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National Geographic Net Eyes U.S. Launch

8/01/1999 8:00 PM Eastern

San Francisco -- National Geographic Channels Worldwide
president Sandra McGovern has offered some new details about the U.S. phase of its
international network rollout.

In an interview at the recent CTAM Summit here, McGovern
said she had no clear idea of when the U.S. version of the National Geographic Channel may
launch. She hopes the partners -- National Geographic Society, NBC and Fox -- will
get together in time to have the business plan ready for the Western Show in December,
though.

When asked if the network would be analog or digital,
McGovern said the plan calls for analog to be the main distribution thrust. That could be
tough, given the scarcity of channel space and competition from Discovery Channel and
Animal Planet. The network was widely expected to seek digital carriage, based on
speculation from MSOs and competitors since the original U.S. announcement last May.

McGovern also indicated that National Geographic would take
a page from Fox News Channel and offer cash incentives to operators.

As for how much of the U.S. channel's programming
schedule would be original, the onetime Discovery executive said, "Ultimately
we're looking at [a] 50-50" split between original fare and product drawn from
the overseas networks.

That would follow the pattern the company has used in its
network launches in 55 European, African and Asian countries. About 50 percent of the
various networks' lineup is "core programming," she said, with the rest
unique to each region, such as the United Kingdom.

In addition, she said the U.S. channel would draw from
National Geographic's library of past primetime specials and series that ran on NBC
and PBS -- except in cases where the shows areoutdated. Even then, she said, some old
footage might be used if the network were to develop some sort of a "classic"
program.

Planning is further along on the marketing end, McGovern
indicated. It's likely that the U.S. channel will adopt the marketing theme already
running elsewhere, "It's in our nature." That tagline had its genesis in
focus group research in this country, she noted.

McGovern also said that the National Geographic Channel in
the U.S. would benefit from cross-promotion involving not only the century-old magazine
but also the cable channels of partners NBC and Fox.

 

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