Nat Geo Seeks to Entertain, Generally

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National Geographic Channel will move
toward more general entertainment-themed original content
during the upfront season in a bid to increase its viewer base.

Once known primarily for nature-themed and exploration
shows such as Explorer and investigative specials such
as Inside 9/11, the network will launch several new shows
and specials that will be more character-driven and entertainment-
based, National Geographic Channels CEO David
Lyle told Multichannel News during the network’s upfront
press briefing.

Among the new programs slated for the network in 2013
is a multipart series focused on the decade of the 1980s. The
show The 80s: The Decade That Made Us examines the decade’s
celebrities, decisions and inventions that changed our
world, according to Lyle.

Other character-driven reality shows include American
, which features a company that creates art masterpieces
carved from wood for royalty, celebrities, hotels
and fans; Bid & Destroy, which follows
the Danley Demolition Co. as it searches
soon-to-be demolished buildings for
hidden treasures; and Jersey Combat,
which chronicles the owners of antique
artifacts in the country’s largest military

Another new entry, Brain Games, builds
on Nat Geo’s fall 2011 special of the same
name that studies how the brain works
and how easily it can be tricked. The new
series joins the already announced Thom
Beers-produced series Are You Tougher
Than A Boy Scout
and the documentary
special Who Killed Lincoln.

Rather than moving away from the historic
National Geographic Society brand,
Lyle said the new shows are an extension
of the network’s current programming.

“We’re making sure that on top of the
brand, we’re offering entertainment to go along with the authenticity
and traditions that have always been there,” Lyles
said. “We still think we have substance in the series and specials,
but added to that vibrancy and exploration of different
contemporary styles and compelling stories.”

Lyle said he’s not concerned about alienating core National
Geographic viewers but expanding the breadth of the network’s
audience base.

“We’re confident that we can add to what we have with
a crowd that’s slightly younger and more female,” he said.
“We’re still selling men 25-54, but we will add to that younger
18-49 viewers and family viewing.”

Among the shows returning to the network within the
next year are Alaska State Troopers, Border Wars, Doomsday
, Hard Time, Locked Up Abroad, Rocket City
and Taboo.

On the Nat Geo Wild side, the 54 million subscriber network
will give Dog Whisperer star Cesar Millan dubbed
Leader of the Pack, in which Millan looks to train undisciplined
abandoned dogs so that they can be adopted, according
to Nat Geo Wild senior vice president
Geoff Daniels. The network will also develop
new episodes of Dog Whisperer.

Other new network series include Alpha
, which chronicles an elite force
of K-9’s who aid the military; Animal Intervention,
in which wildlife expert Donald
Schultz, and film director Alison
Eastwood look to save exotic pets from
owners who can no longer care for them;
and Ultimate Animal Countdown, a docu-series that showcases the skills of animals
in the wild.

Nat Geo Wild will also develop several
event specials, including Secret Life
of Predators
, which takes the view of
predators in the wild; as well as The
Wild West
, which follows the lives of
animals that dwell in U.S. mountain
terrains and deserts.