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As Nat Geo Is “Adjusting To The Economic Realities” Of TV Business, Courteney Monroe Talks Streaming, Distribution & Scripted

Nat Geo, which is a linear network and part of the Disney+ universe, is not “immune” to the current idiosyncrasies of the television business.

Courteney Monroe, president of National Geographic, said the company is “very well positioned” to tackle the current malaise.

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“I think no one is immune to the marketplace. But we are very well positioned… number one, we are a globally distributed network. We reach over 300 million households around the world, which is pretty staggering. It is a declining business but the linear channels around the world still account for a large part of our viewership. But we are very well positioned with a branded tile on Disney+,” she said, speaking at the TCA press tour.

This comes after one of her key lieutenants, Tom McDonald, EVP, Global Factual and Unscripted, recently said that “clearly, we have less money to spend than when I joined 18 months ago”.

Monroe, whose network was highlighting projects such as the Oscar-nominated Bobi Wine: The People’s President, Photographer and Queens at TCA, reiterated that it’s a “quality over quantity” strategy.

She told Deadline that having less money hasn’t necessarily necessitated any change in programming strategy.

“I’ve been speaking about our fewer, bigger, better strategy for National Geographic for many years. I think while everybody is adjusting to the economic realities of the business, the quality over quantity strategy is not new to us. I feel really confident and excited about our pipeline, which is very robust and the extent to which we continue to invest in premium documentary and factual entertainment,” she added.

However, she was lukewarm on scripted. The network previously aired a number of scripted shows but in recent times it has paired this back with the only recent scripted series including WWII drama A Small Light, which launched in May 2023, and Genius: MLK/X, which premiered last week.

The latter is the fourth iteration of the Genius anthology brand.

Monroe said that she was still focusing on this rather than looking at future iterations.

“We are focusing our development on the areas that I think National Geographic can be most distinctive, both in the marketplace, but also inside the Walt Disney Company, which is around premium documentary storytelling,” she added.

Monroe also alluded to an interest in licensing Nat Geo shows to networks and streamers outside of its Disney+ walled garden.

Disney boss Bob Iger has talked up licensing opportunities in recent months, in contrast to its previous strategy of keeping everything within its own streaming universe, a strategy that is being employed by rival studios such as Warner Bros. Discovery, which has been selling shows to Netflix.

When asked whether she would like Nat Geo shows to be licensed, Monroe said that it was “more of a Disney question”.

But she added, “My feeling is the more audiences we can reach with National Geographic content, the better for the brand. We’ve reached so many hundreds of millions of people with our brand and our content, just in our brand environment. But I’m not off pursuing licensing deals on behalf of National Geographic independent of those conversations taking place at Disney.”

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