Nat Geo President Expands Development Team in Original Programming Push (Exclusive)
Three months into his tenure, National Geographic Channel president Howard T. Owens is looking to put his stamp on the cable channel.
In doing so, the formerly Reveille managing director is adding more projects as well as four new executives to his development team, which will be tasked with developing series and specials for Nat Geo and Nat Geo Wild. Among them: Alan Eyres and J-T Ladt, who will be based in Los Angeles as SVP and VP of programming and development, respectively; along with New York-based newcomers Lynn Sadofsky, executive producer/director of production and development, and J.C. Mills, director of development.
The news comes a week and a half after Owens announced he had greenlit a TV movie based on Bill O’Reilly’s best-selling book, Killing Lincoln, at his first session of the Television Critics Association's winter press tour. As it happens, Owens walked in the door at Nat Geo with the project, which one of his former William Morris colleagues not only had had the rights to but also the interest of producers Tony and Ridley Scott. That the network and the project’s author share a corporate boss in News Corp is “totally fortuitous,” Owens told The Hollywood Reporter in an interview, adding that there will be fact checkers on this as there are on every project at the network.
Other genres Owens is eager to explore include politics. The desire is fitting not only because Nat Geo is based in Washington, DC, but also because Owens is the son of a former Senator. What such a push will entail he isn't yet sure; though he insists the channel has no plans to take sides politically. "All I know," he added, "is that we’re sitting in the middle of DC and it's an election year and we’re not going to deny that."
Other recent efforts include recently ordered Thom Beers' Are You Tougher than a Boy Scout? and Craig Piligian's Wicked Tuna, all part of Owen's effort to expand Nat Geo's reach and, as he puts it, be "aspirational and not exploitative."
As for the new hires, Eyres comes by way of Discovery, where he worked on such series as Human Planet, Curiosity and several Shark Week episodes. Prior to that, he spent a decade in the UK, producing unscripted series for both the UK and US markets, including the BBC’s Emmy nominated Krakatoa: The Last Days.
Ladt joins Nat Geo from Renegade 83, where he served as co-head of development and was responsible for developing reality projects across multiple networks, including Discovery, Spike, Syfy and TLC. Before joining Renegade, Ladt was an executive producer and partner at James Bruce Productions, where he produced series including NBC’s Meet Mister Mom, ABC’s Wake-up Call and A&E’s Profiler.
Sadofsky, too, comes from the Discovery Networks, where most recently she was the director of development for Planet Green and Discovery Fit & Health. Among her series projects: Untold Stories of the ER, The Fabulous Beekman Boys and My Mom Is Obsessed. Before that, she was a documentary and reality show producer.
For his part, Mills joins from Zodiak Rights, where he was a vp of business development and acquisitions. Prior to that. he worked in sales and distribution at Shine International, which bought Reveille for a reported $125 million in 2008.
Finally, recently announced hire Hamish Mykura arrives after a stint as head of documentaries at UK broadcaster Channel 4, where he created popular series such as One Born Every Minute, 24 Hours in A+E and Fighting on the Frontline. Beginning in March, he’ll be responsible for sourcing projects from the UK as well as serves as EVP and head of international content for the Nat Geo Channels International.
Email: Lacey.Rose@thr.com; Twitter: @LaceyVRose