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Upfronts 2015: Nat Geo Eyes 'Breakthrough'

National Geographic Channels is partnering with GE on a new science anthology series, Breakthrough, executive produced by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer among others, highlighting the 2015-16 upfront slate. NGC CEO Courteney Monroe, president Tim Pastore and other executives and talent presented the programming plans for Nat Geo and Nat Geo Wild at a gathering at Má Pêche in New York today (April 15). They also celebrated that Nat Geo Channel's distribution had topped 90 million homes (see photo). The upfront event comes shortly after the channel had its most-watched program ever, Killing Jesus, which premiered last month.

Breakthrough, about huge achievements in science, will feature celebrity directors Angela Bassett, Peter Berg, Paul Giamatti (who attended the event), Akiva Goldsman, Ron Howard and Brett Ratner. The initial topics will be brain science, longevity, water, energy, pandemics and cyborg technology breakthroughs, NGC said. Other new series on tap are 50 States Of Survival;Primal Survival;The Great Human Race (an adventure challenge show) and The Yard, about shipbuilding operations.

Returning series include Life Below Zero, Drugs Inc., Wicked Tuna, Live Free Or Die and Brain Games. StarTalk, the new talk show hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson that's set to debut next week, will return in the fall with 10 more episodes, NGC said.

Events on the slate include Saints & Strangers -- a miniseries about the Mayflower pilgrims -- America's National Parks and History Of The World... For Now, from the writers of HBO's Silicon Valley.

New series coming to Nat Geo Wild include Vet School, set at Cornell University's veterinary teaching hospital, and Animal Storm Squad, about first responders who go after trapped and injured pets following a natural disaster. Returning series are: The Incredible Dr. Pol; Dr. Oakley, Yukon Vet; Dr. K's Exotic Animal ER and Cesar 911 (with Cesar Millan). "Big Cat Week," "Barkfest II" and "Sharkfest" will be among the events on tap.

Photo: National Geographic Channels CEO Courteney Monroe, President Tim Pastore, Brain Games host Jason Silva and Life Below Zero star Sue Aikens celebrate that National Geographic Channel is now in 91 million homes at upfront on April 15 at Má Pêche in NYC. Credit: Scott Gries for National Geographic Channels.