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‘Whisperer’ Finds Animal Partner

Sep 25, 2006  •  Post A Comment

National Geographic Channel thinks it’s found the perfect companion for its top-rated series, “The Dog Whisper”: A show following a team that removes critters from homes and businesses.

Nat Geo has ordered 13 one-hour episodes of “Animal Extractors,” which will premiere Oct. 23. Granada Anglia Television is producing the series.

“We think it has some of the same psychographic appeal as `Dog Whisper,” said John Ford, executive VP of programming for Nat Geo. “There’s multiple stories in an hour, with animals being cared about, and some transformation that occurs.”

The order comes as Nat Geo enters a crucial new phase of its development. After four years of nearly continuous ratings gains, the channel has surpassed 60 million households and averages about 300,000 viewers, entering the competitive midsection of the basic cable ratings spectrum. Double-digit quarterly gains will now become more difficult for the channel, with the current third quarter to date flat versus last year.

“It’s a little tougher to get the increases,” Mr. Ford said. “We don’t have the ease of starting from a low base anymore. But we do have a whole lot more information about what works and what doesn’t work.”

In the past, Mr. Ford has declared he will not program docu-soap reality shows, a genre that proliferates on basic cable and has given quick ratings gains to ratings midsection brands like VH1, MTV, Bravo, E!, Discovery and genre leader A&E.

But “Animal Extractors” arguably fits the docu-soap bill as it’s a reality series following a workplace team a la “Dog the Bounty Hunter” or “Deadliest Catch.”

Mr. Ford said “Animal Extractors” doesn’t fit his definition of the genre. “It’s not manufactured reality,” he said. “We didn’t set up a situation.”

Furthermore, Mr. Ford is looking for other reality shows set around unique professionals.

“We’re looking for authentic characters,” he said. “Somebody who is a scientist, who is an archeologist, somebody who’s a talent in their field. But it’s got to be authoritative, it’s got to be relevant and authentic. We’re still operating by those rules.”