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EXCLUSIVE: National Geographic Adds Second ‘Expedition Week’

The franchise, which attracts more than 27 million viewers for the net, will bow in April and again in the fall.

Expedition Week National Geographic
AJ Butterworth/National Geographic

Nat Geo is expanding its popular Expedition Week to two times a year with a week of the franchise slated to bow in April and another set for the fall.

That doubles the amount of original programming for the franchise which started in 2008 and has become a tent-pole for the ad-supported cable network.

The first installment of Expedition Week will kick off in April with seven straight nights of premieres and 13 new episodes.

“This is big for us,” says Steve Burns, executive vp of global programming at Nat Geo, adding that he expects the upcoming Expedition Week to continue to build on the ratings success of the previous iterations.

The last Expedition Week, which included programs such as Search for the Amazon Headshrinkers and Hunt for the Samurai Subs, attracted more than 27 million viewers when it aired over seven days in November 2009, that was 6.2 million more viewers than the inaugural Expedition Week in 2008.

(Last year, Expedition Week was replaced by Great Migrations, which also earned impressive tune-in; more than 8 million for its premiere episode on Nov. 7.)

These event programs take years of planning and production. The biannual expansion is not designed to be permanent, according to Burns. Rather the network found that they had enough compelling stories to fill two weeks.

This year’s first Expedition Week includes new archeological finds in the lost ancient super city of Qatna; an hour on filmmaker John Varty, who raises tigers at his reserve in South Africa; and an expedition to the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan to find a hidden tiger population, and another journey with British explorer Piers Gibbon (Amazon Headshrinkers), who treks 400 miles into the heart of Papua New Guinea’s rain forest to investigate whether the indigenous tribes still practice cannibalism.

“Some of these are big expeditions with 100 porters and armed rangers taking people to the tops of volcanoes in the Congo and others are very personal expeditions like [Varty’s Tiger Man],” says Burns. “So it really runs the gamut.”