National Geographic on Monday announced a slate of more than a dozen upcoming original shows, all of which are produced by the brand but will debut exclusively on Disney Plus — not the Nat Geo cable channel. But despite the change, Nat Geo’s president of content, Courteney Monroe, promised it’s not a sign the Disney-owned brand has completely moved away from linear content.
“I realize that all of my announcements today were for Disney Plus Originals, but that in no way diminishes our focus and investment in National Geographic programming for the linear channel,” Monroe told reporters on Monday. during Nat Geo’s virtual presentation at the Television Critics Association Winter. press tour. “We happen to have greenlit a lot of very important and exciting shows for Disney Plus over the past few months, and today TCA was the perfect opportunity to share them with you. And obviously Disney Plus is a very important strategic axis for us. But the linear platform, the linear channels around the world are also a very important platform.”
While Monroe noted that “the lion’s share” of Nat Geo-produced content is unscripted, “premium fact-based scripted drama is really an important part of our premium programming mix,” like the franchise ” Genius” – which is moving to Disney Plus, as previously announced. The fourth season of “Genius” will focus on Martin Luther King, Jr. and, according to Monroe, won’t be ready to air in 2022.
The second season of “The Right Stuff” also won’t come this year – or probably ever – which was canceled on Disney Plus in April 2021.
“We don’t have any plans for a second season of ‘The Right Stuff’ at this time,” Monroe said. “I have a lot of heart for this series. And it just hasn’t found an audience on Disney Plus, so we’re not actively developing a second season, but I learned a long time ago never to say never. So I’m not going to say never.
Among the Disney Plus-related projects announced by Nat Geo on Monday are the non-fiction series “Pole to Pole,” which follows Will Smith on a journey from the South Pole to the North Pole; “Great Migrations”, a look at the migrations of organisms from Plimsoll Productions; “Home”, a portrait of life on Earth from the BBC Studios Natural History Unit; “Secrets of the Elephants” and “Secrets of the Octopus”, two series produced by James Cameron; “Sentient”, by Darren Aronofsky and Wildstar Films; “Super/Natural,” a series narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch from James Cameron and Plimsoll Productions; “The Biggest Little Farm Series”, a documentary series on a biodiverse farm; “Beyond Belief With David Blaine,” which follows the magician on world trips in a series of Imagine documentaries by Brian Grazer and Ron Howard; “Epic Adventures of Bertie Gregory,” by filmmaker Bertie Gregory; and “Photographer,” in which E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin document one of the world’s greatest photographers.
They’ll follow in the footsteps of other Nat Geo series premiering on Disney Plus, like the upcoming docuseries “Limitless,” starring Chris Hemsworth (pictured above).
According to Monroe, Nat Geo-branded TV channels “still have a huge reach, in 173 countries around the world” and the Disney-owned company “still invests the same number of hours” in content that airs on linear networks as before.
“So the investment in Disney Plus Originals really adds to that,” Monroe said. “And the beautiful thing is that the shows we launch on linear channels will find their forever home on Disney Plus, where they can drive engagement and maybe find new audiences as well.”
For example, Monroe noted that “Earth Day is a big day for National Geographic across all platforms” and content related to the event will air on both the National Geographic Channel and Disney Plus.
As to whether any of these new Disney Plus programs will eventually come to Nat Geo via cable, Monroe said “those kinds of conversations are ongoing.”
“And actually the decision for which platform and which content window, thankfully, is complicated and rests with my colleagues on the business and distribution side of The Walt Disney Company,” Monroe said. “My job is just to create the best National Geographic content, regardless of the platform. But I think those conversations are happening.