NatGeo ready to go Wild

Sibling to NatGeo Channel prepares for launch

Closing in on its March 29 launch, Nat Geo Wild will announce at its upfront today a slate of nine series that crisscross the animal kingdom.

“This will be a channel that will start on the ground running,” said exec VP of content Steve Burns, “We feel that we’re going to have, just as any network does, a steady stream of premieres in primetime.”

Taking the place of the Fox Reality Channel in the U.S. after operating three years internationally, NGW is promoting series from reptile-focused “Dangerous Encounters With Brady Barr” to the more down-home “My Dog Ate What?”

There is no shortage of series in exotic settings — “Secret Worlds,” “The Lion Ranger” — but the overall goal is for the network to be family friendly.

Its opening night of primetime programming will feature three hourlong shows: “Thunderbeast,” “Expedition Grizzly” and “Predator Battleground.”

Like its sibling, the 9-year-old National Geographic Channel, NGW is a joint venture of National Geographic and Fox Cable Networks, and aims to benefit from a “number of cross-channel, cross-promotional opportunities,” NGC prexy and g.m. Steve Schiffman said.

While key series including “Alaska State Troopers,” “Border Wars,” “The Dog Whisperer” and “World’s Toughest Fixes” return, six new skeins are on tap.

The biggest new order is seven episodes of hourlong “Monster Fish With Zeb Hogan,” which features his search for massive but endangered aquatic species. The prolific Thom Beers also brings “Wild Justice,” focusing on game-warden patrols on the West Coast and their encounters with both dangerous animals and humans.

Also of interest is “Making History,” which combines National Geographic historians with greenscreen technology to re-create historical events.

NGC is trumpeting seven years of ratings growth and 12 Emmy noms in news and documentary in each of the past two years, and its execs said the momentum has helped boost production budgets.

“It allows us to go to production companies and … contract globally,” Schiffman said.

NGC programs a diverse lineup of specials, with series like “Lost Fleet of Columbus” (airing during the third Expedition Week) complementing programming in the vein of “Inside the Milky Way.”

Senior VP of media sales Rich Goldfarb said the network has been able to “schedule certain content that aligns with feature releases.”

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