From Sunday night network television in the 1960s through Internet streaming today, Mutual of Omaha has kept the door open to its “Wild Kingdom” for generations of viewers.
So it was only logical that the insurer's most iconic brand would once more be revived through November's debut of four all-new “webisodes” of “Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom,” starring Stephanie Arne in the host's role originated by Marlin Perkins.
“If you think about it, 'Wild Kingdom' has always been on the cutting edge” of video entertainment, said Jim Nolan, Mutual's director of corporate communications. “Now entertainment has changed again. You watch what you want, when you want, how you want. … This new iteration of 'Wild Kingdom' responds to that phenomenon.”
Nolan said Mutual commissioned the webisodes to honor the 50th anniversary of “Wild Kingdom,” which debuted on NBC-TV on Jan. 6, 1963. They appeared between Nov. 3 and Nov. 24 on Mutual's wildkingdom.com website and YouTube, with each program posted at the same Sunday night time — 6 p.m. Central — that Perkins' original series aired. Each webisode is between six and seven minutes long.
“Wild Kingdom” aired continuously through 1988, with Mutual directly syndicating the program to TV stations after it left NBC in 1971. The show made a comeback in 2002 on the Animal Planet cable network, lasting for nine seasons.
Mutual began a contest in March 2013 to choose a host for the webisodes, including an online vote to narrow the field. Arne, who beat out two other finalists after interviews at Mutual, is a wildlife educator for the Honolulu Zoological Society. But the South Dakota native began her zoological career at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium — home to the “Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom” Pavilion.
Nolan said Arne “has a good background” to continue the tradition of previous “Wild Kingdom” hosts Perkins, Jim Fowler and Peter Gros. She's “extremely energetic, extremely knowledgeable, a fun person.”
Additional webisodes of “Wild Kingdom” will be released in the coming months, Nolan said. Episodes of the original “Wild Kingdom” are available at wildkingdom.com, while the Animal Planet shows are available at animal.discovery.com/tv-shows/wild-kingdom.
“Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom”
Debut: Jan. 6, 1963
Original network run: 1963-71, NBC-TV
Syndicated television: 1971-88
Cable television: 2002-11, Animal Planet
Webisodes: 2013-present, wildkingdom.com and YouTube
Hosts: Marlin Perkins, 1963-85; Jim Fowler, 1963-88; Peter Gros, 1985-88; Stephanie Arne, 2013-present