“We have the biggest network in the world behind us, we have the potential to change the world … geologically speaking – this is the biggest story in the world, bar none,” Racing Extinction director Louie Psihoyos told TV critics this morning at TCA of the documentary that Discovery Channel, in a network first, will roll out worldwide on December 2.
The latest docu from the Oscar-winning director of The Cove and Insurgent Media, co-founded by Fisher Stevens, focuses on endangered species and the race to protect them against mass extinction. It had its world premiere January 24 at the Sundance Film Festival, and speaks to Discovery Channel chief Rich Ross’s stated goal of acquiring programming that will “impact people to do something.”
This morning, wrapping up a slew of new and made-to-seem-new programming announcements made by other networks of Discovery Communications, Ross distinguished his project, telling reporters they’d just heard about a lot of “must-have content” while Discovery Channel’s mission is “Must Tell Stories” and bringing light to “incredible issues.”
Psihoyos then warned the journalists that, when they look back at the Industrial Revolution, World War II will be seen as a footnote compared to the looming loss of biodiversity. He explained that his goal with this documentary is to “create a movement to change the way we’re doing business so we can survive,” while bloggers googled “Industrial Revolution” and added photos of the late Cecil the Lion to their posts to goose hits.
“I told the crew, ‘We’re not making a movie – we’re starting a movement. This film is one component” of a movement that “will go on and on and hopefully live in people’s hearts and minds and change behavior. We are the only generation that can save species for millions of years going forward – this movie, this network, and the people in this room.”
The United States will actually be the last market to see the TV premiere of the documentary; the December rollout will begin in Australia and New Zealand. Discovery Channel EVP Documentaries John Hoffman acknowledged that the network decided on a December launch to give time to create a social media campaign and take advantage of the traditional non-sweep month lull in original programming. It also coincides with international climate talks scheduled in Paris, meaning the “world will be focused on these issues at this time,” he said.
To that point, Psihoyos said he and the team behind the telecast will illuminate Manhattan’s Empire State Building with images of endangered animals to draw attention to their dire situation — footage of which might be used for a coming documentary. “Sunday morning, everyone with a computer and cell phone is going to know what’s going on,” he boasted.