Nat Geo Channel Preps for Sales Push

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New York-National Geographic Channel-U.S., committed to a January launch, will soon pursue advertisers in earnest for calendar-year and first-quarter scatter buys.

That's according to Rich Goldfarb, who last week was named the new senior vice president of media sales for the planned channel and for Fox Cable Networks.

Due in 10 million homes come January, National Geographic Channel is a joint venture of the National Geographic Society and majority partner Fox Entertainment Group.

Goldfarb, formerly NBC Cable Networks' national sales senior vice president for CNBC and MSNBC, said last week that he will hire an unspecified number of ad-sales staffers for the new network. He also plans to tap Fox Cable's existing sales infrastructure.

Those now selling FX will also sell National Geographic as a part of newly formed entertainment-ad sales force.

FX salespeople have already pre-sold some National Geographic time, he said. Earlier this month, Goldfarb made his first sales presentation for National Geographic, before several clients handled by an unidentified ad agency, he said. A follow-up visit with those prospects was made last week.

"Fairly soon, we will be very much out in the market," pitching both agencies and advertisers, he said. "We'll be exploring two sales cycles," he added-calendar-year deals, to be negotiated during the fourth quarter, and first-quarter scatter deals, to be hammered out in September and October.

Financial-sector clients will be among National Geographic's primary calendar-year targets. Other categories high on the list are technology, telecommunications, travel and those clients interested in corporate-image buys.

"Already we've been approached by some advertisers about multiyear deals," added Goldfarb, who reports to Fox Cable Networks sales president Lou LaTorre.

As a network heavily laden with nonfiction wildlife, travel and adventure programming, National Geographic should benefit from its family viewing and educational opportunities and a lack of content issues, Goldfarb said. But it's up against Discovery Communications Inc.'s well-entrenched Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel and Travel Channel.

Goldfarb also looks forward to capitalizing on cross-media sales avails across the National Geographic Society's publishing, Internet and international cable properties, as well as opportunities that involve the Fox Television Network and other News Corp.-owned outlets.

"There are lots of beauties to this relationship," Goldfarb added. "Fox is very asset-rich."

Goldfarb called the 10 million-home launch-which includes deals with cable MSOs AT & T Broadband and Adelphia Communications Corp. and direct-broadcast-satellite provider DirecTV Inc.-"significant in today's environment."

A 25-year television and cable veteran who became president of worldwide ad sales for Fox Kids Worldwide in 1997, Goldfarb was president of the Advertiser Syndicated Television Association, the barter-syndication industry's trade organization, in 1995.

He offered no specifics about about National Geographic's programming except to say that it will include a major off-net library of National Geographic specials.

This will not be his first acquaintance with that product. As senior vice president of syndication sales at Turner Broadcasting System Inc. from 1986 to 1993, he built a library that included National Geographic and Jacques Cousteau specials.

One recent acquisition, industry sources said, is Raising the Hunley, a special originally slated for Discovery Channel. The Hunley, a Civil War submarine, was recovered last week.

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