More theme nights and more series (or series-like) nights. There's more of a predictability to the schedule than in the past less reliance on a lot of one-offs.
Here are some tips for those of you on the production side:
Producers should not narrow themselves to the natural history dimension of National Geographic, the Magazine. Look well beyond and get to know their very diverse schedule. Science drives it as much as anything. Again, lately, the LOCKED UP/DOWN and all around are the most consistent performers. As we've said before, Hitler usually does well.
The key here for originals is a fully formed idea with all the sources (as credible as can be, because fact-checking is as thorough as it should be) and a story arc with new information along the way. Without all of that, it will go through too many courteous meetings and reviews, trying to get it to what they need, and it's not, you'll get frustrated trying. Key subject areas remain: Science, natural history, exploration, space, expeditions and history. But if you thought crime was going down under the new regime, you'd be hard pressed to find evidence of it.
Very little on the acquired side, but they will take a look on anything that fits into their remit. That indie HORSEMEN movie coming up is an example
CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:
We've mentioned their need for series before, and that is their aim, too. But don't discount "events" not live or anything, but 2-hour Blue Chip docs. They still want 'em. Regardless, that it's the ol'(Tm) "we want new info on familiar topics" that rules the day. "Big science" is at the top of their "needs" list.
While HUMAN FOOTPRINT was a highly-promoted and anticipated one-off, as indicated above, it was the ol'(Tm) reliables of LOCKED DOWN/UP, DOG WHISPERER. The ocassional Medical anamoly program can do very well too.
Don't forget this in spite of a sister international network with the name ADVENTURE, Nat Geo US is clearly NOT looking for adventure-ish programming. Nix on travel, too. And if you have animals, make sure they attack.
Plenty of opportunities for more takes on jails (especially) and that neo-crime stuff, if that's a direction they want. Bikers and gangs could fill that gap. Animals are fine, and DOG WHISPERER needs more character-driven programs surrounding him, if they're going to continue that show.
Didja see RealScreen a few months back? Steve Burns shared his programming thoughts, the headlines and buzz phrases of which were:
"We're witnessing increased interest in the (natural history) genre."
"We greenlit six new blue-chip natural history documentaries" (within his first weeks at Nat Geo)
"I want to see things I haven't seen before, new discoveries and behaviors. I ..want innovative visuals .and to be transported, because that's what our viewers expect."
"Extraordinary photography and compelling storytelling."
And, recently in Variety (March 17-23) in an article penned by good guy, John Dempsey, Nat Geo GM Steve Schiffman reminds us all of the importance of accuracy around there: "There's not one hour of content that gets on the network without careful review by our professionals for factual accuracy and appropriateness." According to John (and an unnamed producer): "(National Geographic Channel) insists on fully annotated scrips, with double sources for every fact".
So take it from there be very, very patient and try to keep in mind: This is a BRAND, with a capital "B" .and they really are good guys!
E-mail CableU feedback on our observations at firstname.lastname@example.org