Nat Geo Wild Explores New Terrain

Two years after its birth, Nat Geo Wild
is forging into new programming territory, including the
development of more personality-driven original series
and high-profile specials as it seeks to build more coviewing
among parents and kids.

The 54-subscriber Nat Geo Wild, a National Geographic
Channel spinoff that launched in March 2010, is on a
ratings roll. The network posted a 33% gain in primetime
among total viewers year to date, compared with
the same period last year, and is up 42% with viewers in
its target adult 25-54 demo, officials said.

In April, Nat Geo Wild averaged 166,000
viewers in primetime, a 39% increase over
the 119,000 viewers garnered by the network
a year prior, according to Nielsen.

Nat Geo Wild senior vice president
Geoff Daniels said the National Geographic
Society and Fox Networks
Group-owned service has created its
own identity by offering fun, entertaining
wildlife programming that appeals to all
members of the family. While Nat Geo Wild launched as
a male-skewing channel, Daniels said it is now fourth
among all cable services in primetime with regard to
parent/child co-viewing percentages.

“We’re finding our mojo,” he said. “When you’re a
young channel, you’re trying to figure out where you audience
is, and in particular, in the last year, we’ve found
that sweet spot.

“To be able to blend the entertainment and spectacle
that National Geographic has been known for and give it
a fun and entertaining twist has been great,” Daniels said.

The network’s Sunday-night specials and miniseries in
particular have helped not only to drive ratings, but also
to define the network’s brand. Projects like “Big Cat Week”
— part of its overall Big Cat Initiative to save wild lions, tigers
and other large felines — as well as upcoming events
like Kingdom of the Oceans, The Wild West and Fight For
, provide the network with marquee, network-branded
programming that creates viewer sampling.

“We have projects coming down the line that we hope
will begin to help keep our audiences night to night and
week to week,” he said.

Nat Geo Wild’s on-air series hosts are also clicking with
viewers, according to Daniels. From Cesar Millan, host
of the DogWhisperer and new series
Leader of the Pack
; to veterinarian
Dr. Jan Pol, featured in the network’s
most-watched series, The Incredible
Dr. Pol
; Nat Geo Wild’s personalities
“are not only giving the network a real
face and personality, but they are also
allowing us to continue to build into
the new series and formats and creatively
push some of the boundaries
for ourselves,” Daniels said.

The network will also jump into the interactive jungle
later this year as part of Microsoft’s Kinect technology
for Xbox 360. Daniels said Nat Geo Wild’s programming
will be featured as part of the new video-enhanced version
of Kinect that will allow viewers to explore animal
habitats around the world.

Through Kinect’s “reach in and explore” interactivity,
kids will be able to engage, play and learn using their full
bodies, gestures and voices through the Xbox consoles.

“It’s very immersive, and what’s cool about it is that
it’s a truly family-friendly platform using our content ,”
Daniels said.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.