The presidential race in the U.S. has finally come to an end. At the beginning of May, Laureen Ong left her post as VP and GM of Fox Television’s WTTG-TV in Washington, D.C. to begin her duties as the first president of National Geographic Channel in the U.S.
Although programming plans for the new channel are percolating, Ong says she is currently being kept busy just trying to staff the new office: ‘Fortunately, because I’ve worked at a lot of places I know a lot of people. When you are trying to recruit, you call on every good person you ever worked with.’ Details of the channel’ strategies aren’t expected to be released for another 60 to 90 days, however Ong did reveal that the U.S. channel would take a different approach than its international counterpoints.
A joint venture between Nat Geo and Fox, the new channel will operate out of the Nat Geo Society’s Washington, D.C. headquarters, and is scheduled to debut late this year. Ong will report to a board composed of an equal number of Fox and Nat Geo representatives, but program content will remain the domain of Nat Geo. Says Ong, ‘They [Fox] have assets on the business side of things that are available to us, but they will not have any editorial role.’
Despite the growing number of outlets for factual programming available to viewers, Ong is optimistic about the channel’s future. ‘The good part of launching at this time is the consumer has become much more sophisticated in knowing what a quality programming channel is and they send that message loud and clear,’ claims Ong. ‘It’s really crowded out there, but because the consumer is savvy about who has quality programming and who doesn’t, I would say this is a good time to launch.’