Nat Geo Global Networks CEO Touts Original Content Push at London 'Mars' Event


Courteney Monroe talks about the goal of becoming the "leading destination for premium science adventure and exploration programming" as executive producer Ron Howard sends a video message.

National Geographic Global Networks CEO Courteney Monroe touted her team's original content push at a Wednesday evening event in London for upcoming six-part series Mars.

"Mars is the center piece of our new premium programming strategy at National Geographic, and its premiere in November will mark the turning point in the transformation of our network," she said ahead of a screening of the first episode at London's Barbican Centre. "We are now on our way to realizing our vision of becoming the world's leading destination for premium science adventure and exploration programming."

Monroe added: "Our new breed of premium content, led by Mars, not only lives up to the promise of the National Geographic brand, but it also reinforces that 'entertaining' and 'smart' are not mutually exclusive."

Looking ahead, Monroe, a former HBO marketing executive, said: "Beyond Mars, we have a very robust pipeline of other really exciting new shows that includes Continent 7, which is the very first television series ever to be formed in Antarctica; our scripted series Genius, starring Geoffrey Rush as Albert Einstein, directed by Ron Howard; and finally a completely revamped Explorer, the most decorated and longest-running documentary series on television."

Monroe was promoted to CEO of National Geographic Global Networks late last year after the National Geographic Society and 21st Century Fox struck an agreement to update and expand their nearly 20-year partnership through which they have owned and operated the National Geographic Channels, their joint venture of U.S. and international cable channels.

Monroe on Wednesday said Mars was "akin to the world's largest scientific TED conference." She lauded the show's "unprecedented" access to Elon Musk and his SpaceX.

"With Mars, our aim is to redefine television storytelling to push the boundaries of traditional docudramas in ways never done before," said Monroe. And she lauded the combination of the show's fictional storyline, about a first manned Mars mission in 2033, and interviews with experts exploring and people working towards that goal now.

"Through these interviews, it becomes abundantly clear that contrary to what you may think, our scripted drama is not at all stuff of science fiction," said Monroe.

She also touted the show as the largest cross-platform effort in Nat Geo's history. Among other things, there will be a Mars cover story in National Geographic magazine, a book and extensive virtual reality experiences.

The team behind Mars includes executive producers Brian Grazer and Howard. "Unfortunately, they were not able to join us this evening," said Monroe. But Howard did record a special intro for the screening. "Hello everyone, welcome to Mars," he said. "We're excited to present this fascinating new series, and we really hope that it will change the way you see our place in the cosmos and the mysteries behind."

The screening of the first episode of Mars was followed by a panel discussion with some of the stars, Ben Cotton, Jihae, Anamaria Marinca and Sami Rotibi; Mexican filmmaker Everardo Gout (Days of Grace), who directed the scripted portions of the show; and others. The event was followed by a Mars-themed party at London's landmark Gherkin skyscraper.