Skeptics in the room snicker that cable is reacting (finally) to the heavy loss of eyeballs to the Internet, but early days at TCA have featured several network chiefs vowing to significantly change the way they do business.
The first was History’s new head Jana Bennett, whose initial comments at TCA weren’t as radical as a total revision, but were bold: I want “to put more history back on History….” A few hours later it was Nat Geo Global Networks CEO Courteney Monroe’s turn: “We have a dramatically new mind-set at National Geographic Channel…I can tell you unequivocally that 12 months from now our network is going to look and feel very different.”
The bottom line? The direction ahead will be “marked by fewer but bigger and more distinct programs,” Monroe said. This will be Nat Geo’s attempt to break through “the oversaturation of scripted television” where 750 nonfiction series were shown on primetime cable last year, 350 were new and “few…if any were breakout hits.” She continued, “There is simply no way to break through that clutter without being exceptional and without developing shows that people are going to love. And the fact is that viewer interest in male-skewing reality fare specifically has diminished, and while we, too, have waded in those reality show waters the past couple of years, I firmly believe that is not the type of programming that viewers want from National Geographic, a brand which, at its heart, has, for 128 years, stood for quality.”
Monroe also touted the new partnership between the Nat Geo Society and 21st Century Fox. Combining all these assets, she said, will help the channel deliver “an unparalleled portfolio of media assets.” The first example of this multiplatform prowess will be “Red Planet,” from Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, she said.