Nat Geo moves away from crime

National Geographic Channel is looking to acquire less crime programming and more "traditional Nat Geo stuff," its global acquisitions manager told delegates attending a buyers' panel at MIPDoc.
April 3, 2011

National Geographic Channel is looking to acquire less crime programming and more “traditional Nat Geo stuff,” its global acquisitions manager told delegates attending a buyers’ panel at MIPDoc.

Michelle Bagliebter, who oversees Nat Geo’s regional and pan-regional acquisitions for the broadcaster, said that the genre had proven successful in the past. “We’ve done a lot of crime and a lot of edgy shows which really work for us,” she said.

However, she added that the broadcaster was now looking to “tone down the crime a little bit and up the traditional Nat Geo stuff,” such as character-driven specials and blue chip programming.

Elsewhere on the panel, Al-Jazeera Documentary Channel’s (AJD) head of programmes, Mostafa Nagy, said his network would look to increase its reach among females and is aiming to skew younger. The net is currently seen by predominately 35-54s, and is 72% male.

Top on Nagy’s list of priorities are sports, youth, science, edutainment and arts-related programming. Sports-related factual is a particular focus, with Nagy explaining that region is “very happy that the World Cup is coming to the Middle East,” in reference to Qatar’s hosting of the soccer tournament in 2022.

Representing the UK, Carol Sennett, acquisitions exec producer for BBC Knowledge, said the public service broadcaster was predominantly looking for projects where it would be “very difficult for us to make it ourselves.”

She referenced three projects – Versailles: The Dream Of A King, Space Dogs and Vatican: The Hidden World – which had all been acquired by the Beeb, coming from France, Russia and Bavaria respectively. In each case, the local broadcaster had secured unique access which the UK net would not have been able to secure. The docs also covered non-UK subjects, which Sennett cited as a must.

Among the questions from the crowd in the post-pitch Q&A, Roco Films head of international sales Cristine Dewey asked the buyers what their position on paying for VoD rights was.

For Nat Geo, the issue was a clear-cut one: “We definitely consider VoD to be part of our broadcaster fee,” said Bagliebter, noting that catch-up viewing was becoming “so much more popular” as time passed. Nagy, meanwhile, said that his network was looking for mobile and VoD rights when it acquired, adding that AJD was also looking into geo-blocking for certain regions.

For Sennett and the BBC, however, the issue was a more flexible one. “When we buy a program in we do ask for iPlayer rights,” she said. “We do have a waiver, but that would affect the licence fee.”

She added that “second windows in the UK are almost impossible to take,” since the BBC did not want licence fee payers to feel that they were paying to see something they had already seen on another channel.

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