At CableFAX’s TV Innovation Summit on Sept 24 in NYC, we’ll sit down with David Lyle, CEO of National Geographic Channels, to get his take on the evolving multiplatform universe and more specifically the challenge of finding talent on the Web for linear TV. But until then, we asked Lyle to also give us his take on a few other industry issues.
What’s the biggest challenge when it comes to monetizing all of these screens across platforms?
The primary challenge first and foremost is always to develop must-see, hit franchise TV series across the networks and across the world. To monetize the screens, we need to generate passionate fans who are going to consume content on a number of devices. Besides our revenue from advertising and affiliates, I think we are all carefully watching to see what forms of distributions consumers are responding to, and to what extent they become a viable form of additional revenue.
How does Nat Geo see its programming evolving over the next year and beyond? What are some hot subjects you want to tackle as a network?
We want our programming to continue to be exhilarating to both your head and heart. We are looking at adding more franchise faces and expanding our smart, entertaining series like the Emmy-nominated “Brain Games” with companion shows like “The Numbers Game” and “None of the Above.” For us, smart and entertaining are not mutually exclusive, and that is an important differentiator for us in the marketplace.
We are also exploring fresh, relevant ways of presenting history, adventure and disaster preparedness with big stand-out specials, like the upcoming “Killing Kennedy” and “American Blackout.”
What’s the biggest trend with unscripted programming when it comes to the multiplatform world?
Everyone in unscripted wants hit franchises that break through the clutter. When you have great content, fans will watch on different devices. And new platforms mean more time viewing—it’s not like a finite pie that gets sliced in different ways. Between seasons especially, second screens or web sites are vital at keeping awareness and engagement alive so a hit franchise like “Brain Games” continues online while we shoot the next TV season.
How does social media and gamification play into how Nat Geo promotes its shows and drives tune-in? Any tips based on what you’ve learned?
We are placing a much greater emphasis on digital and social to cultivate a broader base of fans online and drive deeper engagement with our shows. Over the past year, we’ve expanded our social footprint by 161% and grown overall traffic to our websites by 146%. This has largely been driven by development of immersive multiplatform digital companions for our key shows.
For example, for our movie “Killing Lincoln” (based on Bill O’Reilly’s bestselling book), we created a multimedia interactive companion for a deeper dive into one of our history’s greatest crimes. Users spent an average of 1 hour and 20 minutes per visit – an unprecedented level of engagement and social sharing for us.
For our next film, “Killing Kennedy,” coming this November, we are going to develop similarly immersive digital extensions, but with an eye towards monetization through sponsorship and ecommerce.

As the industry rolls out TV Everywhere, what’s the best way for programmers and distributors to work together to increase awareness and usage?
The key is to stop thinking of it as digital and think of it as ubiquitous distribution of our content, and try to make sure those experiences that resonate with consumers are consistent and available across all platforms.  We just rolled out our authenticated TV Everywhere product this summer.   We all need to view it as a new dynamic platform with which to connect and engage with our viewers which ultimately increases the value of the multichannel package. We allow subscribers to get our linear signal on whatever devices they want, via authentication with our MSO partners. At the moment, with our libraries of material, we are mindful of those devices, and we are looking to see how they grow.   At the end of the day, the more easily available our content is to subscribers across every platform, the better chance we have of keeping them in the fold.


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