National Geographic isn’t the first brand you think of designing a new theme park ride at Disney World but it’s a conversation that’s being had within the media conglomerate.
Tom McDonald, EVP, Global Factual and Unscripted, Nat Geo, who joined the company 18 months ago from the BBC has floated the idea of a Nat Geo series becoming an amusement attraction.
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“I know this sounds outlandish but when I started, and I half meant it as a joke, one of the things I said was ‘Wouldn’t be great if one of our shows became a theme park ride at Disney World?’,” he said during a keynote session at the Realscreen event in New Orleans. “There are some really interesting conversations happening right now within the system, with Parks and beyond about how we might bring some of our shows to life in the physical world, interesting types of experiences.”
He joked that this wouldn’t apply to Trafficked, its Mariana van Zeller-fronted documentary series that explores the complex and dangerous inner-workings of the global underworld, black and informal markets.
“We’re making a series about Jonestown Massacre [The Cult: One Day In America], we’re making a series about the Boxing Day tsunami [Tsunami], we are definitely not thinking about a theme park ride. However, I do think that the priority to us as we go forward is going to be how to bring these things to life in a bigger and broader way. I think that’s one of the things is unique about us, compared to Netflix or Apple for some of the other cable channels. I do think it is part of being part of the wider National Geographic and the wider Disney ecosystem and that feels like it’s not been wholly tapped into yet.”
“WE HAVE LESS MONEY TO SPEND ON SHOWS”
Elsewhere, McDonald said he was “really optimistic” about Nat Geo’s slate and where it’s heading. But he admitted that it has not been immune to the change in the industry over the last 18 months.
“Clearly, we have less money to spend than when I joined 18 months ago, that’s just the reality. There are a lot of buyers out who might not say it as boldly as I just said it but it’s the truth. But I still feel like we’ve got plenty of room to experiment, to take risks. But it does mean we’ve had to work really hard on our overall slate. We are not a volume player. I think of us as a prestige player,” he added.
While Nat Geo previously ordered long-running series such as Life Below Zero, which ran for over 200 episodes, and Wicked Tuna, which ran for 170 episodes, it is now focusing on shorter-run, more limited series such as Limitless with Chris Hemsworth and Will Smith series including Pole to Pole.
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