EXCLUSIVE: National Geographic Channel is entering the scripted series arena with Act Of Valor, a drama from Relativity and Tandem Communications inspired by Relativity’s successful 2012 Navy SEAL feature. The project, which also marks Relativity’s first scripted series, will begin production in early 2014. Written by Erik Jendresen (Band Of Brothers), Act Of Valor the series focuses on pararescuemen, also known as PJs, who are the unsung heroes tasked with recovery and medical treatment of personnel in humanitarian and combat environments. Relativity CEO Ryan Kavanaugh is expected to address the project in his MIPCOM Media Mastermind Keynote in Cannes on Tuesday. “Relativity’s unique model allows us to successfully transform a film such as Act Of Valor into a highly engaging television series,” he said. “We could not ask for a better home for the series than National Geographic Channel.” This marks the second Relativity movie to spawn a series, following the 2010 documentary Catfish, which led to MTV’s successful reality series of the same name.
EXCLUSIVE: National Geographic continues to build a pop science franchise around breakout hit Brain Games. The network has greenlighted a second companion series for flagship Brain Games, Duck Quacks Don’t Echo (working title), based on a panel show created by Magnum Media for UK’s Sky1. The U.S. version, produced by JimCo Prods, will have three co-hosts who will challenge each other by presenting their best theories, like “Can shrimp run longer than the average human?” or “Is it impossible for a blindfolded person to walk, swim or drive in a straight line?,” and then put them to the test with real, in-studio and field experiments. “Duck Quacks Don’t Echo unearths and tests the most obscure and the most absurd theories,” said NGC EVP Heather Moran. “We’re making science entertaining and interactive by revealing the facts behind these ideas and engaging viewers actively in these experiments — and hopefully they’ll learn a thing or two along the way.” The order for Duck Quacks Don’t Echo comes on the heels of the recent pickup of statistics-themed The Numbers Game, also a Brain Games companion. Duck Quacks Don’t Echo starts production in the fall with Jim Biederman and Marla Ratner executive producing.
EXCLUSIVE: Science program The Numbers Game first debuted as a three-part special accompanying National Geographic Network‘s Brain Games, which hit record-setting ratings for the channel when it launched in April. Now the network is making The Numbers Game a regular series with an order for additional 12 episodes of the show hosted by scientist Jake Porway, who uncovers the surprising science behind life’s mysteries in each episode. “The Numbers Game is the first series to present data and numbers to viewers in a fast-paced, engaging format that transforms science into must watch television” said Goodbye Pictures president Rich Bye who is exec producing Numbers with Nat Geo Television’s Pam Wells.
Discovery Channel raced this morning to announce it would document the raising of the Costa Concordia, and get it on the air lickety split — this Friday at 10 PM ET. As Discovery put out the word, engineers in Giglio, Italy, on Monday had begun raising the cruise ship that ran aground nearly two years ago during what was supposed to be a weeklong Mediterranean cruise, killing 32 of its 4,229 passengers and crew members. Discovery learned the hard way last year the price of delay when it comes to cruise-ship disaster docus, after getting bloodied in a major battle with National Geographic Channel.
Back in January 2012, just days after the cruise ship ran aground off the Tuscan island, Discovery Channel had announced it would “dissect the anatomy” of the Friday the 13th disaster — with the quiet confidence of a network long used to being the only game in town — and said the docu would air “this spring.” But on the same day an Italian court refused to lift the house arrest order for the ship’s captain, Discovery nemesis National Geographic Channel attacked, announcing it had hired the producers of the quick-turnaround British documentary Terror At Sea: The Sinking Of The Concordia — which had already aired on the UK’s Channel 4 — to rework it for this market, rename it Italian Cruise Ship Disaster: The Untold Stories, and slap it on the air that Sunday, beating Discovery’s Cruise Ship Disaster: Inside The Concordia by a week. “Just announced! National Geographic Channel to air first U.S. documentary detailing the Italian cruise ship disaster moment-by-moment,” NatGeo bragged back then.
National Geographic Channel chose today — which would have been the diamond wedding anniversary of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy and John Fitzgerald Kennedy — to announce the premiere date for its JFK assassination movie. Anyone else creeped out by that? Anyway, Killing Kennedy, based on the book of same name by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, will premiere on Sunday, November 10. It’s timed to the 50th anniversary of the assassination. Killing Kennedy will be released globally in 171 countries, in 48 languages. NatGeo’s first original feature, Killing Lincoln, premiered in February to a crowd of 3.4 million, which made it the most-watched program in the network’s history. Killing Lincoln also was based on a book of same name also by O’Reilly and Dugard. (Watch an exclusive clip from Killing Kennedy after the jump.)
TCA: ‘Killing Kennedy’ Star Rob Lowe Happy To Topline Bill O’Reilly’s “Massive Best Seller” Adaptation
Rob Lowe, who stars as President John F. Kennedy in National Geographic’s Killing Kennedy, says he’s not off-put by the fact that it’s based on a book by Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly. “I didn’t think about it all, because the book had come out and been so successful,” Lowe, who dabbled in politics, on the Dem side, in the past, said this morning at TCA Summer TV Press Tour 2013. Anyone working in show business today is looking to get a big on a project with “an advantage”, Lowe explained, and “the book’s a massive best-seller.” “Five million books in the last year”, NatGeo Channels president Howard Owens jumped in during the Q&A session. “And when you read the book it’s nothing if not very straightforward about the facts of the story,” Lowe said.
A TV critic wondered if the panel worried this project would be boycotted like efforts to boycott Ender’s Game, based on the book by controversial author and anti-gay advocate Orson Scott Card. Not sure why critics thought that was a possibility, given the big ratings NatGeo did not so long ago with O’Reilly’s other book, Killing Lincoln. Anyway, Killing Kennedy screenwriter Kelly Masterson said not, because while he has “a different political position” than does O’Reilly, he was “happy to learn I had an awful lot in common” with the Fox …
UPDATED: National Geographic Channel is committed to live extreme-event programming. To that end, Nat Geo announced two such projects this morning on the first day of the TCA Summer TV Press Tour. Bob Ballard, aka “the guy who found the Titanic,” will make a dive into an underwater volcano off the coast of Granada. The volcano is so treacherous — a “ticking time bomb,” NatGeo calls it — that no ships are allowed within 10 miles of it, said National Geographic Channels CEO David Lyle. The live dive, Volcano Dive: Live will be telecast Sunday, November 17 and will cap Nat Geo’s celebration of the National Geographic Society’s 125th anniversary.
Additionally, rock climber Alex Honnold will climb one of the world’s highest skyscrapers, without a safety line, this fall, the network also announced. The news comes on the heels of Discovery’s recent special in which Nick Wallenda crossed the Little Colorado River Gorge. NatGeo will cover Honnold — a rock star in rock climbing circles — live on his ascent of some, as yet unknown, really tall building. That announcement:
EXCLUSIVE: National Geographic Channel has greenlit a docu-drama series American Genius from the producers of The Men Who Built America and Sons of Liberty. This time, Stephen David Entertainment will spotlight Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Graham Bell, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, among others. “In an era where America is not always credited as leading ingenuity, this show will remind us that this country has always been a global hotbed for genius, and we will celebrate the way they changed the world we live in,” NatGeo Channel president Howard T. Owens explained. NGC is billing the multi-part series as the natural extension of its series Brain Games, which sizes up the human brain using an intricate string of experiments, optical illusions, brainteasers and hard science, and The Numbers Game, which looks at how science and statistics may hold the keys to a longer, wealthier, calmer life. Both Brain Games, which NGC says is its highest rated series to date, and The Numbers Game are in a second season of production.
“American Genius looks at those who mentally put the pedal to the metal,” said David. “These are stories of beautiful, hyper-creative mad minds. We may think we know them because our country, and the world, still reaps the benefits of their extraordinary thinking, but our goal is to go way behind IQ, and way beyond the known eccentricity.”
SDE’s docu-dramas weave narration, re-enactment, and talking heads. What distinguishes …
National Geographic Channel has upped Heather Moran to exec VP programming and strategy for Nat Geo Channel U.S. At the same time, Brad Dancer has been upped to SVP program planning and research for the networks. In her new gig, Moran will oversee the network’s programming, strategy, and content, as well as development and production. (Moran had been SVP of global programming and strategic development, responsible for developing programming and sked strategies for NGC, National Geographic Channels International, and Nat Geo Wild.)
Dancer — one of NGC’s first 10 employees at its May 2000 launch — will now oversee distribution of NGC and Wild content across linear and non-linear platforms; he’ll also oversee day-to-day scheduling and long-term schedule planning at both networks, and will continue to manage all consumer research. (Before the promotion, as SVP of audience and business development, Dancer headed up all areas of research in support of the network’s program development and strategy, scheduling, ad sales, consumer and promotion. He was also the guy who oversaw all “non-linear” revenue sources for the channel: games, apps, music, merchandising, digital distribution, etc. Here’s the announcement:
National Geographic announced this morning it will telecast The Secret Life Of Predators on both National Geographic Channel and Nat Geo Wild on Friday, September 20 and Friday, September 27. The programming will air as part of its Night of Exploration programming block, with naturalist Boone Smith hosting. Nat Geo’s announcement:
(WASHINGTON, D.C. – July 1, 2013) — National Geographic Channel (NGC) CEO David Lyle today announced the channel’s next sweeping natural history event: The Secret Life of Predators. From the networks that brought viewers Untamed Americas and Great Migrations, this four-part blue-chip event from National Geographic Television will be simulcast on both National Geographic Channel and Nat Geo WILD on Friday, September 20 and Friday, September 27 during the “Night of Exploration.” Naturalist and big cat tracker Boone Smith is the host.
EXCLUSIVE: On the heels of the success of the three-night, six-hour event The ’80s: The Decade That Made Us, National Geographic Channel has greenlighted a sequel multi-part miniseries, The ’90s: The Last Great Decade? (working title), which will premiere in 2014 on National Geographic Channels globally. Like the original mini, The ’90s will showcase the people, the inventions and the decisions that shaped the last decade of the 20th century — arguably the last time the United States reigned on the global stage — a time of innocence and innovation in a pre-9/11 world. It will be told from the perspective of notable history makers, celebrities, sports stars, politicians and musicians and will satisfy the urge for nostalgia with classic ’90s music, scenes from iconic movies and TV shows, best of fashion and key sports moments. Returning as producer is Nutopia, which produced The ’80s as well as America The Story Of Us. “Similar to The ’80s: The Decade That Made Us, our goal is to create the defining biography of another generation as told through unexpected game changers, history makers, world leaders and entertainers of the ’90s,” said Alan Eyres, SVP and Development. “Nutopia proved to be an amazing creative partner and we want to recreate the success on the next groundbreaking, cinematic special event. And maybe I will grow out my Beverly Hills, 90210 sideburns again.”
The ’90s decade included a turn to counterculture and retro …
EXCLUSIVE: Alec Baldwin will be the on-air host of National Geographic Channel‘s Friday primetime programming block Night Of Exploration, which features programming that celebrates the spirit of exploration and groundbreaking discoveries. His duties begin June 14 with Crossing The Ice, which follows two Australians as they attempt to become the first to journey from the edge of Antarctica to the South Pole and back unassisted. The network also has unveiled premiere dates for five new summer series, including the newly announced The Castle (TBA August), a spinoff from Nat Geo’s popular series Doomsday Preppers, and Inside Secret America (July 10 at 10 PM). The Castle, from Doomsday Preppers producer Sharp Entertainment, features American prepper Brent Bruns who builds a castle deep in the South Carolina woods that will serve as a bunker in case an electromagnetic burst results in a massive power outage. On Inside Secret America, a Nat Geo TV production, investigative journalists Mariana van Zeller and Darren Foster go inside the nation’s underground networks to the heart of America’s most controversial issues. The two series join previously announced new series Battleground Afghanistan (July 1, 9 PM), Eyewitness War (July 1, 10 PM & 10:30 PM), and Inside The American Mob (July 28, 9 PM), as well as returning shows Doomsday Preppers, Ultimate …
EXCLUSIVE: National Geographic Channel has ordered Divine Intervention, a six-episode unscripted series from T Group Prods. (Storage Hunters, Mystery Diners). Described as “Kitchen Nightmares for churches”, it features a trio of “Church Hoppers” who use a tough love approach in helping struggling faith-based organizations around the country. T Group’s Jenny Daly is executive producing with Eric Lange and Mike Duffy. The series is eyed for a summer launch.
National Geographic Channel, which is coming off posting a record-setting first quarter and its highest-rated new series premiere with Brain Games, is rolling out a large-scale consumer brand campaign, which will canvass TV (both on-air and off-air), online and in-cinema, launching in primetime during the May 12 finale of the channel’s popular series Wicked Tuna. The four spots, developed with ad agency BBDO, carry the multiplatform campaign’s tagline “The places we take you aren’t just on the map.”
Kon-Tiki, the 1951 Thor Heyerdahl-directed documentary that inspired the Weinstein Company feature nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar this year, is getting its own day in the sun. It will air on the Sundance Channel on May 11, to be followed by the half-hour behind-the-scenes featurette Kon-Tiki: The Incredible True Story. The docu, which won the 1951 Best Documentary Feature Oscar, was comprised of footage Norwegian scientist-explorer Heyerdahl shot while sailing from Peru to Polynesia on a balsa wood raft — a voyage he completed to support his theory that Polynesia could have been originally settled by South Americans crossing the Pacific. The 4,300-mile journey took he and his crew 101 days. The feature, shot in English and Norwegian and directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, had its platform release last weekend in one theater each in Los Angeles and New York. It took in the specialty box office’s highest per-screen average with $11,167. Kon-Tiki: The Incredible True Story actually will premiere May 3 on National Geographic Channel during its “Night of Exploration” block. Maria Menounos hosts the docu, which features interviews about the making of the feature with Rønning, Sandberg, scribe Petter Skavlan and star Pål Hagen.
EXCLUSIVE: National Geographic Channel‘s top programming executive Michael Cascio is leaving his post at the end of the month to segue into producing projects for Nat Geo. Cascio has been at the channel since 2004, and was upped to EVP when Howard T. Owens joined as President in November of 2011. There are no immediate plans for a replacement, with Cascio’s duties expected to be handled by Owens and SVPs Noel Siegel and Alan Eyres.
Cascio was the driving force behind NGC’s Emmy-nominated Inside 9/11, which remains one of the network’s highest-rated telecasts, along with a slew of other specials and series, including Doomsday Preppers, George W. Bush: The 9/11 Interview, Wicked Tuna, Titanic: The Final Word, Alaska State Troopers, Dog Whisperer, and Human Footprint. Cascio has earned Emmys, an Oscar and a Producer Of The Year award.
Hoping to piggyback on the success of National Geographic Channel‘s take on Bill O’Reilly’s best-seller Killing Lincoln, the network is again partnering with Ridley Scott and O’Reilly on Killing Jesus: A History, O’Reilly’s recently announced book that he co-authored with Martin Dugard. The book will be published by Henry Holt and Company on September 24. Today’s announcement comes as the network is in pre-production on O’Reilly’s Killing Kennedy: The End Of Camelot expected to air worldwide on Nat Geo Channels later this year. “I am thrilled to once again be partnering with National Geographic Channels and Scott Free Productions on my next book,” said O’Reilly. “Jesus is the most famous person that has ever lived — and is worshipped today by more than 2.2 billion people”. Killing Jesus tells the story of Jesus of Nazareth as a beloved and controversial young revolutionary brutally killed by Roman soldiers and recounting the seismic political and historical events that made his death inevitable and the changes that his life brought upon the world for the centuries to follow. “O’Reilly has proven with Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy that the public is fascinated with the tragic tales of these renowned historical figures, and this is one of the most dramatic stories ever told. We are privileged to once again work with National Geographic Channel to bring Bill’s vision to the screen,” said Scott. Production is set to begin this fall. Click over to read today’s release.
Coming off its highest rated February in history, the National Geographic Channel is unveiling a slate of four new and seven returning series at its upfront presentation. The new series include Die Trying, featuring men and women pushing the limits of endurance; Building Wild, an extreme do-it-yourself-type home building series; Showdown of the Unbeatables, a battle of cutting-edge inventions; and The Legend Of Mick Dodge, described as “Forrest Gump meets the Jungle Man,” about a man who lives on his terms and his band of quirky friends. “We want to keep the momentum, coming off pour best year (2012) and month (February) with a mix of contemporary entertainment styles,” said NGC Chief Executive Officer David Lyle.
Additionally, Nat Geo brass are so high on two of its upcoming series, Brain Games (premiering in April), an interactive series exploring mind’s skills hosted by Jason Silva; and Ultimate Survival Alaska (premiering in May), an extreme adventure series testing a team of explorers, that the network is granting both second-season renewals before their freshman ones had debuted. Lyle stressed that Brain Games‘ take on science is “smart rather than intellectual while NGC president Howard T. Owens noted Survival Alaska‘s breakout potential. Also receiving series renewals are hits Doomsday Preppers, NGC’s highest-rated series, Wicked Tuna and Diggers. And while the slate presented to advertisers is dominated by unscripted fare, Nat Geo also is committed to growing its scripted area following the success of its first scripted offering, the Scott Free-produced factual drama special Killing Lincoln. “The DNA of the channel is to take creative risks and make bold moves and not be afraid to be different,” said Owens. NGC is getting some attention with the gritty docu series Inside Combat Rescue and has also coming up acquired feature documentary Chasing Ice and two-hour special American Blackout. Paired with Doomsday Preppers, the real-life Revolution imagines the first two weeks immediately following a catastrophic blackout and “will be filmed as a full-throttle disaster movie,” Owens said. Sibling Nat Geo Wild’s slate includes a new Cesar Millan series and two specials featuring the dog whisperer. Here are descriptions of NGC and Nat Geo Wild’s newly picked up series.