More Scripted Programming on Tap at Nat Geo

by Marc Berman  |  04.19.2017

Described as a “Further Front” (as opposed to an upfront) to capitalize on its recently revised global tagline, Further, National Geographic presented its original programming initiatives to advertisers and the media community Wednesday night in New York City. 

Touting change and innovation, and emphasizing its first fully scripted series, Genius, the goal at Nat Geo remains offering a diversity of subject matter that entertains, inspires and educates.

“Nat Geo connects people with creator-driven content: series that impact us and the stories, discoveries and innovations that are worth exploring,” opened James Murdoch, CEO of 21st Century Fox. “Our quest is to always go deeper; to seek and to take risks and to push any and all boundaries.”

Once the sole home to non-scripted programs targeted to nature, science, culture and history, Nat Geo announced three new scripted dramas in development: The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution, recounting the development of a drug that forever changed medical and social history; The Hot Zone, which tells the true story of the origins of the Ebola virus; and an untitled project that begins in the 1960s and examines how National Geographic became a network.

Nat Geo, additionally, has greenlit a second season of Genius from Ron Howard’s and Brian Grazer’s Imagine Entertainment prior to its official debut. Genius, which tells the stories of the world’s most brilliant innovators, opens with Oscar-winner Geoffrey Rush as Albert Einstein and Emily Watson as his second wife – and first cousin – Elsa Einstein. It debuts on April 25.

“This scripted development slate further solidifies our commitment to developing diverse projects with themes and issues that resonate and are relevant to our audience. It proves that entertaining and smart are not mutually exclusive,” said Courteney Monroe, CEO, National Geographic Global Networks. “We are working with the best storytellers in the world to tell these very human stories that we hope will create global conversation and change the way viewers look at the world around them.”

Mars, also from Imagine Entertainment and a combination of documentary and scripted storytelling, returns on Nat Geo next season two years after the astronauts have established a full-fledged colony. And the cable net will expand The Story of God with Morgan Freeman franchise into The Story of Us with Morgan Freeman, this time exploring themes that unite us all. It premieres this fall.

In the documentary department, National Geographic, Shawn Carter and The Weinstein Company are partnering a new series, tentatively titled Race, which will weave together documentary, animation and archival footage to tell offer a provocative look into systemic injustices in America. The project, which will consist of six episodes, is an extension of issues introduced in JAY Z: The War On Drugs Is An Epic Fail.

In talent news, Jane Lynch will host Earth Live, the two-hour live broadcast on Sunday, July 9. The show is described as the Super Bowl or Olympics of the natural world — showcasing the best of the animal kingdom in real time.

Additionally, Nat Geo has ordered a six-part documentary series for 2018 featuring and produced by Katie Couric, inspired by her own personal journey of making National Geographic documentary Gender Revolution this year. The untitled series will follow Couric as she talks with thought leaders who are shaping the most pivotal, contentious and oftentimes confusing topics across the globe today.

On the digital front is a new venture, The National Geographic Further Community, which will combine the social following of the first wave of influencers as a way to tell more stories from the human angle about motivation, survival, discovery, wonder, courage and bravery.

Sister network Nat Geo Wild, meanwhile, will introduce four new non-scripted series. They are When Nature Calls, a showcase for then wildlife gets too close for comfort; Pikes Peak Patrol, which follows the staff at the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region; A Year in Appalachia, which explores the little-known wildlife marvels in our own backyard; and Mighty Pacific, set in the western coast of the United States. The returning series are The Incredible Dr. Pol; Dr. Oakley, Yukon Vet; Animal ER; Weird but True!; Snake City; and Outback Wrangler

RELATED: National Geographic Plans to Take Its Global Brand Even ‘Further’

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