EXCLUSIVE: National Geographic Channel is putting cash money on the line to get viewers to tune into its new lineup of more entertaining and contemporary programming, including this month’s special Killing Lincoln and its new series InsideCombat Rescue.
As part of an extensive promotional campaign, the network is putting stickers over Lincoln’s face on $40,000 worth of $5 bills. Those bills will be spent in restaurants and coffee shops to get them into circulation.
Killing Lincoln is being billed as Nat Geo’s first factual drama, starring Billy Campbell as Lincoln and Jesse Johnson as John Wilkes Booth with narration by Tom Hanks.
The network is looking to take advantage of the current fascination with the sixteenth president by creating ads designed to appear in theaters where the award winning film Lincoln is playing. “Killing Lincoln is quite cinematic in terms of its look and feel and quality and that’s certainly how we’re marketing it, as a big theatrical event,” says Nat Geo CMO Courteney Monroe.
Killing Lincoln airs on Feb. 17 and will feature promos for Inside Combat Rescue, which premiere’s Feb 18. Nat Geo will be screening the six-part series at the Pentagon, at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Air Combat Headquarters and Air Force bases in the U.S. and Afghanistan.
Moving beyond its well-known nature programming, Nat Geo Channel is looking to create programming that is more relevant and engaging for viewers. “We do believe this will appeal to our audience: the core non-fiction viewer. But also be a great platform for us to attract new viewers that are seeking high quality engaging entertainment,” Monroe said.
The shift is changing the channel’s approach to marketing as well. “As we up our entertainment value in terms of programming we’ve certainly trying to up our entertainment value of the marketing itself,” Monroe says.
At the same time, the network is increasing the amount of series in its programming mix, which changes the way the network promotes itself. “A different programming strategy that is comprised of more series does necessitate a d slightly different marketing strategy because you’re trying to get viewers to come back week after week,” Monroe says. “But in general in the same way that our programming is seeking to be bigger and bolder, we are seeking to create bigger and bolder marketing, more breakthrough marketing, noisier marketing.”
To get noisier, Nat Geo, a joint venture of the National Geographic Society and Fox Networks, is getting some help from its Fox family. Promo spots for Killing Lincoln have been running on Fox’s The Following. Bill O’Reilly, the Fox News Channel personality who wrote the book on which the special is based, is getting his fan base to tune in.
Nat Geo has also broadened the array of cable channels it uses when it buys off-channel media. “We continue to buy networks that appeal to the non-fiction viewers,” Monroe says. She says the networks viewers watch sports, Discovery, History and news. Now the network is buying general entertainment channels, such as TNT and USA as well.
The channel is also becoming more aggressive in the social media space.
Killing Lincoln sponsor Raymond James is tagged in some of the promotional content. Acura is also a key sponsor of special, which is sold out, according to the network.