NEW YORK – Barely a day after the daring rescue of an American sea captain, cable TV's Spike announced a deal Monday to produce a show about U.S. Navy pirate hunters.
Two crews for 44 Blue Productions hope to be on board Navy vessels patrolling in the pirate-infested waters off the coast of Africa within two weeks. The company is aiming to have a series ready to put on the air by September, said Rasha Drachkovitch, 44 Blue's president and founder.
He'd been talking to the Navy about the idea for three months, but it was finished late last week while the standoff with pirates who had taken Capt. Richard Phillips hostage was going on.
"We had no idea if last week's events would actually kill the deal or seal the deal," said Sharon Levy, Spike's senior vice president for original series.
Drachkovitch said he thought the Navy would put the project on hold, yet instead the Phillips incident seemed to accelerate things. Commander Robert K. Anderson, Navy spokesman on the deal, said the agreement had essentially been made before the U.S. ship was attacked.
Spike has been looking for a companion piece to one of its most popular series, "DEA," which follows federal drug enforcers making their rounds. 44 Blue, which makes action-oriented series like "Lockup" for MSNBC and "LA Gang Unit" for A&E, was the first of several producers who had contacted the Navy as reports of piracy began to surface.
Following the work of Navy personnel on this mission is the sort of action Spike craves, Levy said. The cable channel targets young male viewers aged 18 to 34, potentially making "Pirate Hunters: USN" a strong recruiting tool for the Navy.
"That's the Spike demographic and (recruiting) is a factor," Anderson said. "We also have a responsibility to inform the American public about what we are doing."
Spike will have access to dozens of Navy cameras along with its own for making the series, Drachkovitch said. Like similar reality series, it's his job to find the characters and stories to focus upon.
It's unclear what kind of access the production crew would have to confrontations similar to what happened with Phillips. It depends upon what the commanding officer is comfortable with, Anderson said.
"I'm sure if something like this happens, we'll be at arm's length until something like this is resolved," Drachkovitch said. "But we hope to be able to get as good a seat as anybody else."