One look at "Fear Factor" and "Wipeout" leads one to wonder: How can they do that on TV?
Lorrie McNaught, vice president of entertainment insurance for Aon/Albert G. Ruben, insured "Fear Factor" before it was absorbed by NBC and now underwrites "Wipeout" with the same production company. She says riskiness is often in the eye of the TV viewer.
"With reality TV, you never really know what's real," she says. "On 'Fear Factor,' they had so many controls on the set that it was almost kind of boring, but then they put it on the big screen and it was petrifying!"
The key: Loss-control experts with years of behind-the-camera experience will work with the production company to stage scary stunts for maximum impact with minimum risk.
McNaught says one slip on "Wipeout" could literally wipe out the show. "Reality shows have a really low loss ratio compared to scripted dramas because the production companies can't afford to have liability claims," she says.
Kim Knudson, program director, national programs claims for Travelers, says there are insurance remedies for extreme risk-taking: "Most of the time, the production company will get accident disability coverage," he says.
McNaught agrees: "Everything is insurable ... for a price."