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National Geographic soaring in Oz, U.K.

SYDNEY – Just six weeks after launching in Australia and the U.K., National Geographic’s first branded channels are among the most popular on both the U.K.’s BSkyB and Oz’s Foxtel feevee platforms, spurring a deal for South African carriage.

It is understood the National Geographic Channel (NGC) is Foxtel’s third-most-watched service, although interestingly, NGC’s showy debut has not come at the expense of rival service Discovery, which also airs on Foxtel.

“There is an incredible appetite for documentaries,” U.K. based NGC managing director Jerry Glover told Daily Variety during a visit to Sydney, refusing to comment on rumors NGC is mulling further Oz distribution, possibly on powerful rural paybox Austar.

But Glover did say the strong debuts helped clinch a deal for NGC to bow in April on South Africa’s M Net platform. And he confirmed that plans previously outlined by NGC prexy Sandy McGovern (Variety, Sept. 1 7) to bow Spanish and Portuguese soundtrack channels next year in South America — which will be exported to the Iberian peninsula — are on track.

The Oz U.K. services are jointly owned by Rupert Murdoch’s BSkyB and National Geographic Channels, a co venture between Washington’s National Geographic TV and General Electric’s NBC, which retains editorial control.

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