'Dog Whisperer' Cesar Millan Moves to Nat Geo Spin-Off WILD

9:03 PM PST 03/10/2011 by Marisa Guthrie

As animal programming migrates to WILD, flagship channel Nat Geo beefs up on science.

NEW YORK -- National Geographic Channel star Cesar Millan, a.k.a. the Dog Whisperer, is taking his act to Nat Geo’s animal centric spin-off Nat Geo WILD. The announcement comes as the Fox Cable Network’s channels are busy selling upfront ad inventory and a year after WILD replaced Fox Reality.

“Having the opportunity to get the Dog Whisperer on WILD as we head into our second year is going to be a really critical part of getting even more recognition for the network,” said Geoff Daniels, senior VP, development and production, Nat Geo WILD.

The upcoming season of Dog Whisperer With Cesar Millan, which is pegged for early 2012, will air exclusively on WILD. And network executives are also looking to “re-energize” the show with themed episodes including “Rich Dog, Poor Owner” (celebrities who can’t control their unruly dogs), “Tiny Terrors” (NFL lineman and the little dogs who rule their lives) and “Army Brats” (pets acting out when their owners are away on active duty).

“We’re looking at things that are topical, that have a pop cultural hook as ways to extend and enhance what Cesar already does so well,” added Daniels.

Since it launched in March 2010, the channel has added a Cablevision carriage deal, upping WILD’s reach to 53 million homes from 48 million. It’s also more than doubled its initial ratings and increased Fox Reality’s numbers by 50%, said Steve Schiffman, president, National Geographic Channels.

WILD has picked up a new show from naturalist Casey Anderson as well as second seasons of Dangerous Encounters, Caught in the Act and Swamp Men, about a Florida Everglades swamp safari operated by the Seminole tribe.

New series include Bush Cowboy with Matt Wright, an Australian animal conservationist patrolling the outback; Man-Eater Manhunt, about photographer Gordon Buchana; veterinarian hour Dr. Pol’s Big Farm; and a dog-fighting series called Philly Undercover, which follows Philadelphia police officers tasked with shutting down dog fighting rings.

Flagship channel Nat Geo continues its strategy of offering thematic programming pillars -- Adrenaline, Extreme Engineering, Great Quests, News, Preserve Our Planet and Sci-Tech. Thirteen new series are in production, a record for the network, while Nat Geo also has 10 returning series on tap.

As animal programming has migrated to WILD, Nat Geo will beef up on science programming with new series including CSI Me, which has forensic experts piecing together the life stories of living people; The Indestructibles, about the science of defying death; Rocket Men, about self-proclaimed “Alabama rednecks” and PhDs who solve science mysteries; Mad Scientists, about amateur inventors; and The Witch Doctor Will See You Now, with host Piers Gibbons taking people with serious medical conditions to alternative healers.

“Our new lineup of science and engineering series [offer] some very entertaining ways to look at science with great character led [series] that make science accessible,” said Steve Burns, executive vp, content, Nat Geo.

As always, the fact checkers at the National Geographic Society rigorously vets all of the series on Nat Geo and Nat Geo WILD.

“The key with these 13 new series is the balance between great information and knowledge and a strong entertainment value with real characters and on-air personalities who can really connect with the audience,” added Shiffman. “We’re talking about science in a way that makes science approachable, interesting and provocative.”

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