Gary Knell, Nat Geo Partners Chairman
On being part of Disney's Kingdom - "Nobody manages brands better than they do."
The National Geographic Channel launched on Jaunary 12, 2001 as a joint venture of National Geographic Television & Film and Fox Cable Networks. National Geographic provided programming expertise and the Fox Networks Group provided its expertise on distribution, marketing, and advertising. The group launched an HD simulcast in January 2006 and a Spanish Channel, Nat Geo Mundo, in 2011. Other sister networks include Nat Geo Wild, launched on March 29, 2010, focusing primarily on wildlife and natural history programming, and Nat Geo People, a rebranded Adventure One (A1), rebranded in 2007, focused on a younger demographic and based around outdoor adventure and travel.
The network dropped the word "Channel" in 2016 to focus just on the very clean branding National Geographic. As part of the 21st Century Fox acquisition, National Geographic is now part of the Disney family of channels and has been folded in to Walt Disney Television.
Disney has recognized the strength of the National Geographic brand and its natural fit with the Disney company, particularly given Disney's history and Walt's early interests. National Geographic is being positioned as an initial pillar of Disney+, Disney's streaming service. And it's from that history and the current plans that my recommendations for this network start.
Primary Goals for the Division:
- Integrate Disneynature - As with the film division, television will need to integrate with Disneynature, Disney's current nature programming division. Offerings have been films so far, but they must have hours of additional footage. Current films should be rebranded under National Geographic and all assets of the division should be folded into this brand.
- Promote the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund - Established by Walt Disney Attractions in 1995 to promote and enable global wildlife conservation through relationships with scientists, educators, and organizations committed to preserving the earth's biodiversity. It has been a cornerstone of Disney's Animal Kingdom resort. Annual cash awards are distributed to nonprofit organizations to protect and study endangered and threatened animals and their habitats. The National Geographic channel would provide a home to continue to promote this worthwhile organization.
- Look Deep into the Libraries - National Geographic, by virtue of being part of the Disney family has access to the Disney and 21st Century Fox libraries. The network should be looking deep into these libraries. Should Biography be resurrected? Or the Disneyland/Wonderful World of Color Adventureland material? Everything should be on the table.
- Resurrect the True-Life Adventures banner - Disney's True- Life Adventures were Disney's classic nature documentaries. A little controversial (the lemming film in particular), but those lessons have definitely been learned. A continuing True Life Adventure program would be a great way of showing the integration.
- Consider offloading one or both of the sister channels - I'm all for focusing on what works and not overwhelming and already crowded market. If there is a way to streamline and have just the National Geographic channel and the streaming portal on Disney+ that would strengthen both, I'm all for it. Otherwise, I would look for a way to see if the two sister networks could be combined into one National Geographic, Jr. to continue to branding Disney uses on its channels.
- Broadcast from Disney Animal Kingdom - Disney on its Disney Now app has already been showing Disney animals and streaming bits from the animal care portions of Disney Animal Kingdom. Again, this would seem a great place to continue that programming, particularly if a National Geographic, Jr. was implemented.
- Broadcast feeds streaming, which feeds broadcast - This has been mentioned before, but it bears repeating. This is probably the most important component of success for the any television channel going forward. The connectivity between broadcast and streaming will be key, or broadcast will be replaced by streaming. National Geographic is already positioned to be a pillar of Disney+. Presumably there will be a place for unique, premier content on Disney+. Could a season premier on Disney+ and then be aired on National Geographic at some point later later?
The above reflects just a few initial thoughts on this new important brand in the Disney portfolio. I foresee nothing but success with this integration.
Up next in the series - Streaming - Disney+ and Hulu