National Geographic’s bold step into its premium programming strategy less than a year ago has already yielded astounding results, including 15 Primetime Emmy nominations (the most in its history), five projects premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival, and the launch of a number of acclaimed series and documentaries. At its summer 2017 Television Critics Association (TCA) presentation last week, National Geographic laid out the new and returning programming that will continue this strong momentum.
“It was exactly two years ago on this stage that I first told you about our intent to elevate and transform National Geographic Channel,” said Courteney Monroe, CEO of National Geographic Global Networks, in her opening remarks. “I am incredibly pleased that over the past eight months, that transformation has begun to come to fruition.”
From the premiere of National Geographic’s first scripted series, “Genius”; to its powerful climate change feature documentary with Leonardo DiCaprio, “Before the Flood”; to hit series “MARS,” “Gender Revolution: A Journey with Katie Couric” and “The Story of God with Morgan Freeman”; to National Geographic magazine’s first ever Pulitzer finalist nomination this year for the Gender issue, Courteney reflected on how far the company has come. This isn’t to mention National Geographic’s leadership in social media, where it’s the No. 1 most followed brand and the No. 1 non-celebrity account on Instagram.
“In every area of our business, we are focused on living up to the promise and expectations of our extraordinary brand,” Courteney said.
Here’s an overview of National Geographic’s TCA announcements:
National Geographic and Leonardo DiCaprio partner again for ‘The Right Stuff’ drama series
Courteney announced that National Geographic and Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way Productions are partnering along with Warner Horizon to adapt Tom Wolfe’s nonfiction book “The Right Stuff” into a scripted drama series. The series will tell the story of the first 15 years of America’s space program, focusing on the personal and professional lives of the astronauts. “A true story of adventure and exploration, making it a perfect fit for Nat Geo and the stuff of great drama,” Courteney said.
‘StarTalk with Neil deGrasse Tyson’ Season 4
The Emmy-nominated “StarTalk with Neil deGrasse Tyson” will return in October for its fourth season. Over the course of 20 episodes, the new season will welcome a long list of celebrities, including Grammy-nominated pop star Katy Perry, three-time Academy Award-winning director James Cameron, renowned primatologist Jane Goodall, journalist Katie Couric, filmmaker Kevin Smith, author Salman Rushdie and cyclist Lance Armstrong.
‘MARS’ Season 2
National Geographic is also welcoming back its critically acclaimed series from Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Imagine Entertainment and Radical Media “MARS” for a second season. The new season, which began filming in Budapest the day of the TCA presentation, will explore what it’s like to be the first settlers of Mars.
Companion documentary special for ‘The Long Road Home’
“The Long Road Home,” National Geographic’s drama series based on the New York Times best-seller from Martha Raddatz, will kick off with a special two-hour premiere on Tuesday, Nov. 7, in 440 million homes in 171 countries and in 45 languages. It will be joined by a companion documentary special, which will tell the story of how the First Cavalry Division came under surprise attack in Sadr City on April 4, 2004 — now known as “Black Sunday.”
‘Titanic: 20th Anniversary’ documentary special
National Geographic and Explorer-in-Residence James Cameron will work together on “Titanic: 20th Anniversary,” a one-hour documentary event special to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the blockbuster film “Titanic,” the highest-grossing movie in history. The documentary, which premieres in December, will look back at all the critical choices made during the film and put them to the test against a wealth of new sources — including new underwater footage, computer-generated simulation and scholarly research.
Princess Diana and Dian Fossey documentaries
In the fall, National Geographic will premiere two documentaries about two iconic women: Princess Diana and renowned primatologist Dian Fossey. “Diana: In Her Own Words” is fully narrated by Diana, Princess of Wales, using a series of secret interviews recorded with her permission by friend and journalist Andrew Morton. It premieres Monday, Aug. 14, at 9/8c on National Geographic.
“Dian Fossey: Secrets in the Mist” is a three-part special honoring the life and legacy of international icon Dian Fossey, who was murdered in Rwanda in 1985. In the documentary, Dian’s writings and diary entries are read by Academy Award nominated actress Sigourney Weaver. It will air globally on National Geographic later in 2017.
Nat Geo WILD projects: Les Stroud, ‘The Road to Westminster’ and ‘Untamed’
To wrap up the presentation, Courteney announced three new projects underway at Nat Go WILD. The first was “Alaska’s Grizzly Gauntlet,” which will welcome legendary survivalist Les Stroud back to television. In the new series, which will begin filming later this year, Les will face Alaska’s harshest climates alongside striking and fearsome wildlife.
“The Road to Westminster” will be a two-part special giving viewers a look behind the scenes at the months leading up to The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, the “Super Bowl for dogs.” It will air as part of National Geographic’s BarkFest weekend in the run-up to The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
In Season 2 of the digital series “Untamed,” charismatic wildlife filmmaker Filipe DeAndrade and his two best friends will venture into the biodiverse ecosystems of Costa Rica. The new season will premiere online in November.
Read more about National Geographic’s TCA announcements, and see its previous announcements, including Season 2 of “Genius” and “The Story of Us with Morgan Freeman.”
Below is a slideshow of photos from National Geographic’s TCA press reception on Monday, July 24, as well as the presentation and panels on Tuesday, July 25: