Nik Wallenda will be blindfolded when he performs his tightrope walk between the two 587-foot, 65-story Marina City towers in Chicago, for Discovery Channel, on Sunday, November 2.
“Why?” deadpanned Today show’s co-host Matt Lauer, speaking for us all, when Wallenda broke the news this morning on the NBC morning infotainment program– NBCU’s Peacock Productions being the producer of the stunt coverage for Discovery.
“It’s about challenging myself and through challenging myself, inspiring other people,” proclaimed Wallenda who appears to be going by King of the Highwire these days — Lauer introduced him as such, and Discovery did too in this morning’s announcement.
“Not like that, people — don’t try that,” chimed in Natalie Morales who, with Willie Geist will host Discovery’s live show, joined by the The Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore. It will be the first time Wallenda has walked a tightrope blindfolded — in ’11, he performed acrobatic moves while blindfolded, on a gadget called The Wheel of Death that hung off the side of the Tropicana Casino and Resort’s 23rd floor in Atlantic City.
“I’ll not only need incredible physical strength to complete this walk, but laser-focued concentration,” The High Wire King added modestly in this morning’s news release.
In mid-September, Discovery announced it had set November 2 for Wallenda’s Chicago skyscraper tightrope walk. Using dozens of cameras positioned across the city and on helicopters, Discovery will follow the two-part walk, without net or harness, at night, in one of the windiest sections of Chicago. For the first part of the crossing, Wallenda will walk about two city blocks between one of the towers and the Leo Burnett Building that’s more than 50 stories above the Chicago River. The uphill 15-degree angle marks the first time Wallenda has attempted such a steep angle on a walk, it’s also the highest skyscraper walk in the professional history of his tightrope-walking Flying Wallenda family. When Wallenda attempts to walk between the Marina City’s two towers he will be blindfolded.
Nik Wallenda has already demonstrated his tightrope stunts are ratings crack. In June of ’13, an average of 13 million people watched him slowly walk a wire across the Colorado River Gorge while conducting a running dialogue with God and Jesus on Discovery Channel. “Oh, I praise you, Jesus. Lord, help this cable to calm down — command it,” the aerialist suggested a few yards into his quarter-mile “Skywire” stunt. Wallenda was not wearing a harness but had a microphone and two cameras — including one that looked down on the dry Little Colorado River bed and one that was focused dead ahead. Discovery telecast the ratings grab with a 10-second delay in the U.S. and a couple hundred other countries. The two-hour event delivered 8.5 million total viewers — jumping to 13 million during the actual walk. For comparison sake: during the 9:30-10 half hour, in which Wallenda was actually walking the wire and clocking 13 million viewers, ABC’s Whodunnit? had logged 3.8 million people, CBS’s The Good Wife rerun snared 3.3 mil, NBC’s Crossing Lines bagged 4.2 mil and Fox’s American Dad repeat popped 3.2 mil.
That stunt shattered records across numerous platforms including social media, where Wallenda generated 1.3 million tweets becoming the #1 most social show across broadcast and cable in the U.S.
This time, Wallenda’s swimming with the big fish — in-season, TV-wise, and during a sweeps derby.
Discovery’s most recent death-defying ratings grabber took a tragic turn in April, when the network scrapped plans to broadcast live a Mount Everest jump after an avalanche there killed 13. The network instead announced it would take the footage that already had been shot and turn it into a documentary special about the single deadliest incident in the history of the world’s tallest peak. NBC News’ Peacock Productions crews were at base camp at the time of the avalanche, shooting footage in advance of Discovery’s planned five nights of live programs culminating in what was to have been Joby Ogwyn’s May jump. Ogwyn and his team instead got involved in recovering bodies from the mountain. According to Discovery, the Everest Jump Live project had two expedition teams. One was responsible for the camera and production team, which had hired some of the 13 Sherpas killed in the avalanche. The other team was Ogwyn’s, who had been to Everest many times and selected Sherpa guides with whom he had worked in the past; they too were among the fatalities.