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January 17, 2018

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Nat Geo’s Christian Drobnyk Talks
Acquisitions Remit

By Mansha Daswani

***ZDFE Factual***National Geographic Global Networks, under the leadership of CEO Courteney Monroe, has undergone a dramatic shift in its programming strategy over the last year. The flagship National Geographic Channel has been aggressively driving collaborations with top-tier talent to deliver event programming in both the unscripted and scripted realms. This move to a more ambitious scheduling approach appealed to Christian Drobnyk, who joined the group in 2017 as executive VP of programming strategy and acquisitions following a six-year run at Lifetime. Drobnyk tells TV Real Weekly about what’s on his wish list.

***Image***TV REAL: What most appealed to you about joining National Geographic?
DROBNYK: The most interesting and exciting thing was Nat Geo moving toward this much bigger, more ambitious, high-quality premium content strategy that Courteney Monroe [CEO of National Geographic Global Networks] had initiated. It was a strategy to future-proof the brand as the industry changes—[cementing itself as] a must-carry brand for the future. It was an exciting and alluring thing for me to be a part of. And in a world where you’re spending a good chunk of money on fewer hours, you need to have a strategy that helps maintain viewing continuity between your big events and helps to amplify those big originals and bring in new audiences. Acquisitions are an important part of that strategy for a lot of networks and now increasingly for ours.

TV REAL: What will you be keeping an eye out for at NATPE?
DROBNYK: We are getting into the buying of theatricals. We're looking to build a based-on-true-stories theatrical strand in our schedule, whether it's The King’s Speech or Argo or Apollo 13—connecting our acquisitions in the scripted space back to our nonfiction DNA through the based-on-a-true-story filter. That's a really important area for us. Another is looking at off-network series that can make sense for us. We're also looking at international format and acquisition options, but that's more of a MIPTV and MIPCOM opportunity. At NATPE it's about looking at the off-network landscape and seeing what’s out there that could make a lot of sense and help provide some episodic volume for us. A good example this last fall was a series from NBC called Running Wild with Bear Grylls. We bought that, started airing it in October and it’s done fantastically well for us. It fits perfectly with what people expect from Nat Geo. It looks incredible. All of the celebrity guests are great names, from Julia Roberts to Barack Obama, and it fits in with our originals strategy.

TV REAL: Are you also acquiring for Nat Geo WILD?
DROBNYK: We are definitely looking for Nat Geo WILD as well. We’re looking at natural-history series, which are few and far between—they tend to be specials or three-parters—and the pets-and-vets space, with really strong character-driven people stories as they relate to interacting with animals. The Incredible Dr. Pol is our marquee show on WILD.

This interview continues here.

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