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Nat Geo Wild Unchains 'Big Cat Week'

Nat Geo Wild is hoping its "Big Cats" week-long programming stunt will deliver a loud ratings roar for the network.

Beginning Monday Dec. 6, the network will air seven consecutive nights of programming focusing on nature's fiercest felines as part of the wildlife network's first ever week-long programming stunt. "Big Cat Week," an extension of the National Geographic Society and Nat Geo Wild's long-term Big Cats Initiative to help save lions, tigers, cheetahs and other big cats around the world. The programming gambit will showcase both exclusive Nat Geo Wild shows, as well as content from sister network National Geographic Channel.

"For us at Wild, [Big Cats] represents the best that we can be - right now there are 20,000 lions left in the wild and about 3,000 cheetah," said Geoff Daniels, senior vice president of Nat Geo Wild and National Geographic Channel International.
"There are more tigers in captivity than there are in the wild ... in about 10 years if we do nothing at all to preserve their habitat and stop poaching, they could all be gone."

Along with the Big Cat week shows, Nat Geo Wild will also air a series of interstitials dubbed "Cause An Uproar" that highlights the plight of the world's large felines. The spots, which feature such celebrities as David Archuletta, Tamara Taylor, John Francis Daley and Casey Anderson, will run on Nat Geo Wild well beyond Big Cat week and into 2011, according to network officials.

Among the original programs scheduled to air include Big Cat Odyssey (premieres Dec. 6), a special from award-winning filmmakers Dereck and Beverly Joubert's that documents the behavior of big cat species in Botswana over a 30-year period; Leopard Queen (Dec. 7) which follows the 17-year life of a wild leopard on a game reserve in South Africa; Lion Warriors (Dec. 8), a documentary that follows the efforts of a Kenyan tribe trying to preserve the local lion population; and Lions On The Edge (Dec. 9), which examines lions and other animals searching for water in the drought-plagued Ruaha National Park in Tanzania.

Daniels would not project what kind of ratings the stunt will deliver, but said that in general big cat programming has performed well when it's aired on the network.

"What we've seen is that when we put programs on about big cats, there's a national affinity from a very broad audience for these kinds of animals," he said.

The network, which launched this past Spring after replacing Fox Reality Channel, averaged 99,000 viewers during November, up from the 58,000 for Fox Reality during November 2009. Daniels added that he's optimistic the network will continue to build its audience into 2011

R. Thomas Umstead
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.