National Geographic Global Networks President Courteney Monroe Clarifies Disney Parks Rumors While Discussing the Brand’s Exciting Future

“There are no current plans for a ride,” said Courteney Monroe, President of National Geographic Global Networks. During a TCA executive session, she was asked about a comment that Tom McDonald, EVP of Global Factual and Unscripted Series for Nat Geo recently made. He was asked about National Geographic representation in the Disney theme parks, and while Courteney confirmed that there aren’t any concrete plans for a National Geographic attraction in the parks, she thinks it’s a good idea. “I believe there’s a tremendous amount of untapped potential for National Geographic inside The Walt Disney Company, beyond the content that we create. There’s a lot of really exciting conversations happening about how we can expand our presence in the parks, working with the Disney Consumer Products team, working with the travel team. There’s a whole Nat Geo Expeditions business.”

(National Geographic/PictureGroup)

(National Geographic/PictureGroup)

Among Nat Geo’s big announcements on Thursday, February 8th, was a second season of A Real Bug’s Life, which is quickly becoming the brand’s most-watched Disney+ original series to date. “There is such rich IP to mine and there's so much shared DNA between the Nat Geo and Disney brands that we are exploring lots of opportunities,” Courteney confirmed about exploring other Disney properties with a similar natural history approach. “We are thinking about a real Finding Nemo and other franchises. There are so many families with young children on the Disney+ platform that would gravitate to the real-world storytelling around those franchises.”

Much of Courteney Monroe’s presentation focused on National Geographic’s unique position as a globally distributed network with a reach over 300 million households around the world in addition to being a brand tile on Disney+. But what started as a magazine 135 years ago recently underwent a change in that it’s no longer available on news stands and is now only available to subscribers. The March issue features a cover story about the nature series Queens, which will launch on Nat Geo’s broadcast channels and streaming platforms. This typically would’ve created free marketing for the series as shoppers encounter the magazine cover on a rack, an ad-campaign that no longer exists for the brand.

“We’re the #1 brand on social,” Courteney said, counteracting the loss of newsstands as a marketing tool for the network. Across all social media channels, National Geographic has over 750 million followers. “We still have close to 2 million subscribers to the print magazine, so while we’re not on newsstands per se, our commitment to the print magazine is very still unwavering. But we also have over 80 million people around the world that we reach with our editorial storytelling through digital. So we’re thinking really much more in the round now, in an integrated way about how Queen" and so many of our shows can really live across all of our platforms, both in terms of editorial and journalism, as well as in long-form on linear and Disney+.”

Disney acquired National Geographic in 2019 via the 21st Century Fox acquisition, a home that has served the brand well. “Viewers on our domestic linear channels tend to be older, they skew a little bit male,” Courteney shared. “With the very same programming on Disney+, we are reaching a younger and more gender-balanced audience.” Given that most Nat Geo content ends up being broadcast in addition to streamed, she gets to focus less on the destination and more on the content itself. “We’re very platform-agnostic when we think about creative development, so it’s about extraordinary content that inspires a deeper understanding and connection to our world that speaks to the head and the heart, and then we meet audiences where they are. That, again, goes back to this question of why I feel we’re so well positioned because our footprint in social, our global linear channel footprint, and then Disney+, we’re introducing National Geographic to a whole new generation of global fans.”

“I believe the content slate that we are launching across all of our platforms over the coming year is truly one of the best we've ever developed,” Courteney Monroe concluded. She teased a few highlights from the upcoming schedule, including following scientists who are working to save the Northern White Rhino from extinction via the first successful embryo transfer for a rhino, and Nat Geo having the only film crew following the NASA astronauts preparing for the Artemis missions to the moon. After a day of previewing upcoming Nat Geo content, I can certainly say that I’m over the moon about their upcoming slate.

Alex Reif
Alex joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and has been a lifelong Disney fan. His main beats for LP are Disney-branded movies, TV shows, books, music and toys. He recently became a member of the Television Critics Association (TCA).