Nat Geo Wild Roams Free, Digitally

Geoff Daniels, executive vice president and general manager of Nat Geo Wild, wants to transform — that is, he’s already transforming — the channel into a lifestyle brand fed by multiple platforms.

Daniels is looking to create digital content to draw everyone from lovers of viral cat videos to hardcore conservationists into the safari tent. The channel, which took the place of the former Fox Reality Channel back in 2010, just launched its first digital series. Daniels, based in Washington, D.C., discussed his plans with Multichannel News and B&C Washington bureau chief John Eggerton.

NTV:What is your philosophy for running a linear channel in an increasingly non-linear world?

Geoff Daniels: That is really the nub of it for me. When I think about Nat Geo Wild, I don’t think of it as a linear channel. The premise I am coming at now as I look at the question you just asked is, “What do people who love crazy cat virals and the most hardened conservationists have in common, and how do I appeal to all those people?” And the answer is that they are animal lovers first, and they care passionately about animals, even though in some cases it may be different animals and that they are looking for all sorts of ways to engage and fuel that passion.

So I don’t really see myself running a linear channel any more as much as I see myself being somebody who is in the process of transforming a very fun and vibrant cable channel into what I want to become a very powerful lifestyle brand that basically feeds their passion for the animals they love any way they want it, anywhere, anytime.

NTV:You have just launched your first digital series.

GD: Yes, Wild Life With Bertie Gregory is our first “digital first” series. It is 16 parts, premiering in late June on a rapidly evolving Nat Geo Wild YouTube channel, which has become much more than just a platform to promote our shows on air.

We are going to be creating original content and giving the platform over to amazing content creators like Bertie. That is one of our first forays into what I think is not just a digital world, but a world where we can create communities around the natural world, and animals, and what people like Bertie are doing in real life.

What I love about the series is you have Bertie, who is 22 and an unbelievably gifted wildlife photographer and cinematographer and he looks like he just stepped out of a British boy band. He is absolutely the real deal. He has been part of the Nat Geo family for some time, working with incredible photographers like Steve Winer on various magazine photo pieces that Steve has done with big cats.

And Bertie’s quest is to find the coastal wolves of British Columbia, which are basically the natural world’s equivalent of ghosts. They are an utterly unique group of animals; they get something like 80% of their diet from the ocean. So he is on this quest to explore that environment and all the animals that live in this web of life that the wolves depend on.

We are following his adventures, in effect, in real time, and it’s a 16-part series that will be released like a serialized adventure.

NTV: What are some of your other plans for the “everywhere” concept?

GD: The way we are looking at Nat Geo Wild is that not only are we going to make great TV shows, but that under this brand because of the relationships we think we can have with that animal audience around the world, that we can create products, and services and experiences that speak directly to that audience’s interests and needs. So it is not about selling a show for them to go watch, it’s about creating something that they have a genuine interest and curiosity about and giving them a variety of different things that they can tap into that we are creating for them and then putting on the appropriate platforms.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.