Two press releases jumped out this week: one from Nat Geo and the other from Showtime.
First off, National Geographic Partners announced its senior leadership team.
NG Partners is the entity formed in September when the venerable National Geographic Society (Nat Geo 1.0) sold its stake in the channels as well as its magazine and other consumer assets to Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox.
- The deal was worth US$725 million.
- Fox now has a 73% share in NGP, while the Society holds the remaining 27%.
Courteney Monroe is now CEO of National Geographic Global Networks, overseeing:
- Global programming, operations and marketing for Nat Geo’s channels worldwide.
- And Nat Geo Studios, formerly the Society’s Television unit.
Ms Monroe is a former HBO marketing exec, and not a programmer.
- Her role addresses the primary challenge for Nat Geo’s channels operation to transform itself into a global brand that can thrive in VOD and other digital platforms.
- I attended the launch party for Nat Geo Channel U.S. That was Nat Geo 2.0.
- The celebrity host was James Bond himself, in the person of the gracious Pierce Brosnan.
- Nat Geo came to market relatively late in the game, years behind Discovery and A&E for example.
- The new channel needed a 007 to punch through.
- And it did: NGC is now distributed to 85 million U.S. homes, while up-and-comer Nat Geo Wild reaches 58 million.
- Amongst the often gloomy year-on-year ratings results for unscripted channels, NG and Wild reported 3Q audience gains: up 12% and 41% respectively.
- However, despite the appeal of the yellow borders brand, NGC never cracked a hit series to rocket into the top ranks of cable viewing, as for example Ice Road Truckers did for History.
Brand Not Channel
- Today, the challenge for NG is compounded by the sudden erosion of viewing for many U.S. cable networks as consumers turn to digital devices, platforms and services.
- Fortunately for Nat Geo, the axe has fallen hardest on channels that muddied (or destroyed) their brands by betting too heavily on character-driven reality TV.
- The stronger performers have been channels like Nat Geo Wild, ID (Crime) and HGTV (Home) that offered programming schedules that are consistent with their distinct brands.
Fox Doubles Down
- Faced with the easy option of managing the slow decline of a mature cable business, Fox decided to blast through.
- The Murdoch family is making a personal commitment to this project:
- The Murdochs are determined to create a global content brand that represents the values of NG’s yellow border,
- A brand that will compete with new digital video content leaders like Amazon and Netflix.
- The financial stakes at risk in Fox’s ambitious strategy are high. It’s a very big bet!
- Expect a lot of change in the kinds of products, deals, personnel and expertise sets that will be engaged in this effort.
- Keep an eye out for our coverage of Nat Geo 3.0…
More Reading on NGP
- You can read the NGP press release here.
- And Manori Ravindran‘s very helpful Realscreen coverage, including of NGC International.
- And Washington Post’s coverage of the initial wave of layoffs.
Showtime Backs Docs
Also, this week:
Showtime Networks announced that Emmy® and Peabody Award-winning executive Vinnie Malhotra will be joining the network in the newly created role of Senior Vice President, Documentaries, Unscripted and Sports Programming.
Malhotra will oversee the development and production of the network’s growing slate of original unscripted and documentary programming, as well as all future documentary theatrical releases.
- I’m out of time for Takeaways, but read our earlier coverage of how documentaries in digital / VOD platforms outperform B-level talent scripted films that may be more costly.
- It’s a complex question to answer: But has the age of the documentary returned?
- Read the full Showtime press release
- Showtime Networks is a 50/50 partner in Smithsonian Networks with The Smithsonian Institution.
- Smithsonian’s Canadian and international partner Blue Ant Media also announced a reorg this week.
World Congress of Science & Factual Producers
Vienna, December 1-4. (Sold Out!)
EDN Online Pitching Sessions 2015: History
December 15, 2015 from 14:00-15:00 (Central European Time).
- At the online EDN Video Conference Room.
- Read about the session here.