Summit 2012: Real talk with NGC CEO David Lyle

In a chat with Pilgrim Studios founder Craig Piligian, the new CEO of National Geographic Channel U.S offered candid insights on where the network is headed (among other things) between swigs of scotch.
January 31, 2012

Craig Piligian and David Lyle at the 2012 Realscreen Summit (Photo: Rahoul Ghose)

Newly-minted National Geographic Channels U.S. CEO David Lyle ended day one of the 2012 Realscreen Summit with a candid chat about his plans to refocus the network to better compete with factual nets such as History and Discovery Channel.

In a frank, entertaining and wide-ranging conversation with Pilgrim Studios executive producer and CEO Craig Piligian (who is producing the upcoming Nat Geo series Wicked Tuna), the former head of Fox Look and president of the Fox Reality channel sipped on scotch as he discussed everything from jousting – in both medieval and modern business affairs contexts – to the cultural differences between Los Angeles and his new home in Washington, DC.

Here is a selection of Lyle’s most choice quotes from the session.

On changes at National Geographic Channel under his leadership:

“I think that we can use modern storytelling methods to do both series and specials. And by specials I mean they’re like documentaries except they rate.”

“One of the things that I wanted to do at National Geographic Channel was become a house where creative producers wanted to work and in doing that I outlawed the expression which I had repeated to me a few times in the first weeks:  ‘We don’t do that.’ So we changed that over and now we consider all deals. We had a reputation of not talking to agents. ‘We don’t do that.’ So we do now talk to agents.”

On the best pitches he’s had at National Geographic Channel:

“Some of the best pitches we’ve had [are moments where we say] ‘Great, well, thank you but before you go do you have something that you don’t think is right for Nat Geo? What are you excited about that’s not right for NatGeo?’ And then you find some really interesting shit out there and then you go ‘We should’ve been broadening the scales before we had the opening conversation.’”

On fun:

“TV should be fun. I think fun is underrated especially in this country, which has a very puritan streak which equates fun with sloppiness and with slackness and laziness and all sorts of moral turpitude. Fun is actually a great motivator.”

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