After more than half a year of planning and tweaking, National Geographic Channel will unveil a redesigned Web site April 28 that is expected to feature more than 800 hours of video, 2,000 photos from its most popular shows and a state-of-the-art interactive TV scheduling tool.
Brad Dancer, Nat Geo's vice president of research and digital media, said from the outset the goal was to give visitors an experience unlike anything they'd previously found on a network Web site, showcasing the rich, visual content they've come to expect from the National Geographic brand.
“We got the framework for the site together over the past three or four years,” Dancer said. “But we set out to make this a very different site, one that creates a much more visual experience for users and lets them interact with our videos in multiple ways.”
Along with providing more than 800 hours of videos of all the animals, exotic locales, scientific explorations and original series broadcast on the network, the new Web site features a TV grid with a “drag-and-drop” programming schedule that allows viewers to easily navigate air dates, show descriptions and video links to customize their Nat Geo viewing schedule.
“The TV schedule is what we're most proud of,” Dancer said. “We wanted it to stand out. We looked across the landscape and didn't see anything like what we've developed. It includes videos, photos and reminders that people can move around just like the Google Maps application, picking and choosing shows by title or by hour or by day to customize their viewing experience.”
Nat Geo officials wouldn't say exactly how much the months-long redesign — assisted by New York Web site design firm Behavior Design — cost, but so far the network is already seeing tangible benefits from the effort. (Behavior Design develops tie-in sites for HBO programming, see story on page 20.)
After its soft launch on April 14, the site's average pages-per-person count rose from six to nine and the average time spent on the site shot up from about seven-and-a-half minutes to 10 minutes.
As more people turn to the Internet as either their primary or supplementary medium of choice for original content, Nat Geo expects the investment it made in the redesign to manifest in higher ratings for its telecasts, more online buzz through its catalog of individual show blogs and create new advertising opportunities through customized microsites featuring operator partners such as Comcast and Time Warner Cable.
Every episode from Nat Geo's schedule now has its own Web page, letting viewers dig deeper into shows through games, interviews and show-specific blogs. And, in true Web 2.0 fashion, the revamped site lets users embed a video player and any video clip from anywhere on the site.