With the broadcast reality space in a rut of late, NBC continues to take big swings. Following the expensive two-week Million Second Quiz stint, the network has bought another even bigger-budget show — the space travel reality series that Survivor and The Voice producer Mark Burnett had been pitching with British mogul Richard Branson. This marks a reunion, as 12 years ago NBC outbid several other networks for Burnett’s Destination: Mir, which was later scrapped as the Russian space station that was to be the series’ destination was brought down shortly thereafter. Burnett later tried with Destination: Space, which also didn’t get off the ground. Both were in partnership with the Russian space program and to use Soyuz rockets. The new NBC series, titled Space Race, is done with Branson’s Virgin Galactic, advertised as the world’s first commercial spaceline. The premise is the same — everyday people compete for a trip into space — in this case on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo. (The first flight of the new spaceline is reportedly already fully booked, dominated by celebrity travelers.) The training of the contestants will be done at Virgin Galactic’s home in Spaceport America in New Mexico.
“The term ‘trip of a lifetime’ has for once been delivered on!,” said NBC’s alternative chief Paul Telegdy. Burnett reflected on the long journey to Space Race. “For the past 10 years I have relentlessly pursued my dream of using a TV show to give an everyday person the chance to experience the black sky of space and look down upon mother Earth,” he said. The genesis for the new series came from a visit he made last year to the New Mexico facility where he spent time with Branson and his team. “I am thrilled to be part of a series that will give the everyday person a chance to see space and that NBC has come on board too so that viewers at home will have a first class seat.” One Three Media, Burnett’s joint venture with Hearst, will be selling Space Race at the upcoming MIPCOM TV market in Cannes where it will be one of two space reality series. Sony Pictures Television will introduce its Milky Way Mission, which will send celebrities into space through an agreement with Netherlands-based Space Expedition Corporation.