Nat Geo launches new doc banner, returns to “Mars”

National Geographic Networks will launch a new global banner that aims to produce and acquire provocative and timely issue-focused full-length documentary films, the media conglomerate has confirmed. At the same time, ...
January 13, 2017

National Geographic Networks will launch a new global banner that aims to produce and acquire provocative and timely issue-focused full-length documentary films, the media conglomerate has confirmed.

At the same time, the network group revealed that it has renewed its critically acclaimed hybrid mini-series event Mars (pictured) for a sophomore season, while also acquiring David France’s How To Survive A Plague for Scott Rudin Productions.

The announcements, made Friday, Jan. 13, as part of its TCA press tour presentation in Los Angeles, will see four previously announced feature documentaries produced under the new doc banner, entitled National Geographic Documentary Films.

The features include the Sundance-bowing Water & Power: A California Heist, from director Marina Zenovich and executive producer Alex Gibney; Sebastien Junger and Nick Quested’s Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS; executive producer, director and writer Brett Morgan’s Untitled Jane Goodall Project; and directors Dan Lindsay and TJ Martin’s LA92 (working title), produced by Simon Chinn and Jonathan Chinn.

News of the doc division launch comes on the heels of the success Nat Geo recorded with the Fisher Stevens-directed Before the Flood — the most-watched National Geographic film ever, reaching 60 million viewers worldwide, according to the network. The Leonardo DiCaprio-led doc aired commercial-free across digital and streaming platforms around the world in late October in a conscious bid to get the film in front of a wide audience in advance of the U.S. presidential election.

Nat Geo also had success with Davis Guggenheim’s 2015 doc He Named Me Malala, a film, released with Fox Searchlight Pictures, about Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Malala Yousafzai who survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban in her native Pakistan.

“Given our tremendous success with both Before the Flood and He Named Me Malala, we are further cementing our push into the feature documentary space with the launch of National Geographic Documentary Films,” said Courteney Monroe, CEO of National Geographic Global Networks.

Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington’s 2010 Restrepo, about a platoon of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, also brought acclaim to the network, as it was nominated for an Academy Award and won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.

Elsewhere, National Geographic’s documentary-scripted hybrid series Mars, about a fictitious crew mission to the red planet in 2033, is headed for season two. The first season garnered more than 36 million viewers globally last fall and became the most DVR-ed series in network history, the network said in a statement.

Back on board as producers is Imagine Entertainment and RadicalMedia, with Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and Michael E. Rosenberg signing on again as executive producers for Imagine alongside RadicalMedia’s Justin Wilkes, Jon Kamen and Dave O’Connor.

Finally, Nat Geo will be adapting David France’s book, How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS, into a scripted mini-series for Scott Rudin Productions.

Scott Rudin will executive produce the series, about the true story of patient-activists that used scientific research to develop their own drugs, turning HIV from a fatal infection into a manageable disease.

France, who directed the award-winning documentary of the same name, will be an executive producer on the miniseries. It will premiere across Nat Geo properties in 172 countries and 43 languages.

With files from Daniele Alcinii

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.