March 24, 2013 9:09pm PT by Michael O'Connell
Nat Geo and Wild Build Original Slate, Order More Cesar Millan
After a year of double-digit growth for both National Geographic Channel and Nat Geo Wild, the two networks revealed a lengthy roster of new and returning original series on Monday.
"We're coming off a year that was really good for us," CEO David Lyle told The Hollywood Reporter ahead of the upfront release. "Whatever skepticism was there from the advertising community about [new types of programming] has been put to rest. Nat Geo was up 17 percent in 2012, and Wild was up 28 percent."
STORY: Nat Geo Wild Sends Billy Bush to Nepal for New Special (Exclusive)
Nat Geo, which recently moved into scripted programming with SEAL Team Six and Bill O'Reilly's Killing Lincoln, saw its unscripted fare move into a new direction with Brain Games, Doomsday Preppers and Wicked Tuna. All three of the renewed series inform the choices for new series order.
"Moving forward, Doomsday Preppers and Brain Games are even more important to our evolution," said NGC president Howard T. Owens.
Building Wild and Die Trying -- both from 90 Miles Productions Inc. -- are among the series orders (all working titles). Wild, a home improvement tutorial set in the wilderness, features Extreme Makeover: Home Edition's Paul DiMeo, while Die Trying chronicles men and women taking extreme challenges in the name of science. Also included in series orders are Shadow of the Unbeatables (GRB Entertainment), a docuseries that puts cutting-edge inventions to the test, and The Legend of Mick Dodge (Screaming Flea Productions Inc.), a fly-on-the-wall look at the titular survivalist who has lived in isolation in the Pacific Northwest for more than 30 years.
Previously announced Killing Lincoln follow-up Killing Kennedy (Scott Free Productions, Global) will also get a debut on the network, with casting and director search already underway. O'Reilly, the author and exec producer on both projects, is already prepping a third book, Killing Jesus, but Nat Geo has yet to make any formal decision on a third collaboration.
"We're interested in everything Bill O'Reilly does, but our focus right now is Killing Kennedy," said Owens. "He's our partner, and we're knee deep in this latest project."
US Airways Flight 1549 exploration Miracle on the Hudson (Raw TV), National Geographic's Most Amazing Photos (National Geographic Television) and Urban Jungle (National Geographic Television) round out the network's plans for specials, joining the also-renewed Alaska State Troopers, Diggers, Night of Exploration and Ultimate Survival Alaska.
On Nat Geo Wild, former Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan is getting another series, from a yet-to-be-determined production company, and two new specials.
"He's incredibly important to the brand," said network executive vp and general manager Geoff Daniels "He's been a big part of the network since launch, and I think people have come to associate with us, so he's going to continue to be a part of Wild. He's evolved what he does here in the U.S., so we're working closely with him for what those next steps are."
Meetings over what exactly the latest iteration of Milan on Wild might be will take place over the coming months.
Another new series for Wild is Jobs That Bite! (Half Yard Productions), an animal-centric spin on Dirty Jobs starring host Jeremy Brandt. It will join the renewed Incredible Dr. Pol and Fish Tank Kings on the roster.
The network is also starting production on Wild Nepal (working title), a special starring Billy Bush set to debut later in the year.