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NATPE: Facebook orders shows from Bear Grylls & Blumhouse TV

Facebook-HQFacebook’s growing ambitions for its Watch video service have expanded with the commission of original shows from the likes of Bear Grylls and Blumhouse Television.

During a keynote session in Miami on the first day of NATPE, Facebook’s head of global creative strategy, Ricky van Veen, also unveiled an unscripted show from viral video specialist Jukin Media.

Bear Grylls: Face the Wild will follow the British adventurer over ten weeks as he surprises fans who interact with him on Facebook with “adventures of a lifetime”. Ten will follow him across the series, as they learn that the wild can be not just eye-opening, but also ultimately empowering”.

“This series is a special chance for me to connect with and celebrate some of the many unsung heroes I get to hear about through Facebook, and above all, to have an adventure with them,” said Grylls, who is known for shows such as The Island.

Former US President Barack Obama and Julia Roberts will appear on the show, which Electus is producing along with Bear Grylls Ventures.

Grylls and Delbert Shoopman executive produce alongside Chris Grant, Rob Buchta, Drew Buckley and Justin Dudek. Debut is on March 21.

The Blumhouse series is a half-hour scripted show based on an adaptation of Stephanie Oakes’ novel The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly that Raelle Tucker, exec producer of HBO’s True Blood, is adapting.

Sacred Lies (WT) will follow a handless teenager who escapes a cult only to find herself put into juvenile detention. Scott Winant is also attached to produce.

The Jukin-produced show is Fly Guys, a ten-part series following a crew of acrobats and professional stunt men as they perform gravity-defying challenges across Eastern Europe. It launches on February 2.

Van Veen told delegates in a packed room at the Eden Roc Hotel that Facebook execs had been “surprised” at the number of minutes viewers were watching on Facebook Watch.

He claimed that an average 20-minute show fosters 17 minutes of viewing, while noting that the service, which is currently only in the US, remains a learning curve.

Van Veen said that he was commissioning shows that demanded the most audience interaction, pointing to the number of active and engaged fans Grylls has on the service as an example.