TCA 2019: Courteney Monroe: Disney+ Exposure Will Expand Nat Geo’s Audience Reach

National Geographic will benefit from having original content premiere on the upcoming Disney+ streaming service, but will not compromise the programming output for its linear cable channel, said National Geographic Global Networks president Courteney Monroe.

Speaking during Nat Geo’s executive panel Tuesday at the Television Critics Association summer press tour, Monroe said network programming on the Disney+ service -- which is set to launch this fall -- will allow the network to reach new viewers for its content.

“Being a part of the Disney+ brand is a tremendous opportunity for our brand and our content,” she said. “To be one of only five brands to have prominent placement on that platform -- and to sit alongside iconic, meaningful brands like Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm -- gives us a tremendous advantage. It will enable us to reach more consumers across every platform with our content and our brand.”

She added while the network is producing shows exclusively for Disney+ -- including The World According to Jeff Goldblum -- it won’t change Nat Geo’s original programming strategy. “We are still producing as many hours as in the past and continuing with our premium strategy,” she said.

Monroe unveiled several new Nat Geo shows, including Activate: The Global Citizen Moment, a six-part documentary series debuting Sept. 5 that promises to raise awareness about extreme poverty, inequality and sustainability issues to mobilize citizens to drive meaningful change; and Kingdom of the White Wolf, a three-part special event debuting Aug. 25, which follows Nat Geo photographer Ronan Donovan’s emotional journey through the arctic to be accepted by a white wolfpack.

Monroe also said that Nat Geo will partner with James Cameron on a new original series, Mission Ocean X, which will explore the depths of the world’s oceans. Another special, Expedition Amelia, will debut Oct. 20 and will search for the plane of the famed aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart, who disappeared flying over the Pacific Ocean in 1937.

Other original content in development include Everest: The Great Mystery, in which an expedition to solve one of mountaineering's most enduring mysteries; Jane Goodall: The Hope; Lost Cities With Albert Lin; and the Hidden Kingdoms of China.

On the scripted front, the network is developing Barkskins, a drama series set in the late 1600s. The series follows European immigrants seeking a future at the edge of the new world. Barkskins along with The Right Stuff, a series based on the nation’s drive to be the first in space, and limited series Guests of the Ayatollah -- based on author Mark Bowden’s 2006 nonfiction novel about the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis -- join Genius in Nat Geo’s scripted portfolio.

With regard to Genius, Monroe said the network has decided to move on from its original decision to profile Frankenstein author Mary Shelley in future seasons of the series. The network initially slated Shelley for its upcoming third season, but earlier this year pivoted to focus on the life of R&B singer Aretha Franklin.

“We couldn’t find a way to crack it in an eight to 10-episode limited series, so we will not move ahead with the project,” Monroe 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.