The Program Enterprises Group at National Geographic Television will be gradually phased out over the next six months, to blend staff into a much broader production company within NGTV. Although Nat Geo Ventures CEO Rick Allen insists the change is a non-issue internally – ‘PEG is a little bumper sticker name for a part of NGT’ – the implications for those outside the organization are more significant.
Nick Durrie, whose title will change from senior VP of peg to senior VP of production for NGT, explains: ‘We’re in the process of creating a centralized development effort. [Project pitches] will all end up in the same place. There will be a group that gets together on a regular basis to talk about all of the submissions that have come in. We’re hoping that this way producers won’t have to submit to six different places within NGT. They can just submit once and it’ll get around.’
Part of PEG’s original mandate when it was created two years ago was to seek out external funding for productions, often through coproduction deals. Now, the expansion of Nat Geo’s international channel and the pending launch of a U.S. channel (January 2001) has substantially reduced the need for that function. Says Durrie, ‘We are doing much more of our production in house and we’re doing it much more exclusively – it’s not 100% exclusive by any means, but much more dedicated to our channels. They are able to pay if not 100% of the production cost, 80-90%.’
Durrie acknowledges that coproductions will become more difficult to do as Nat Geo’s global reach extends ever further, but he says he’s still willing to partake in them. ‘It’s still a way of reducing the risk that we all take in production and keeping costs down. So I would say absolutely we’re not out of the coproduction business. It’s going to be changing a little bit though.’
In terms of the U.S. National Geographic Channel, programming will certainly come from Fox affiliates, such as Natural History New Zealand and Foxstar, as well as from NGTV, says Andrew Wilks, exec VP of the channel’s programming, production and news division. Some of the channel’s strands are: On the Edge, dedicated to high adventure programming; Extreme Planet, about the forces of nature; and Geo Files, about some of the world’s biggest mysteries.