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Nat Geo Wild Orders Miniseries ‘Big Game of Thrones,’ Greenlights Sixth ‘Big Cat Week’

Nat Geo Wild has ordered a wildlife epic miniseries, titled “Big Game of Thrones,” Variety has learned.

The six-episode miniseries, set to to bow globally in 2016, will revolve around rival animal tribes battling for supremacy. The real-life story is described as exposing the rivalries, betrayals, battles, struggles and triumphs of the interconnected predators and prey. The production team behind “Big Game of Thrones” spent years tracking the animals to develop the characters and narratives.

“We are trying to up the ante even more by following a several animal clans for years, giving each character and their stories a unique voice like the most riveting scripted dramas but, of course, this is totally unscripted. So far, the footage is absolutely stunning and has the potential to be a game changer,” Geoff Daniels, EVP and general manager of Nat Geo Wild tells Variety of the project produced by Icon Films, which is set in Savute, a remote corner of Africa.

In a statement, Daniels joked of the miniseries’ title: “HBO can tell its lawyers to stand down, a new title is forthcoming. When we developed the series, we immediately saw the parallels with ‘Game of Thrones’ and the name stuck as our working title. It is a natural fit for our story of the kings of the savannah fighting for the throne, complete with brutal violence, unexpected deaths, surprising characters, and even interfamily romance.”

Exec producers on “Big Game of Thrones” are Harry Marshall, Laura Marshall, Brad Bestelink and Ashley Hoppin.

The cable net also greenlit the sixth annual “Big Cat Week,” which includes five new premieres and a live African safari. The new specials during “Big Cat Week” are “Big Cat Games,” “Cougars Undercover,” “Cat Fight,” Lakeshore Killers,” “Top Cat” and “Safari Live.”

“After five straight years of growth, we certainly are not resting on our laurels,” Daniels said of Nat Geo Wild’s momentum and future. Of the continuation of “Big Cat Week,” he added, “With the return of Boone Smith, we are even in the early development stages of a talk format that represents another step in this network’s inspiring evolution.”

See below for the descriptions of new “Big Cat Week” specials.

Big Cat Games: a special event that pits the world’s most ferocious land predators against each other in a series of challenges that will determine once and for all who is king of the cats. Lions, cheetahs and tigers will be pushed to the limits of their natural athletic abilities. Competitors will go claw-to-claw in four events: the leap test, the bite test, the hunt and the swimming gala. Overseeing the games is big cat specialist Boone Smith, who brings his expertise and insight to each event.

Cougars Undercover: Mountain lions, also known as cougars, are powerful and deadly, but very little has been known about them until now. The special follows a year in the life of two mountain lion families who are being studied as part of Panthera’s Teton Cougar project, the most intense study of mountain lions ever conducted in the US. The team hopes to find answers to why the mountain lion population has been decreasing and whether these cats are as solitary as originally thought. Produced by BBC Natural History Unit.

Cat Fight: A special edition of the popular series “Animal Fight Night,” the special reveals the secret tactics of the animal kingdom’s most ferocious feline fighters from Africa, the Americas and beyond. Produced by Arrow International Media.

Lakeshore Killers: Deep in the heart of Africa, three male lions are coming into their prime with much to prove, and they must forge strong bonds with a new pride, headed by lioness Nobuhle, and navigate the dangers of this unique wilderness to become true pride males and rulers of this land. The special gives a birds-eye-view of their survival tactics and hunting techniques, including trapping impala antelope on the shoreline and stalking up to basking crocodiles to get to their vulnerable throats. Produced by Goddunnit Productions.

Top Cat: The special explores 41 species of cat, finding out which is “top cat,” the one to rule them all. With common qualities in elegance, agility, strength, heightened senses, silent feet and the killer instinct, viewers will learn about all cats, including the giant tiger, the powerful jaguar, speedy cheetah and the socialite lion. Produced by NDR Naturfilm.

Safari Live: Two expert guides lead the way to stunning wildlife, in real time, going deep into South Africa’s Sabi Sands Park and coming face-to-face with the best of Africa’s wildlife, including lions, leopards, elephants, buffalo and many more. Produced by WildEarth.

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