Shows target men with range of work- and lifestyle-based subjects
NatGeo Channel has greenlit five new series that illustrate the cabler’s push to expand its programming palate under new topper Howard Owens.
The new additions, along with four new skeins ordered by sibling cabler NatGeo Wild, will be touted by the News Corp.-owned outlets today at NatGeo’s upfront presentation in Gotham.
“We’re trying to make new programming that is authentically entertaining and diversified and surgical at same time,” said Owens, the former Reveille exec who was recruited to head programming for NatGeo Channels in November.
The debuting programs on NatGeo range from “Are You Tougher Than a Boy Scout?” (from “Deadliest Catch” producer Original Prods.) to “American Chainsaw,” “Brain Games,” “Bid & Destroy” and “Jersey Combat.” The new skeins appear to take NatGeo further into the genre of work, lifestyle and personality-based programs that are the bread and butter of cablers including A&E, TLC and History.
“I think we’ve always had — and certainly the magazine has had — a balance, so that it surprises you with a sense of what’s next,” NatGeo Channels CEO David Lyle said. “We try to make sure that there’s a unifying tissue … but we’re coming at (them) from a whole lot of different angles.”
“Boy Scout” is an hourlong skein with a six-episode order that will feature a competition between adults and scouts based on challenges in the Boy Scout handbook, while “Chainsaw,” a halfhour show with an eight episode order, focuses on the experiences of chainsaw sculptor Jesse Green and his crew.
The first seasons of “Bid & Destroy,” centered on the work of a demolition company and the treasures they find before tearing stuff down, and “Brain Games,” a continuation of a fall 2011 special event on the channel, will each have 12 halfhour episodes. “Jersey Combat” (10 episodes) finds the dealings at a New Jersey historic military warehouse as its setting.
“The thread for me is that these are character-fronted programs that (feature) male ingenuity,” Owens said, noting the channel’s strength with that demo. ” ‘Brain Games’ is the most overt exception, in being truly male-female. That’s a show that has mass appeal. These other ones really go after guys who are looking to live and to learn in different ways and evolving ways.”
NatGeo has also given renewals to seven other series: “Alaska State Troopers” (20 episodes), “Border Wars” (12), “Doomsday Preppers” (15), “Hard Time” (12), “Locked Up Abroad” (10), “Rocket City Rednecks” (16) and “Taboo” (10).
Special events will play a key role for NatGeo this year, led by “Killing Lincoln,” based on the bestselling book and produced by Ridley and Tony Scott, and “Deepsea Challenge,” which takes “Titanic” director James Cameron to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. NatGeo programming exec veep Michael Cascio said that Owens pitched the “Lincoln” project on his first day on the job.
“These big events are sort of perfectly designed for marketing,” said Cascio. “They have big production values attached to (them) and will come with a marketing effort, now that we have Courteney Monroe (hired as chief marketing officer after a 13-year tenure at HBO), that is really designed to bring a much bigger audience.”
For NatGeo Wild, upcoming freshman series include Europe-set dog-adoption skein “Leader of the Pack,” featuring Cesar Millan (“Dog Whisperer”), and “Animal Intervention” with Donald Schultz and Alison Eastwood. The cabler will also launch “Alpha Dogs,” about trained canine specialists for the military and police, and “Ultimate Animal Countdown,” about the best athletes of the animal kingdom.
In addition, NatGeo Wild renewed “Man v. Monster” for six episodes, “The Incredible Dr. Pol” for 16 and “Wild Case Files” for 10.
“What we are defining is a family-favorite destination, for people who want to see the natural world,” NatGeo Wild senior veep Geoffrey B. Daniels said. “We are reflecting the values of National Geographic and the leadership position we have.”