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NGC Celebrates Fifth Anniversary

1/11/2006 2:59 AM Eastern

Pasadena, Calif. -- National Geographic Channel kicked off its fifth anniversary Tuesday with a slate of original programming that it hopes will continue to build the viewership momentum it generated in 2005.

The 56 million-subscriber network will explore the phenomena of gang violence with a profile of the Los Angeles-originated MS-13 gang as part of a Feb. 12 episode of its signature series, Explorer, executive vice president of programming and production John Ford said during the network's Television Critics Association tour presentation here Tuesday.

NGC will follow last year's record-setting ratings hit, Inside 9/11, with several hard-hitting documentaries focusing on major and controversial events in recent U.S. history.

Challenger: The Untold Story, a two-hour documentary debuting Jan. 23, will take a behind-the-scenes look at what happened to the ill-fated space mission that exploded upon takeoff 20 years ago, while the 2002 D.C. sniper case and the 1993 Waco, Texas, tragedy will be examined in separate documentaries airing back-to-back Jan. 26 as part of the network's The Final Report series.

Other specials focusing on the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the 1960s space race between the United States and the Soviet Union to land the first man on the moon are also slated to air on the network this year.

Other less-dramatic fare scheduled to air on NGC includes a Feb. 13 special exploring lust, love and sex dubbed Naked Science: What's Sexy?, as well as the return this month of pet-training series Dog Whisperer for its sophomore run.

NGC president Laureen Ong said the new programming will help the network to continue the ratings momentum created last year, during which it experienced a 40% increase in its primetime numbers.

"Projects like Inside 9/11 represent our continued commitment to programming that expands on the boundaries of what Nat Geo represents," she added.

September