MIPFormats Case Study: Million Dollar Mile


Warner Bros.’ Andrew Zein and Fly on the Wall Entertainment’s Jeff Anderson offered MIPFormats delegates an in-depth look at the competition format Million Dollar Mile during a session this morning moderated by World Screen’s Anna Carugati.

The CBS show, which has clinched a format deal with France 2, features a physically grueling obstacle course. Participants attempt to win a cash prize as they are chased down by elite athletes. The contestants are given a two-minute headstart.

“We built a pretty large-scale obstacle course in the streets of downtown Los Angeles,” said Anderson, who is in charge of production at Fly on the Wall. “It’s one average individual being chased by an elite athlete as they make their way through a course a mile long. It’s five obstacles to win a million dollars.” Winning each obstacle earns the contestant money.

Anderson noted that the producers “wanted to blur the lines” between reality competition and a sporting event. “To create more of a sporting event, we hired a host who is a former professional athlete, and we had two sideline reporters who are actually working sideline reporters. It was important to not just make this about an obstacle course. We wanted to show the competitive nature between each one of these cast members.”

The course runs across a 10-acre lot, Anderson said. “We built a total of ten obstacles and we’re able to turn them on and off. That gave a variety of options. It was a massive undertaking. Miles and miles of cable, 70-plus cameras. We use high-speed cameras that you see in sporting competitions, a ton of drones, underwater cameras. We really try to get every angle for the viewer.”

The team was also going for a cinematic look by shooting at night. “We said, we want to try to make a Nike commercial that is an hour long, combined with a sporting event. We knew we had to shoot at night.”

The Los Angeles course is available for international broadcasters to use, Zein, senior VP of creative, format development and sales at Warner Bros. International Television Production, said. However, “It was always designed to be replicable around the world. The chance to use city locations for a cat-and-mouse race is what appeals to broadcasters. The construction of the obstacles is all manageable. We are building the obstacles [for the French version].”