The show taped its entire season at a domed stadium in St. Louis.
NBC’s American Ninja Warrior has overcome arguably its biggest obstacle thus far: filming during a pandemic.
The long-running competition series’ 12th season will debut on NBC on Monday, Sept. 7. The eight-episode season — the first NBC series to complete a full season during the novel coronavirus pandemic — was filmed entirely at the Dome at America’s Center in St. Louis (the former home of the NFL’s Rams before the franchise relocated to Los Angeles).
The September date for American Ninja Warrior also means a later start for The Voice, which usually anchors Mondays in the fall on NBC. A return date for the singing competition has yet to be determined.
The single location is one of several changes to the usual American Ninja Warrior format this season. The show will feature 50 standout athletes from previous seasons, who in turn bring two people from their communities (a mix of returnees and rookies) to compete with them. All will compete in an abridged format featuring a six-obstacle course in the qualifying rounds, and 10 obstacles for the semifinals and finals.
The finals will also feature a playoff format in which the top eight competitors race head to head on the “Power Tower,” with the winner earning $100,000.
Last season’s winner, Drew Dreschel, will not be part of the show after being charged with sex crimes involving a minor.
The Dome at America’s Center, which features several exhibit halls as well as the stadium, has more than 2 million square feet of space. That allowed the show’s crew to maintain social distancing and other protocols that are becoming the new normal for TV and film productions.
American Ninja Warrior has been a fairly reliable performer for NBC in the past. The 2019 season averaged about 5.4 million viewers and a 1.1 rating in the key ad demographic of adults 18-49 with a week of delayed viewing.
The coming season will help fill out NBC’s fall schedule, along with Canadian import Transplant (which premieres Sept. 1). The network released a “fall” schedule that hopes for business as (somewhat) usual to resume at some point, without setting premiere dates for any of its returning series.
American Ninja Warrior is produced by A. Smith & Co. Productions. Arthur Smith, Kent Weed, Brian Richardson, Anthony Storm and Kristen Stabile executive produce.