On March 29, National Geographic Channel gives birth to a wilder new baby: Nat Geo Wild, a new network devoted entirely to nature and wildlife programming.

“This channel is a natural extension of 30 years of National Geographic being a world leader in innovative and compelling wildlife filmmaking,” says Geoff Daniels, senior vice president of development and production for the channel, “and what that really does is it gives us access to the best filmmakers in the world to create these kinds of shows.”

Adds Steve Schiffman, Nat Geo’s general manager, “We’re going to make it a very distinct channel. We are going to target promotion on particular nights, different from what we do on the core channel. We are going to have wildlife programming that is 24-7, which is a celebration of animals. On the core channel less than 5 percent of our primetime content has wildlife featured,” he says.

“We have so much content and so many stories that we want to tell that we felt like having another cable channel will allow us to tell these stories that are truly incremental beyond the diversity of topics we talk about in our core channel. This hits the core DNA of what National Geographic is all about on so many levels.”

The bulk of the content won’t be old, repurposed programming from the mother ship, Daniels says. “We are focused on originality and exclusivity for this channel. We are operating as a global network and combining our budgets, which is going to allow us to produce a high volume of original programming. We’ve got hundreds of hours in the development pipeline right now, and I’m really encouraged by the quantity of new things that we are going to be able to bring, all in stunning HD.”

The slate includes the inaugural programs Rebel Monkeys, about primates living in the Galta temple in Jaipur, India (March 31), Expedition Wild: Project Kodiak with Casey Anderson focusing on Alaskan grizzly bears (April 5) and Mystery Gorillas, which follows primate expert Mireya Mayor to the Congo (April 5).

“I’ve been with Geographic for almost 10 years now and I’ve always been extremely proud of that association and collaboration, but to now be part of a brand new channel that is dedicated to wildlife, my biggest passion, I’m really excited,” Mayor says.

“What Geographic has enabled us to do is go to these places and team up with some of the best scientists out there, with these amazing film crews that are then able to capture that and share it with folks who wouldn’t have the chance to get face to face with a silverback and see all these amazing behaviors,” she says.

Mayor is working on another series for Nat Geo called Wild Nights, about urban wildlife. “I’m going to be going to iconic cities and taking a closer look at the wildlife that comes out when you sleep. You don’t know what’s just outside your house after you’ve turned off the lights.”

With the creative and monetary resources available to the fledgling network, its future is secure, Schiffman says. “One-third of all of the proceeds of the National Geographic Channel go to funding explorations around the world. There are 282 expeditions being funded by the National Geographic Society, of which over a third of those are wildlife, and a lot of those expeditions are shows that may end up in Wild. So we have a built-in ability to really get the best and most interesting stories through the efforts of the National Geographic Society.”

“The ability to tap into that vast network of filmmakers, scientists, explorers with long-standing relationships with the National Geographic Society gives us the ability to have unprecedented access to their ground-breaking research and their cutting-edge technology,” Daniels says. “I think that, ultimately, is what sets us apart.”

MNN homepage photo: National Geographic Society