National Geographic sets slate

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NEW YORK -- National Geographic Channel plans to increase the production of original series and specials, including an in-depth look at a perfectly preserved woolly mammoth and uncovering King Herod's tomb.

National Geographic plans to premiere at least 356 hours of original programming in 2008-09, up from this season's 336 hours. It's the most original programming in the channel's history, executive vp and GM Steve Schiffman said.

"Herod's Lost Tomb" is slated for the fourth quarter, while "Baby Mammoth Autopsy" is slated for second-quarter 2009. Another special, "Cave of the Giant Crystals," will take viewers into a Mexican cave that holds the largest crystals ever seen.

Other specials include "The Great Rhino," filmed in Botswana; "Blue Whale Mystery," about the birth of the giant animals; and two features on the inner workings of the U.S. government, "Secret Service Files" and "On Board Air Force One."

The fourth quarter also will see the premiere of the tentatively titled "Expeditions Week," in which the channel will program seven days of primetime exploration from National Geographic. Schiffman and NatGeo programming chief Steve Burns said they hope it will be a franchise for years.

Other themed weeks include Americana, "Naked Science" (after its show) and Prehistoric Giants.

Also new are the series "Masters of Disaster," "World's Toughest Fixes" and "Who Knew with Marshall Brain," the latter of which begins this month. The network also has increased the amount of episodes of "Locked Up Abroad."

Along with revenue and viewership gains, NatGeo is taking to advertisers this year a cross-platform message that includes increased opportunities with the channel, Web (including a new broadband site), VOD and the magazine. Among the properties that will have a cross-platform presence are "Lost Tomb" and "Autopsy."
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