The Travel Channel is searching for travel media’s next Anthony Bourdain. The network announced earlier this month the launch of a new web series “Travel Channel Star,” a three-round competition in which viewers vote for the winner.
The process will culminate in a one-hour, on-air special announcing the winner and a five-part web series starring that individual. In addition to audience votes, the competition will also be judged by Travel Channel Digital’s vice president of editorial content Jodi Bettencourt, director of programming and talent relations Anna Garwood, and “Travel 911” host Rob Pralgo.
The concept has been discussed for the past couple of years and builds on Travel Channel’s efforts to produce more short-form digital video content. Travel Channel already produces 14 web series including Off-Road Trippin’, Host’s Hometown, and Travel 911 with videos that last two to four minutes. In the past year, 240 digital assets, which have no relation to the network’s traditional TV shows, have been posted.
In Search of Ratings, Talent
The competition has clear ties to similar shows produced by Travel Channel’s sister networks. HGTV’s Design Star and The Next Food Network Star started as early as 2005 and have proved to boost ratings and page views and to, occasionally, find talent that sticks around for awhile.
Bettencourt of Travel Channel Digital sees the ability to travel to different locations as a big differentiator between these and other competition shows.
The network is looking for someone with a specific take on travel, whether it be focused on food, history, road trips or fashion.
“They have to be inherentantly curious, fast on their feet, and be able to communicate a sense of place with all five sense,” says Jim Morley, director of digital programming. “We are looking for compelling talent. We’ll pick someone with the idea that they can be groomed into more.”
The program will also provide plenty of fodder for Travel Channel’s many digital channels. There will be additional videos including behind-the-scenes comments, recommendations, and blog posts.
Travel Channel has lost popular hosts in recent years and the network has yet to find its driving voice and returning viewer. Bourdain took his viewers and producers to CNN while the network had no choice but to pull Adam Richman’s show after an inappropriate Instagram tirade.