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American Ninja Warrior producers and hosts discuss the show’s exponential growth

The team answered questions and talked about season nine at the NBCUniversal Summer Press Day.

2017 NBCUniversal Summer Press Day - Panels Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

On Monday, March 20, NBCUniversal held it’s Summer Press Day. It’s a day where the media is invited to hear from the producers and casts of their upcoming shows.

We received an invitation to crash the American Ninja Warrior panel. Which was super exciting because it meant we got to put on nice clothes and check out Los Angeles landmark, The Beverly Hilton. Generally, working with Ninjas requires a uniform of athletic gear at all times.

In the afternoon, we heard from American Ninja Warrior executive producers Kent Weed and Arthur Smith, and hosts Matt Iseman, Kristine Leahy and Akbar Gbajabiamila. They talked about the upcoming season and took questions from reporters.

2017 NBCUniversal Summer Press Day - Panels Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Here’s the highlights of what they announced and discussed:

  • There were over 77,000 applications for season nine.
  • Applications from women were up 20%.
  • There’s a mix of about 50/50 return to new competitors.
  • Every season, they expect a walk-on to be a break out star.
  • Through all the seasons and the thousands of people who have run the course, only a handful of competitors have been injured.
  • This season, six obstacle designs were inspired by fan submissions.
  • Kids who started watching the show around age 15 are now old enough to compete, so there’s a “changing of the guard” for competitors.
  • About 80-85% of competitors want to return to the show. Around 50% will get the chance.

Also, they released this trailer to get us excited for season nine and IT WORKED.

Season 9 Premieres June 12 | American Ninja Warrior | NBC

THIS will remind you why you love NBC American Ninja Warrior. EPIC.

Posted by American Ninja Warrior Nation on Monday, March 20, 2017

The subject of contestant stories was discussed. Were the producers digging for certain sob stories, to play on people’s heartstrings?

Executive Producer Kent Weed pointed out that applicants bring these stories to them. Those stories are the motivation for taking on American Ninja Warrior. The reason the contestant wants this. Producers are not hunting the stories down. Ninjas are sharing their personal journeys.

2017 NBCUniversal Summer Press Day - Panels
Executive producer Kent Weed
Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

One reporter brought up the age-old question of why men and women run on the same course. (Big sigh.) Everyone on the panel chimed in, but it was our girl Kristine Leahy who shut it down.

“They have the unique ability to do what the guys do, if not better.”

Yes. They. Do.

2017 NBCUniversal Summer Press Day - Panels Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

When talking about who’d make a good Ninja, Akbar admitted he really wanted to see Michelle Obama on the course. Which, once you think it about, is really a genius idea.

In the end, it was fantastic to watch the producers and cast talking about the show on this scale. As fans of American Ninja Warrior, we understand the drive and passion going into it’s creation, making it easy to forget that not everyone thinks about it on our level.

We know you can tweet at Matt and probably get a response, that Kristine is strong and confident and has a pug named Jersey, and that Akbar is devoted to his family. They’re incredibly available to fans.

The producers and hosts deftly handled the room full of journalists, using that same generosity of personality. Based on the number of reporters trying to catch interviews with them after the panel, we’d say season nine of American Ninja Warrior is about to get a lot of buzz.