A reality series that looks at the high-pressure world of car auctions? Sounds like something you might find on Discovery Commuications’ Velocity, Viacom’s Spike or NBCUniversal’s Esquire. In fact, it’s a theme being examined on sports network NBCSN.
Owned by Comcast’s NBCU unit, NBCSN has portrayed itself as a competitor to ESPN and Fox Sports 1, and has invested steadily in such things as Nascar, the NHL and English Premiere League soccer. But the network is also expanding its slate of reality-based programming and docuseries.
On Thursday, NBCSN will launch the first hour of an 11-episode series, “Mecum Dealmakers,” which offers a behind-the-scenes look at the high-intensity world of Mecum Auctions, where ownership of collectible cars changes hands with the drop of a gavel.
“Our strategy is to expand the paradigm a little bit,” said Ron Wechsler, vice president of original programming and production at NBC Sports Group. Many sports outlets feature documentary-style stories or athlete profiles, but “Mecum Dealmakers” is the sort of non-fiction programming that might appear on a general-entertainment network.
The series springs out of NBCSN’s coverage of car auctions conducted by company founder Dana Mecum and his son, Frank. That programming is more along the lines of what one might see on a sports broadcast, but the new series will focus more on the personalities of – and the potential conflict between – father and son.
“Our whole profile is dominated by live sports,” said Wechsler, a former ESPN executive. With NBCSN building niches in areas that aren’t readily available elsewhere on national television, that means developing content that can complement the network’s offerings, like a Thursday-night block of auto-themed programming, Wechsler said.
NBCSN has other reality-based series on air and in the works. The network is set to roll out the second season of “Shark Hunters,” a six-episode series which features five captains pitted against each other to catch the heaviest shark. And it has launched “Spartan Race,” a series that provides viewers with a front-row seat to a competitions involving spear throws, fire jumps, aerial traverses over water, challenging rope climbs and barbed wire crawls. “Road To Ferrari” features journalist Will Buxton as he rides a brand new Ferrari FF from Budapest, Hungary to Maranello, Italy.