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EXCLUSIVE: Nat Geo Has News For Media Buyers

National Geographic Channel wants media buyers to put its clients who buy cable news to consider buying some of its more topical shows as well.

As part of his upfront pitch, Rich Goldfarb, senior VP for ad sales at Nat Geo, is pointing to demographic and psychographic similarities between traditional news viewers and the audiences that Nat Geo attracts with shows like National Geographic Explorer, Inside the State Department and Witness Japan.

"We believe fundamentally there's a tremendous linkage between people that are curious and news," says Goldfarb, noting that the channel uses the slogan "Live Curious." "We've talked about some folks that like to watch our channel in the past as knowledge fans.  When you think about audience, we have the demographics that are very natural fits for news advertisers. We're upscale, we have influentials and business decision makers and we hit the C-suite sweet spot."

Goldfarb argues that by adding a network outside the usual news field, advertisers can reach a larger unduplicated audience.

"We're younger than every news network. So if you're looking for adults 25 to 54 and 35 to 64, we deliver a greater concentration of those demos than virtually every news network," Goldfarb adds. "In addition we've dived into behavior graphics and all kinds of other forms of Nielsen and other syndicated research and have found that we have tremendous metrics in the news competitive set with engagement, ad receptivity and retention."

On top of that, in most cases, commercials on National Geographic are usually a bit cheaper than on traditional news outlets.

"It stands to reason ultimately that when you go outside of the box of the core cable news networks you're going to build reach," said Miraj Parikh, media director at buying agency Spark, who has discussed the issue informally with the network. "The difference is I don't know that all the clients that are participating in cable news are going to look at Nat Geo as a natural placement."

While the demographics may well match up, the content may not be a perfect fit. "If you're looking for information seekers, that's tough to get outside of the cable news realm," Parikh said. "I think you'd have to take some leaps of faith that someone who wants to be well informed is going to find Nat Geo's newsy programs."

National Geographic has convinced some news advertisers to buy schedules on the network, including Dow Chemical, Boeing, CSX, BASF, GE and Siemens.

Goldfarb estimates that about 5% to 10% on the channel would fit into what he calls its news pillar. In addition to its series, specials such as The Gospel of Judas have been known to make big news. In a similar vein, a special Secrets of the Lost Tomb, filmed in Jerusalem, is planned for the fourth quarter. Nat Geo is also planning more quick-turnaround programs, designed to be topical for news-oriented sponsors like the recent Mega Quake, about the disaster in Japan.

The topical shows also lend themselves to events in which sponsors can participate, such as a special screening of Inside the State Department in Washington, which was attended by Hillary Clinton.

News would represent a sixth programming pillar for Nat Geo. The network's other programming categories are: adrenaline, extreme engineering, great quests, sci-tech and preserve our planet.