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Nat Geo Seeks Impact

3/10/2006 7:00 PM Eastern

New York— Looking to continue its ratings momentum, National Geographic Channel will add a host of new series and specials.

Nat Geo, which held its upfront presentation here last Thursday, talked up Crash Test Human, which demonstrates the inner workings of science, technology and safety by finding out how to survive an avalanche, or escape an exploding building. The series is slated to debut in December.

Drafting on the record ratings success of last September’s special Inside 9/11 and recent behind-scenes looks at the 2002 Washington, D.C., sniper case and the 1993 Waco, Texas, tragedy, Nat Geo will premiere The Final Report in December. The series — 13 episodes have been ordered — will take a definitive look at significant events.

The network also will present new episodes of returning series like Megastructures and its signature Explorer skein.

Among the specials on tap: In The Womb Multiples examines the physiological and psychological bonds of twins, triplets, quads and even quintuplets; Galapagos: The Islands That Changed The World; The Living Body; and Eye of the Leopard, in which a cub is followed for two years.

“Our goal is to be the quality source of non-fiction programming that is also entertaining,” executive vice president of programming and production John Ford said in an interview. “We’re trying to be popular and important at the same time.”

The service racked up a 40% increase in primetime in 2005, averaging a 0.4 household rating. Gains were also recorded against adults 25 to 54, with momentum continuing into 2006: the network posted an 11% advance in February against the demo despite the sweeps period and NBC’s Olympics coverage.

On the advertising front, network officials said Nat Geo has already added 75 new sponsors in the 2005-06 TV season and could push that total to 100 before the season concludes in May. President Laureen Ong said Nat Geo’s upscale audience had made inroads in the financial categories. Other newcomers, attracted by the service’s family-friendly fare include Hyundai, Pepsi, Loews home-improvement stores and Nestlé.

Currently in 58 million homes, Ong expects Nat Geo will pass the 60 million mark by year-end.

September