By Scott Radway
For Pacific Daily News
KOROR, Palau -- The emerald islands of Palau will not be flickering onto the world-stage as the backdrop for the popular CBS reality television series "Survivor" -- at least not next season.
Palau was announced in June as the front-runner to host the next shoot of the cutthroat reality-TV show, bringing a wave of excitement upon the prospect of the exposure the show provides. Producers have captivated millions worldwide by flying Americans to remote locations and forcing them to live in the wild as they compete for a million dollars.
But show producers are too far behind schedule filming in Panama to make the needed arrangements in Palau, according to the scout team that visited in June. Crews had planned to arrive in September and film through until the end of the year. The show was to air in late January.
Reading from an e-mail from the team, Chief of Staff Billy Kuartei said the producers "are running so late ... they may have to do another program right there in Panama."
The show has never filmed in the same location twice and the upcoming show was expected to be a "all-star" cast with past top contestants competing against each other.
"You have the best product on the planet. I'm sorry the decision-making process was so slow," wrote the scout team leader, Victor Bao. He added that the producers intend to continue their "investigation" into Palau as a site next year.
Palau, a small island nation located about 800 miles from Guam, depends heavily on tourism and already has hosted the lesser-known Japanese version of "Survivor." Palau also was the exotic backdrop for a television ad for Yahoo.com, which featured a memorable talking dolphin. But all in all, while Palau harbors some of world's most beautiful islands, it is little known beyond the scuba diving world.
"We are very disappointed," Kuartei said, adding that both the private sector and government agencies worked diligently to make the show happen. "We wanted to put Palau on the map."
Because of the exposure, the competition to host the show is tight. Just in the United States, it is estimated 26 million people watch the show. In all, it is aired in 50 countries.
Aside from the primetime television exposure and merchandising, the soap opera antics of the contestants as they attempt to boot each other off draws seemingly endless coverage from print and electronic media. Australian tourist officials gauged the promotional value of hosting "Survivor Outback" in 2000 at $2.6 billion.
Papua New Guinea was Palau's closest competition for the show.
In exchange for all the added publicity for the host nation, Palau was discussing giving everything from tax breaks and visa waivers to security for the filming site to keep out snooping reporters or curious fans. In Palau's case, security would mean providing patrol boats around the islands chosen.
Kuartei said for the past weeks, Palau hotels were calling constantly to get updates. The hotels had reserved large blocks for the crews but wanted confirmation that the show was on, because the filming dates were quickly approaching. Show officials said they wanted to begin filming in September, so Kuartei said he pushed for an answer.Posted by producer at July 31, 2003 05:17 PM