The Five Spot: Tim Pastore

Tim Pastore, president of original programming and production for National Geographic since 2014, is taking the network to new worlds. During his three-plus years at NatGeo, Pastore has overseen the reboot of Explorer as well as Brain Games and Breakthrough. But the next venture is perhaps its most ambitious.

Nov. 14 sees the premiere of Mars, a sixpart hybrid drama-doc from Ron Howard and Brian Grazer that has received aggressive promotion across other 21st Century Fox nets, including during Fox’s highly rated World Series broadcasts. NatGeo is using Mars to usher in its biggest-ever rebrand, featuring a new tagline (“Further”), elimination of the word “Channel” and new graphic touches.

Fox, which took control of Nat Geo in 2015, has worked to unite the brand’s ecosystem of the print magazine, websites and large social media followings with the cable network. An edited version of Pastore’s conversation with B&C’s Jessika Walsten follows.

What can viewers expect from Mars?
The realization of the new National Geographic ambition to deliver on premium content and become the leading destination for science, adventure and exploration. Mars captivates all of those touch points and is emblematic of the future of the channel.

What role do you see scripted programming playing?
What we’re doing with these hybrids is creating the best of both worlds. By utilizing different narrative devices, it allows us to amplify the storytelling and extend what’s possible with respect to only utilizing the scripted genre or only relying upon documentaries. The combination of these elements allows us to tell stories on a bigger scale and broader scope.

What was the most memorable thing about working on Mars?
Mars assembled one of the strongest creative and diverse and international teams we’ve seen at the channel, at least from my tenure. The most exciting were the collaborative moments of getting that team together, discussing how we really break the genre in a certain respect and build something new. How do we make the drama-doc work for us? How do we assemble all of these disparate parts to create something completely fresh and exciting and unsuspecting within the science genre and the scripted and documentary space? Those were my favorite moments personally.

Before joining National Geographic, you were at Discovery, BBC Worldwide and Original Productions. Did you always know you wanted to focus on nonfiction programming?
I’ve always been interested in ethnographic filmmaking—anthropology, cultural studies. And it all kind of comes together at times with documentary filmmaking. I’ve met some of the most interesting people in my life while working on documentaries. The diversity you’re exposed to and the variety of worlds you interact with is something that creatively has always satiated me.

What are you looking for in new programming?
Our goal is first-class, unabashedly smart programming that’s highly entertaining but lives up to the core promise of the legacy of National Geographic. It’s premium global content that will propel us and launch us into the future. Our new breed of premium programming not only lives up to the promise of the brand, but also reinforces that entertaining and smart are not mutually exclusive.

Jessika Walsten

Jessika is an analyst for TVREV and Fabric Media. She previously served in various roles at Broadcasting + Cable, Multichannel News and NextTV, working with the brands since 2013. A graduate of USC Annenberg, Jessika has edited and reported on a variety of subjects in the media and entertainment space, including profiles on industry leaders and breaking news.