversees Discovery, said in a statement about the planned event, “Discovery Channel continues to bring some of television’s most talked-about and historic live events of the year.”
Source: NY Times, 3/18/13