Discovery Runs 'Race' To Fill 'Eco' Breach

Eager to replace its popular Eco Challenge
series, Discovery Channel plans to launch the Discovery Channel World Championship Adventure Race
in September.

Discovery, which lost Eco Challenge
after producer Mark Burnett sold the program's U.S. rights to USA Network in October 1999, cut a three-year deal to produce the series with New Zealand-based Southern Traverse Ltd., executive vice president and general manager Mike Quattrone said last week.

Last year, Discovery cut a separate deal with Southern Traverse to shoot the Discovery Channel Adventure Race
, which will run April 22 to 23.

The new World Championship Adventure
is unique because its participants are winners from several other international adventure races, Quattrone said. The Discovery general manager said he believed an invitation was sent to Eco Challenge
winners, but didn't know if they responded.

Eco Challenge founder Mark Burnett laughed at the idea of Discovery and Southern Traverse wanting Eco Challenge
winners to participate.

"It would be like the German soccer team winning the World Cup, and then competing in a high-school league that would call it the world championship," Burnett said.

But if the companies offered Eco Challenge
winners money to participate, Burnett said he would not prohibit them from competing.

Adding a scientific touch, Discovery also wired a team in the upcoming race with equipment that will monitor participants' breathing rate, core body temperature and blood-oxygen level.

Quattrone said he expects compelling story lines involving members of the team and the network's use of technology will make for a strong show.

"You can make people understand what these racers are going through," he said. "It becomes the essence of what Discovery is trying to do."

Discovery will carry the race in April, while all of its international networks-except Canada-will run it in June. Ironically, Discovery Channel Canada won't show the race, since it cut a deal with Burnett to run Eco Challenge
north of the border.

Burnett, who sold the U.S. rights to USA Network, sold the international rights separately.

USA will carry Eco Challenge, which was shot in Borneo, New Zealand, from April 1 to April 5.

Discovery's championship race will consist of the winning teams from several Adventure World Series events. Those include Adrenaline Rush (United Kingdom/Ireland), The Best of the East (U.S.), Expedicao Mata Atlantica (Brazil), Hi-Tec Adventure Quest (Africa), NOC Merciless Mountain Melee (U.S.), Raid The North Extreme (Canada) and the Southern Traverse (New Zealand).