Skip to main content

National Geographic Channel Strategic Opportunities - December 2007



Series are the by-word at National Geographic Channel (or is it “buy-word”?) more than almost any other network.  They have strands, but need the kinds of series and characters that the DOG WHISPERER is and the viewer identification he can command. But the network is proving that well thought out theme nights and mini-events can boost the numbers, too. 

Producers should not narrow themselves to the natural history dimension of National Geographic, the Magazine.  Look well beyond…and get to know their very diverse schedule.  Science drives it as much as anything. Again, lately, lots of terrorism-related specials, , jailhouse, gang, Biblical, behind the scene-stuff.  HITLER still scores well..religion and history did well in December…and anything with killer animals, snakes or bears….all seem to be on their list of what works.  Once again, as last month, the net avoided a lot of superlatively-titled programs.   And Crime isn’t nearly as wanted as the Steve Burns era begins.  (That’s gonna be a tough one to wean   for any network.)


The key here is a fully formed idea with all the sources (as credible as can be, because fact-checking is as thorough as it should be) and a story arc with new information along the way.  Without all of that, it will go through too many courteous meetings and reviews, trying to get it to what they need, and it’s not, you’ll get frustrated trying.  Key subject areas remain:  Science, natural history, exploration, and history.


Very little on the acquired side, but they will take a look on anything that fits into their remit.


National Geographic prefers to get proposals e-submitted. To submit to National Geographic, visit the website Here are the latest marching orders:

“Welcome to – the place to submit programming ideas to the National Geographic Channel – United States (NGC-US) and National Geographic Channels International (NGCI).

Both networks have gone paperless which means is now the only way to submit your proposals.”
Wouldn't bother with a pilot or presentation tape, unless talent is involved (then it's a big YES!)


Like too many other channels these days, National Geographic is going through some personnel changes, too.   New boss Steve Burns was very much in evidence at the Science/Factual Congress  recently, and he’ll be addressing the troops at RealScreen.  As with any change at the top, there might be others behind it, and certainly some sort of change of direction.   No announcements to report yet, and no buzz, either.

Take the past mantra as a prologue:  “Natural history, programs to fill the NAKED SCIENCE Strand, a support for DOG WHISPERER, programs like SECONDS FROM DISASTER, etc.”…And from what we see, that ought to be true. The new prison stuff is great, but one would think they’d want another take on the subject  

Crime is on the outs, but religion, archaeology/anthropology, space and animals of the deadly sort still work and are at the heart of what’s being developed. TABOO, is a pretty steady performing series….always has been.  Add that religious/anthropology thing, bikers and the HOOKED Strand.  ULTIMATE FACTORIES worked, too.  And the DINO AUTOPSY was a huge performer.  MUMMIES, KING TUT and even HOWARD HUGHES did well enough to take note.

Don’t forget this…in spite of a sister international network with the name ADVENTURE, Nat Geo US is clearly NOT looking for adventure-ish programming.  Nix on travel, too.  And if you have animals, make sure they attack.   Plenty of opportunities for more takes on jails (especially) and that neo-crime stuff, if that’s a direction they want.  Bikers and gangs could fill that gap.  .  Animals are fine, and DOG WHISPERER needs more character-driven programs surrounding him, if they’re going to continue that show.

Didja see RealScreen a month or so back?  Steve Burns shared his programming thoughts, the headlines and buzz phrases of which were:

    “We’re witnessing increased interest in the (natural history) genre.”
    “We greenlit six new blue-chip natural history documentaries” (within his first weeks at Nat Geo)
    “I want to see things I haven’t seen before, new discoveries and behaviors.  I ..want innovative visuals….and to be transported, because that’s what our viewers expect.”
    “Extraordinary photography and compelling storytelling.”

So take it from there…be very, very patient…and try to keep in mind:  This is a BRAND, with a capital “B”….and they really are good guys!


E-mail CableU feedback on our observations at