News

Nat Geo Makes It Official

3/02/2008 7:00 PM Eastern

Steve Schiffman, who has served as National Geographic Channel's interim general manager for almost a year, has been given that post on a permanent basis. And he's looking to bump up the network's digital services and possibly even launch niche linear TV networks.

Schiffman, who helped fill the gap when Nat Geo president Laureen Ong left to become chief operating officer for the Star satellite service in Hong Kong, was promoted to the permanent posts of general manager and executive vice president.

Schiffman will continue to report directly to Nat Geo CEO David Haslingden, who is also CEO of National Geographic Channels International and Fox International Channels.

Nat Geo Channel, which debuted seven years ago, is a joint venture between National Geographic Ventures and News Corp.'s Fox Cable Networks.

Schiffman plans to explore bringing versions of Nat Geo's international-channel concepts — such as natural history, adventure, music, kids-targeted and Spanish-language services — to the United States, as well as expanding NGC's digital offerings.

“I've gotten a lot of ideas, and that's just on the linear side,” he said.

Schiffman said that one of his priorities is “to take a lot of that intellectual capital and products and services around the globe and see what would make sense for the U.S. audience.”

On the linear-network front, he said that NGC could offer new domestic channels that wouldn't need to reach 60 million homes to be deemed successful, networks that could drive penetration of foreign-language or digital tiers for operators.

“We have lots of products that we might be able to offer on a tiered basis, where we're looking to get maybe 3 million, 4 million, 5 million subs,” Schiffman said.

NGC is also looking to expand and enhance its broadband and video on-demand offerings, according to Schiffman. For example, the network is looking to add to the HDTV content, in terms of the hours and scope of programming, it now offers on-demand.

NGC has also been revamping its Web site to make it more broadband-centric, and that effort will continue. The network just launched a video-hub web site that has six broadband channels, featuring more than 1,000 clips as well as long-form programming.

“We have a lot of services out there right now,” Schiffman said. “They can be further segmented and defined in various vertical areas that make sense to our brands, and to what our viewers are looking for, and really increase the amount of hours and content that we offer to create a much more robust experience, and ultimately something that's more monetizable.”

NGC had a strong year in 2007, racking up record ratings and revenue growth. Haslingden said in a prepared statement.

Before Ong left, Schiffman was NGC's executive vice president for marketing and digital media, a position he had held since 2002 From 1998 to 2002, Schiffman was the executive vice president of marketing for The Weather Channel.

March