|National Geographic Unveils Television Studio
By Jennifer Mapes
December 12, 2000
A dancer from the Silk Road Company helps open the door to the National Geographic Channel's Washington, D.C. studio.
The National Geographic Society, a name synonymous with exploration, is about to enter unknown territory: United States cable television.
Although the society has been the home of an international cable channel, as well as award-winning magazines, a book division, website, and television division, it has not been a major player on U.S. cable television—until now.
At Tuesday's ribbon-cutting ceremony, National Geographic unveiled the glass-walled television studio that will serve as home base for its new U.S. channel, set to begin broadcasting on January 1, 2001.
"In just 19 days, we’re going to flip the switch," said National Geographic Channel President Laureen Ong. "This studio realizes our vision of an open window to the unparalleled resources of National Geographic."
An international National Geographic channel already serves more than 80 million subscribers in 111 countries around the world, but the January launch will be the first opportunity for U.S. viewers to see around-the-clock National Geographic television programming.
The U.S. channel, a partnership between National Geographic and Fox Cable Networks Group, will launch to 10 million homes, primarily through DirecTV satellite cable.
TO EXPLORE NEW WORLDS
National Geographic Society President John Fahey said he hopes the channel will allow the society’s explorers to tell a broad audience about their adventures.
"Now they won’t be wasting their stories [by just] sitting in my office telling me about it," he said.
The channel’s programming will include classic National Geographic documentaries. It will also feature original shows about a wide range of geographical subjects, including natural disasters, wildlife, daredevil adventures, and explorers.
One of the most unique aspects of the channel will be its one-hour news program, National Geographic Today. On weekdays, the program will broadcast live from the National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C.
"We feel that [the geographic perspective] is a natural for news," said Ong.
Ong added that this live component, as well as the National Geographic name, will help the channel stand out among hundreds of other cable channels.
"Where else can you get this kind of programming in one place?" she asked.
A GEOGRAPHIC CITY
Tuesday’s unveiling was held just outside the street-level studio at National Geographic Society headquarters in the heart of downtown Washington, D.C. The studio features floor-to-ceiling glass walls, allowing passersby to view the inside of the studio.
"This is a new destination for Washington, D.C.," said Ong, who noted that the lure of watching a television station in action should make the studio an attractive city tourist destination.
Washington Mayor Anthony Williams lauded National Geographic’s decision to base their channel in the city. "This move is helping the District become a center for media and television production," Williams said. "It’s important to this city … [Washington is] a natural home for a great national geographic society."
Comments? Contact the writer, Jennifer Mapes, or the News Editor, David Braun.
(c) 2000, The National Geographic Society
National Geographic Channel—International can be seen in 15 different languages in 111 countries, including China, India, Egypt, Australia, the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Israel.
It took six months for a 13-person team to design, engineer, create, and install the technology in the National Geographic Channel’s state-of-the art studio.
The National Geographic Society unveiled a state-of-the-art television studio Tuesday. The Washington, D.C. studio will serve as home base for the National Geographic Channel, set to launch in January 2001.