While the date of National Geographic Channel’s U.S. debut remains a mystery, American viewers now have an idea of where to find the channel when it does launch. Last month, they announced a deal with multiple service operator AT&TBIS for cable carriage, as well as a separate deal with DirecTV for satellite.
‘We have in hand, with these two arrangements, 20 million subscribers in the U.S. for the National Geographic Channel,’ says Rick Allen, CEO of National Geographic Ventures. ‘We have started off – under very difficult market conditions – being able to get impressive distribution deals, and are well on our way to making this channel available to all Americans.’ The deals guarantee 7.5 million subscribers at launch.
Twenty million subscribers is the combined contractual commitment from AT&TBIS and DirecTV over the first five years, Allen says. He would not specify how many subscribers Nat Geo is expected to garner from each.
Programming will be the same for both cable and satellite, and the plan is for a simultaneous launch. ‘That’s the way we are currently around the world,’ Allen explains. ‘If you pick it up on cable in the U.K., for example, it’s exactly the same as what you would see on BSkyB.’ However, Nat Geo has two additional digital channels on BSkyB that are not offered on cable, and Allen says extra channels may be offered on one or more of the platforms in the U.S., as well.
As for the timing of the launch, the official word is sometime in the second half of 2000. ‘We’re ready in terms of available programming to launch today,’ Allen says. ‘But we’ve got a couple of extremely unique elements of this service up our sleeve, and we want to allow those to be fully settled in before we launch.’
In other Nat Geo news…
With ngc president Sandy McGovern’s attention shifting to the Nat Geo launch in the U.S., the leadership of National Geographic Channels International has undergone a shift. Former Star TV executive VP David Haslingden has been named to the newly-created position of chief executive officer for NGCI, a joint venture comprised of the Fox Entertainment Group, NBC and Nat Geo Television. Prior to joining Star TV (a News Corp multi-channel satellite service) in 1994, Haslingden served as senior vice president of business development for News Limited in Australia, where he was responsible for the company’s television and cable efforts, including foxtel and Network Seven.
In Europe, Nat Geo has promoted George Jeffrey to the position of director of television networks. Jeffrey has spent the last year as director of business and legal affairs. Also in Europe, Stephanie Morris has been picked as head of international distribution. Morris previously served with Poland’s Wizja TV as the platform channel manager. Melinda Welton has been promoted to international marketing manager.
National Geographic Channel Asia has appointed Ward Platt as managing director. Most recently, Platt served as senior vice president of distribution and business development for Star TV.
Tim Kelly, president of National Geographic Television, has been named the winner of this year’s CINE Leadership Award. The 16-year Nat Geo veteran is credited with devising the strategic business development plans that have spurred the company’s growth both domestically and internationally. CINE president Vivian Schiller was quoted as saying, ‘Under Tim Kelly’s executive management, National Geographic Television has opened up a world of opportunity for documentary filmmakers.’ Kelly will receive the award on February 18 as part of the CINE Golden Eagle Awards in Washington, D.C.