People/Biz

MIPDoc ’18: Nat Geo, CuriosityStream talk acquisition strategies

CANNES – In the 18 months since National Geographic moved to a programming strategy that placed an emphasis on tentpole content led by recognizable talent, the network has pursued a co-production and ...
April 7, 2018

CANNES – In the 18 months since National Geographic moved to a programming strategy that placed an emphasis on tentpole content led by recognizable talent, the network has pursued a co-production and acquisitions approach symbiotic with such big events as One Strange Rock and Genius.

The 21st Century Fox-majority owned network has also attempted to meet one of the biggest challenges facing documentary and non-fiction broadcasters head on: how do you make the genre palatable to a new generation of viewers?

Nat Geo is looking at building out a “National Geographic Presents…” banner on Sunday nights, where one-off event specials will premiere weekly.

The proposed banner will allow viewers to show up every Sunday night for a special in its core genres, said Christian Drobnyk (pictured right), EVP of programming strategy & acquisitions during a MIPDoc commissioning panel April 7.

Nat Geo has also been focusing its efforts on commissioning more host-driven series that can take viewers into those core genres – science, natural history, exploration, adventure, travel and history.

“This is not a new way of creatively taking people into these genres, but certainly we’re looking at bringing more faces to our air to achieve that,” said Drobnyk.

The youth market, however, seems to be the bread and butter for the world’s first factual SVOD platform devoted to non-fiction content.

Available in 196 countries, CuriosityStream’s subscriber base is 34% millennial, with 40% of all subscribers serving as “cord nevers” and “cord cutters”, according to chief programming officer Steve Burns (left).

“They’re craving science and history, and coming for tech, engineering and wildlife,” said Burns. “We hope that as we grow we can improve upon [the numbers of] the people coming to us for cultural programming.”

The normal trajectory for a network is to start with acquisitions and then move more and more into commissions.

Now in its third year, the documentary-focused SVOD platform created by Discovery Channel founder John Hendricks has managed to put together 1,800 titles of factual programming, through 85% acquisition and 15% original content. U.S. premieres, meanwhile, account for 95% of the ad-free service’s content.

Burns said the reason CuriosityStream works in the presale realm is to provide producers with an opportunity to get started on a certain project, noting that it’s not so much about having editorial input exclusivity on these programs.

“Many times they’re waiting to pull together budgets from around the world,” Burns stated, “and while they’re waiting to hear, they can at least get their key scout, or their first shoots underway.

“We’re always looking for a new production technique that allows people to revisit those topics. It’s that substance matched with a very entertaining storytelling style that we’re always looking for.”

About The Author
Selina Chignall joins the realscreen team as a staff writer. Prior to working with rs, she covered lobbying activity at Hill Times Publishing. She also spent a year covering the Hill as a journalist with iPolitics. Her beat focused on youth, education, democratic reform, innovation and infrastructure. She holds a Master of Arts in Journalism from Western University and a Honours Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto.

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