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Nat Geo Raises Volume

3/07/2009 7:21 AM Eastern

National Geographic Channel will bring native head shrinkers, shark wranglers and prehistoric dinosaurs to viewers with the addition of 10 new series set to launch during the 2009-10 season.

What the network hopes to avoid during the upfront season is a shrinking of ad revenues: Nat Geo is confident that the 70 million-subscriber service will experience a 5% to 10% growth in ad revenue, despite the poor economic climate, through its schedule of original shows.

The network is already posting an 11% increase in ad sales thus far in the first quarter, compared to the same period in 2008, according to senior vice president of ad sales Rich Goldfarb.

“We’re a very smart media investment,” Goldfarb said. “The brand has attributes that advertisers love in times like this — trust, integrity, authenticity — and that serves us well in tough times like these.”

A steady increase in ratings hasn’t hurt the network’s sales efforts either, particularly among its core 25-to-54-year-old audience. Nat Geo has set or tied network ratings records in both primetime and total day within its target demo, as well as among households for the past six months. The programmer finished 2008 with 408,000 total viewers, an increase of 7% over 2007.

Two Jan. 25 specials, On Board Air Force One and On Board Marine One, are the top two most-watched one-hour shows in network history, generating a combined 9.2 million viewers.

Overall, Nat Geo will offer 350 hours of original content in the upfront season, up from 300 for the prior season, according to general manager Steve Schiffman.

“New content gives people a reason to sample the channel,” he said.

But Schiffman would not reveal programming budget increases.

Among the new series in development are three law-enforcement based shows: Alaska Troopers, which follows law enforcers investigating the state’s wildlife crime; Border Wars, which tracks customs officers who protect U.S. borders; and Break Out, which highlights successful jailbreaks.

Also on tap are two fishing-based shows, including Hooked, which focuses on how different cultures fish, and Hooked: Monster Shark, which follows fish scientists and their study of sharks.

World Toughest Fixes host Sean Riley will tackle the most oversized repair jobs on the planet in a new series, while paleontologist Phil Manning investigates how dinosaurs behaved, lived and ultimately perished in Jurassic CSI.

Rounding out the network’s new-series development slate are Fight Science, which uses CGI animators to analyze the world’s greatest techniques; Known Universe, which showcases the most explosive natural forces in the universe; and Rescue Ink, which follows motorcycle-riding tough guys who have a soft spot for animals.

The network will also bring back its Expedition Week programming stunt this November with several new specials, including Titanic’s Lost Twin, a look at the sunken Britannic vessel; Croc World, which examines prehistoric crocodile bones; and Search for the Amazon Headshrinkers, which tracks a tribe of Amazon skull shrivelers.

The new shows will join 11 existing series, including popular shows Dog Whisperer With Cesar Millan, the Emmy-winning Explorer, Locked Up Abroad, Man Made and Taboo, according to Steve Burns, executive vice president of content.

September