Nat Geo Unveils New Programming Slate

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National Geographic Channel is introducing a 2007/08 slate of more than 300 hours of programming on the science, nature, technology and contemporary issues its viewers have shown they want.

After it notched a 1 rating or better with 12 series last year, National Geographic has done that well with 11 others in the first quarter of 2007alone. The seven-year-old network, now available in about 65 million homes, is looking to program informative, in-depth non-fiction specials and series - both new and extensions of successes it's already found.

"The audience has voted through the ratings," says Nat Geo president Laureen Ong. Nat Geo grew its total audience 46% during prime in February to an average 410,000 viewers."We're very clearly going deep into the brand, giving people the information and authenticity they want."

Incredible Human Machine, for example, is a special that will build upon the successful In the Womb with a CGI tour of the human body. Human Footprint will examine an average human life in terms of how much one consumes and what effect that has on the world while Impossible Planet: Earth tells the birth to future life of the earth.

Other specials include Six Degrees That Will Change the World (not to be confused with The Weather Channel's broadband site One Degree , which looks at the drastic consequences for the earth for every one degree the temperature could rise; and Dino Autopsy, which follows the network's uncovering of a fully mummified dinosaur.

New series include Critical Situations, a look at the forensics behind modern day events through first-person interviews, which builds about tragedy-focused Seconds From Disaster; The Building, a docuseries about the building of a 24-story condo; and Taboo, an exploration of customs from other cultures that might seem strange to Americas.

Nat Geo will also bring back its popular series Dog Whisperer and Fight Science, as well as its signature Explorer series in which host Lisa Ling will tackle new topics including heroin trade and the trade in human body parts. Separately, a planned June 10 special profiles the Green Berets in Afghanistan.

The programming falls in the "National Geographic sweet spots," says senior VP of special programming Michael Cascio - those being science, nature and culture but with the "cutting edge stuff that has become the calling card for the network's branding," he says.

Trying to be cutting edge with a 112-year-old brand might not seem the easiest feat, and Nat Geo faces venerable competition from the larger, more entrenched History Channel as well as the Discovery cable networks, whose executives have recently positioned themselves as bringing the channels back to their science and nature roots .

But the trust National Geographic has built into its brand in all that time is just what attracts viewers to the cable network's programming, say its executives. At a time where bloggers regularly make news out of unsubstantiated fact, viewers are attracted to the in-depth research, fact-checking and authenticity that Nat Geo promises, they say.

The network unveiled its new shows as part of a package it plans to present advertisers this upfront season. In the past year, Nat Geo has taken on more than 100 new advertisers and increased its number of seven-figure deals by 300%, according to executives - an impressive feat as some clients have become more selective in the number of cable networks they'll place their products.

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