In a move that continues MSNBC's shift away from live newscasts during primetime, NBC Cable will shift National Geographic Explorer
to that network from CNBC come October.
The programming switch will expand the amount of documentary fare that MSNBC carries to 250 hours per year. NBC Cable licenses Explorer
from National Geographic Television.
ran on TBS Superstation for 12 years before NBC cut a deal to move the program to CNBC in 1998. Terms of the original NGT-NBC agreement haven't changed along with the channel switch, executives from both companies said.
NGT launched National Geographic Channel, its first domestic network, in January, sans its flagship Explorer
series. The earliest that NGC could get the series would be 2004, when the NBC Cable agreement expires, said Explorer
senior vice president and executive producer David Royle.
But Royle said there are advantages to NGT's licensing the series elsewhere, including more potential revenue and viewers. "I think it's important for us to be reaching as many people as possible," he said.
MSNBC presently counts some 65 million subscribers, making it more than five times the size of National Geographic Channel, which is available in about 12 million homes.
The switch also continues MSNBC's strategy of offering fewer live news shows in primetime. MSNBC president and general manager Erik Sorenson defended the strategy, insisting that documentary programming — including the network's Headliners and Legends
and its MSNBC Investigates
tabloid program — are news shows.
"It's semantics," Sorenson said. "Because CNN for 15 years defined cable news as breaking news and talk shows, the press criticizes us and says, 'Are biographies news? An investigative hour, is that news?' Yes it is; it's produced."
Explorer, which has won 42 Emmys and 13 CableACE awards, averages 164,000 households in its target demographic of adults 25-54 on Saturdays and Sundays since Aug. 1, down 14 percent from its second-quarter average.
The two-hour program will run on Sundays at 8 pm. on MSNBC, leading into Headliners and Legends. The show will repeat on Fridays at 9 p.m.