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Endemol’s Cape ‘Fear’

Show sets up shop in South Africa

JOHANNESBURG — Visitors to Cape Town could be forgiven for thinking the locals have gone mad — there are an unusual number of people leaping off buildings and cliffs, balancing on flag poles and swinging around tree tops.

In fact, the city has become the “The Fear Factor” capital of the world after Endemol South Africa suggested setting up a back-to-back production facility locally to cut costs and provide an interesting location twist. Endemol Holland wanted an affordable alternative to shooting the latest reality hit in snowbound northern Europe.

Cape Town, with its favorable foreign exchange rate, good weather and spectacular locations, proved irresistible.

“The Fear Factor” was a big hit in the U.S. last year and broadcasters around the world have been eager for their own series. Endemol South Africa has produced batches of the Endemol Intl.-owned format for affils in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, U.K., Belgium and France since January.

Directors and contestants are from affiliate countries but production crews are mostly South African.

Company is also producing a local version for pay TV channel M-Net, which took the country by storm last year with “Big Brother South Africa,” the first local reality TV show.

In each episode of the one-hour show, six contestants confront fears and phobias by performing challenges, from eating cockroaches to free-falling out of 15-story buildings. Locally, the contestant who completes them takes home R50,000 ($4,900).

Chantal Sturkenboom, managing director of Endemol South Africa, says the production was a great opportunity for international synergy and to showcase the standard of local production expertise and spectacular locations.

Tour operators are also delighted: adventure tourism is already big in the region and “The Fear Factor” is expected to attract more extreme sports fans to Cape Town. Which means there are likely to be people jumping off high places in the city for some time to come.