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EMMYS: Hammond On The Renaissance Of Made-For-TV-Movies

Pete Hammond

Awardsline logo_use this oneThe Television Academy, by splitting miniseries and movies for the 2014 contest, has made it easier this year for the made-for-TV movie to compete. Outside of the occasional HBO film, the genre is usually at a disadvantage at the Emmys. Forced to face off directly with the more lavish miniseries form, these two-hour one-offs have had a difficult time holding their own. (Acting, directing and writing categories are still combined for minis/movies).  Occasionally a movie comes along that is so irresistible to TV Academy voters that it can’t be ignored. That was the case last year with HBO’s Behind the Candelabra, which swept both Primetime and Creative Arts Emmy ceremonies. In 2011, another HBO telefilm, Game Change, had similar success against the longform monsters, but it has not always been easy to beat the odds.

Frontrunner Status
normal heart mark ruffaloWith those two wins, TV movies are enjoying a bit of a renaissance—at least at HBO, which once again has the 800-pound gorilla in the race with Ryan Murphy’s adaptation of Larry Kramer’s play, The Normal Heart. The time finally seems right for this drama set in the early days of the AIDS crisis. Written 30 years ago and long in development as a feature film and then TV movie, this provocative and moving study about the human and political consequences of the HIV/AIDS outbreak finally found its way in front of the cameras, thanks in large part to Murphy, who promised the 78-year-old Kramer this movie would happen. In the same year that another decades-in-development-hell drama about the early struggle against AIDS, Dallas Buyers Club, won three Academy Awards—including best and supporting actor statuettes—it seems like kismet-style timing for a Normal Heart Emmy run. The fact that the TV movie still remains relevant and timely enhances the chances of a big win, and its backstory of a long and troubled road to the screen will only help it with voters. Kramer’s well-documented journey with the material should make him a frontrunner in the writing category, and Murphy has a good shot in directing. A superb cast also should score major nominations, including Mark Ruffalo for miniseries/movie lead actor, Julia Roberts (as a polio-stricken doctor) in supporting actress, and a plethora of supporting actors, including Jim Parsons, Joe Mantello (both appeared in the 2011 Broadway revival of the play), Taylor Kitsch, Alfred Molina and Matt Bomer, who in particular really socks home the role of The New York Times writer who becomes an early victim of the virus. Read More »

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More National Geographic Shakeup: David Lyle Exits, Courteney Monroe Upped To CEO, David Hill Named Chairman

By | Tuesday April 15, 2014 @ 7:06am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

hillmonroeGary E. Knell, President and CEO of the National Geographic Society, and Peter Rice, Chairman and CEO of Fox Networks Group, today completed the sweeping changes at the top of the National Geographic Channels that started yesterday with the announcement that the channels’ president Howard Owens will be leaving in June. “Today, the worst kept secret is over — I am taking my leave as CEO of National Geographic Channels,” David Lyle, who had served as National Geographic Channels CEO since 2011, wrote in an internal memo (read it in full below the post.). “I am exhilarated but somewhat saddened also.” Lyle will be replaced by a marketing executive, Courteney Monroe, who has served as Chief Marketing Officer for National Geographic Channels’ domestic networks since 2012 and is now beingnatgeo upped to CEO. She will report to the Board of Directors of the National Geographic Channels. Additionally, David Hill, Senior EVP of 21st Century Fox and a member of the National Geographic Channels Board of Directors, will now add the title of Chairman of National Geographic Channels U.S. His role is described as “providing counsel to the executive and programming leadership team.” Coming from marketing, Monroe has no production experience. Hill, who had an oversight of NGC prior to Lyle’s 2011 hire, will remain a member of the NGC Board and also continue to oversee production of American Idol.

The moves continue to expand the domain of Hill, who is one of Rupert Murdoch’s trusted lieutenants. In 2012, the long-time chairman and CEO of Fox Sports was elevated to senior EVP for News Corp. Then last summer, following the departure of Fox alternative chief Mike Darnell, he was put in charge of the network’s The X Factor and American Idol. Since then, X Factor has been cancelled while American Idol is finishing up its lowest-rated season. Meanwhile, the National Geographic Channels have done very well under Lyle and Owens. “I’m exhilarated that NGC and NG WILD are in rude health with EBITDAs (profits) at all-time highs, and with programming featuring the most watched specials, series and year in the channels’ history,” Lyle wrote in his memo. That makes the executive housecleaning puzzling. It follows speculation about a discord between Hill and NGC’s leadership team of Lyle and Owens who turned the network around in the past three years. When Hill gave up direct oversight of NGC in 2011, the move was explained with a clash of cultures between him and the team at National Geographic.
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Nat Geo Sets ‘Snake Salvation’ Tribute To Pastor Jamie Coots

By | Wednesday February 19, 2014 @ 10:16am PST

Snake SalvationDays after the death by snake bite of reality show star Pastor Jamie Coots, National Geographic Channel has set a special tribute episode of Snake Salvation to air tomorrow, February 20. Coots was one of the leads on Nat Geo’s show following two Southern Pentecostal pastors and practitioners of the “Holiness” faith, which partook in the dangerous tradition of snake handling. Coots died Saturday after refusing medical attention for a rattlesnake bite incurred during church service. Snake Salvation: They Shall Take Up Serpents will air Thursday, Feb. 20 at 10 PM ET/PT. “We wanted to air this episode tomorrow night as a way to give perspective to the world-wide discussion his death has caused,” Nat Geo Ceo David Lyle said in a statement. The special episode will highlight Coots’ struggle to procure and maintain the collection of venomous snakes used in his church, including a trip to buy diamondbacks in Texas.

Related: ‘Snake Salvation’ Star Dead From Snake Bite

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UPDATE: ‘Snake Salvation’ Star Dead From Snake Bite; NatGeo To Air Tribute Episode

By | Sunday February 16, 2014 @ 11:15am PST

Snake Salvation Jamie Coots DeadUPDATE, 11:15 AM: With the first season fully filmed National Geographic had no plans for a second season of Snake Salvation, says a network rep. Now in the wake of Jamie Coots‘ death NatGeo is working up a special tribute episode “so people can understand Pastor Jamie and his method of worship and see that he died doing what he believed was his calling.” Here’s NatGeo on Coots’ passing:

National Geographic joins his family, friends and community in mourning the loss of Pastor Jamie Coots. In following Pastor Coots for our series Snake Salvation, we were constantly struck by his devout religious convictions despite the health and legal peril he often faced. Those risks were always worth it to him and his congregants as a means to demonstrate their unwavering faith. We were honored to be allowed such unique access to Pastor Jamie and his congregation during the course of our show, and give context to his method of worship. Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.

PREVIOUSLY, 9:54 AM: Jamie Coots, one of the stars of National Geographic‘s reality show Snake Salvation, died Saturday of a venomous snake bite. According to reports he refused medical attention after being bitten in his Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name in Middlesboro, Kentucky and died shortly thereafter in his home. The show debuted last Fall centered on two Pentecostal preachers who handle deadly snakes as part of a century-old Appalachian practice originating from a Bible passage that suggests those anointed by God will not be harmed by a poisonous snake bite. Coots had previously been bitten nine times and lost a finger to a rattlesnake bite. He starred on Snake Salvation alongside Tennessee Pastor Andrew Hamblin, both of whom claim serpent handling is their First Amendment religious right. The pair have come under fire from authorities for hunting and collecting deadly snakes for their church services. Last year Coots pled guilty to illegally possessing and transporting three rattlesnakes and two copperheads in Tennessee after the state seized them in a traffic stop as he was driving them from Alabama to Kentucky. Read More »

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National Geographic Orders ‘Wicked Tuna’ Spinoff Series From Craig Piligian

By | Friday January 10, 2014 @ 9:00am PST
Nellie Andreeva

wickedtunaEXCLUSIVE: National Geographic Channel is building a franchise around one of its highest-rated series, Wicked Tuna. The cable network has greenlighted a spinoff series, Wicked Tuna: North vs. South (working title). Produced by Craig Piligian’s Pilgrim Studios, which is behind the original series, the spinoff will begin filming off the coast of the Outer Banks in North Carolina this winter and will premiere in the U.S. and globally this summer. Additionally Nat Geo has set a premiere date for Season 3 of Wicked Tuna, which will unspool on February 16 on National Geographic Channel and Nat Geo Mundo, and premiering on the National Geographic Channel internationally in March. Season 2 of Wicked Tuna averaged a 0.6 in adults 25-54, up +23% from Season 1, and 976,000 Total Viewers. Read More »

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Nat Geo Announces Live Space Special

By | Thursday January 9, 2014 @ 7:59am PST
Nellie Andreeva

issNational Geographic Channel has set Live From Space, a two-hour television event to be broadcast live from the International Space Station (ISS) and Mission Control in Houston this March, coinciding with Seth MacFarlane’s Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, a Fox/Nat Geo reboot of the groundbreaking 1980s Carl Sagan series. The announcement comes on the heels of the news yesterday that NASA is extending the life of the ISS for four additional years beyond its current 2020 expiration date. Nat Geo had been making a push in live stunts following Discovery’s successful special in which Nick Wallenda crossed the Little Colorado River Gorge. Last summer, Nat Geo announced two such specials that were to air this past fall — Volcano Dive: Live with Bob Ballard was to be telecast on November 17 as part of the celebration of the National Geographic Society’s 125th anniversary, and  rock climber Alex Honnold was to climb one of the world’s highest skyscrapers. None of those seem to have panned out though the latter may have been pushed to 2014. Live From Space, from Arrow Media, plans to go into orbit with astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Koichi Wakata from the ISS, while astronaut Mike Massimino (most notably known for fixing the Hubble Telescope) will be live in Houston. The special will air on NGC in 170 countries, and on Channel 4 in the UK. Viewers also will be able to chat via video with … Read More »

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National Geographic International Announces Launch of Nat Geo People

By | Monday September 30, 2013 @ 6:48am PDT

National Geographic Channels International today made it official, announcing the launch of Nat Geo People. From today’s anouncement:

Scheduled to launch early next year in 50 countries, Nat Geo People represents the next progression in National Geographic Channels International’s expanding portfolio of networks.  Nat Geo People replaces Nat Geo Adventure in markets where Nat Geo Adventure currently broadcasts. The network will be available in HD and both linear and non-linear formats across Europe, Middle East and Asia-Pacific.  Nat Geo People will feature stories of notable individuals and fascinating subcultures found across the globe through programmes like David Rocco’s Dolce Vita, Food Lover’s Guide To The Planet, Ladyboys, Don’t Tell My Mother  and Hook, Line & Sisters.

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National Magazine Awards Unveiled

By | Friday May 3, 2013 @ 9:10am PDT

New York was named Magazine of The Year by the American Society of Magazine Editors last night, while National Geographic took four Ellies, including a pair for digital media. Among the notables honored: The Mother Jones exclusive that featured the now-infamous “Romney 47 percent” video that helped define the 2012 presidential election won in the Video category, and The Atlantic won for Website. Stephen King won his second National Magazine Award, this one for the Harper’s Magazine fiction piece “Batman and Robin Have an Altercation”. Here’s the full list of winners:


Magazine of the Year
New York
Adam Moss, Editor in Chief
Ben Williams, Online Editorial Director

May 28, October 22 and November 12 Print and iPad Editions Read More »

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Nat Geo’s ‘Killing Lincoln’ Hits Record Highs; 3.4M Watch Drama

By | Monday February 18, 2013 @ 1:44pm PST

National Geographic’s Killing Lincoln premiered to a network record-breaking 3.4 million viewers last night. Based on Fox News channel host Bill O’Reilly’s book of the same name, the show is the first original factual drama from the network.

Killing Lincoln Nat Geo

(WASHINGTON, D.C. — February 18, 2013) National Geographic Channel’s Sunday night premiere of KILLING LINCOLN – the network’s first original factual drama – proved to be the perfect way to honor President’s Day Weekend with stellar ratings that averaged a whopping 2.6 HH rating – tied for the second highest HH in network history – and a 1.1 P25–54 on Sunday, February 17, at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

KILLING LINCOLN also averaged 3.4 million persons 2+ over the entire two-hour premiere, the highest total viewership in NGC’s history!

Furthermore, the 1.1 P25–54 is the highest rated P25-54 since the premiere of SEAL Team Six: The Raid on Osama bin Laden in November 2012 (1.4 P25-54), and is more than 175% higher than NGC’s Sunday 8–10 p.m average so far this year (.4 P25–54).

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National Geographic Picks Up ‘Raid On Osama Bin Laden’ Movie For Nov. 4 Debut

By | Thursday October 4, 2012 @ 3:52pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

John Stockwell’s Seal Team Six: The Raid On Osama Bin Laden will make its world premiere on the National Geographic Channel on Sunday, November 4 two days before the Presidential election. Produced by Oscar winner Nicolas Chartier (The Hurt Locker) and distributed by The Weinstein Co, the film chronicles the operation that led to the killing of the al-Qaeda leader and represents NGC’s first broadcast of a feature inspired by real-life events. The movie will be available on Netflix the day after its debut on NatGeo. Meanwhile, Kathryn Bigelow’s feature about the hunt for bin Laden opens in theaters a month later, on Dec. 19.

The Weinstein Co. acquired Seal Team Six (then Code Name Geronimo) in May for $2 million in the first major deal at the Cannes Film Festival. NatGeo brass have been in discussions with Harvey Weinstein and his team for the past couple of months about bringing the film to the network. Seal Team Six underlines NatGeo’s new emphasis on narrative historical programming. The network is making a big entry into the arena with the upcoming Killing Lincoln, a two-hour historical thriller from Scott Free Prods., which is  narrated by Tom Hanks.

Seal Team Six stars Cam Gigandet, Anson Mount, Freddy Rodriquez, Xzibit, Kathleen Robertson, Eddie Kay Thomas and Kenneth Miller, with Robert Knepper and William Fichtner. It was written by Kendall Lampkin. The events portrayed in the film were vetted by a team of … Read More »

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‘The Killing’s Billy Campbell To Play Abraham Lincoln In Nat Geo’s ‘Killing Lincoln’

By | Monday July 9, 2012 @ 7:36pm PDT

Billy Campbell Killing LincolnBilly Campbell, who plays troubled mayoral candidate Darren Richmond on AMC’s The Killing, is signing on for more killing. He has been set to play Abraham Lincoln in National Geographic Channel‘s Killing Lincoln, the two-hour docu-drama based on Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard’s book that chronicles the conspiracy behind Lincoln’s assassination. Scott Free Productions and Herzog & Co are producing the telefilm, which Erik Jendresen is showrunning and Adrian Moat (the same companies’ Emmy-nominated Gettysburg) is directing. Ridley and Tony Scott are executive producing along with O’Reilly, David Zucker, Mary Lisio, and Mark Herzog. The shoot is scheduled to begin this month in Richmond, VA. Campbell, who launched his career starring opposite Jennifer Connelly in 1991′s The Rocketeer, most recently was seen on the big screen in Matthew Lilard’s SXSW winner Fat Kid Rules The World.

Related: Bill O’Reilly Book ‘Killing Lincoln’ Becomes Nat Geo Documentary Produced By Ridley & Tony Scott

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National Geographic Orders Special About James Cameron’s Mariana Trench Dive

By | Tuesday April 24, 2012 @ 9:00am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: At its upfront presentation last month, National Geographic unveiled Deepsea Challenge, a 3-D feature documentary/special chronicling director James Cameron recent one-man dive last month to the Mariana Trench’s Challenger Deep, the ocean’s deepest point. Now the network has added a half-hour interview special with Cameron, James Cameron: Voyage to the Bottom of the Earth, which will premiere this Sunday at 9 PM. In the special, which incorporates CGI animation to illustrate the scale of the trip, Cameron recalls the highs and lows of the more than seven-year design phase of the spherical sub (called Deepsea Challenger). Read More »

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James Cameron Headed To Ocean’s Deepest Point

By | Thursday March 8, 2012 @ 8:28am PST

James Cameron National GeographicJames Cameron will attempt to reach the world’s furthest underwater depth, nearly 7 miles beneath the ocean’s surface. The dive to the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific Ocean will take place in a specially designed submersible in the coming weeks as part of the newly launched Deepsea Challenge, a joint scientific project by Cameron and the National Geographic Society to “conduct deep-ocean research and exploration to expand our knowledge and understanding of these largely unknown parts of the planet.” Here’s the release: Read More »

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National Geographic Signs 3-For-1 Deal With Ben Silverman’s Electus

By | Friday January 27, 2012 @ 7:08am PST
Nellie Andreeva

The Reveille cohorts are back in business together. In one of his first major deals since taking the reins of National Geographic as president, Howard Owens has signed a three-for-one project deal with Ben Silverman’s Electus. It includes the development of three projects, one of which is guaranteed to be picked up to series. The pact reunites Silverman and new Electus CEO Chris Grant with Owens. Grant and Owens were members of the core troika Silverman brought with him when he launched Reveille in 2002. Both left Shine, which acquired Reveille in 2008, last year. “National Geographic Channel is making a targeted effort to be in business with the best and brightest television makers in the world and Ben and Chris set the standard,” Owens said.

One of the three concepts in development under the deal is a large-scale reality series based on the Mayflower expedition, which will re-create the actual 60-six day journey the passengers took in search of the new world. Some of the people featured in the series will be descendants of the original Mayflower passengers. “Our vision for the Mayflower series is to re-create, as closely as possible, the real experiences that the original passengers faced,” Grant said.

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Bill O’Reilly Book ‘Killing Lincoln’ Becomes Nat Geo Documentary Produced By Ridley & Tony Scott

By | Thursday January 12, 2012 @ 9:00am PST
Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: National Geographic Channel has teamed with Tony and Ridley Scott to produce a two-hour documentary based on Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination That Changed America Forever, Bill O’Reilly’s best-selling book with co-author Martin Dugard. The documentary, set to begin production in the spring for an early 2013 premiere globally on the National Geographic Channel, will keep the fast pace of the book, described as a historical thriller with a John Grisham-style narrative about the 1865 murder of President Abraham Lincoln and the furious manhunt for his killer. It will include feature-film quality re-enactments completed with CGI in the signature style of the Scott brothers. “National Geographic has a great legacy of telling some of history’s most riveting stories,” said O’Reilly, who will also serve as an executive producer on the documentary. “The assassination of President Abraham Lincoln is no exception, as it continues to be one of the most significant, life-changing events in America’s young history.” Read More »

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