Nat Geo “Hard At Work” On ‘Hot Zone’ Follow-Up, Hints At New Projects From ‘Free Solo’ Directors & Launches Diversity Scheme

Peter White

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Nat Geo talked up feature doc The Cave, Aretha Franklin’s Genius drama and reality competition series Race to the Center of the Earth today at TCA.

The Disney-owned broadcaster also had a busy day of announcements with a new science series fronted by Chris Hemsworth, a short-form digital doc series from Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot and a Life Below Zero spin-off leading a slew of renewals.

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Courteney Monroe, President of National Geographic Global Television Networks, also unveiled a new diversity scheme to improve the makeup of behind-the-scenes wildlife filming and gave Deadline an update on the Hot Zone follow-up and potential new projects from the directors of feature doc Free Solo.

Monroe told Deadline that The Hot Zone, which starred Julianna Margulies, was the highest-rated scripted in the history of the network. Last year, the network began discussions with producers Fox 21 TV Studios and Scott Free to turn the drama, chronicling the Ebola virus outbreak, into an anthology series. Today, Monrose said, “We are hard at work in development on a potential next instalment on that. We are actively working on something I am excited about.”

Last year, the network also struck a first-look deal with Free Solo directors Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin and their company Little Monster Films after they won an Academy Award.

Monroe said that the pair were now working on follow-up feature docs and series, the first time that the pair moved into the long-form medium. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin have brought us some great ideas. I can’t [announce] anything but we are so excited to continue that partnership that was quite fruitful for us,” she said.

The former HBO exec also unveiled a new behind-the-scenes diversity scheme. “As the global leader in natural history programming, we are profoundly aware that there is a lack of diversity in the field among natural history production teams. So in partnership with the National Geographic Society, we are launching Field Ready program. It’s a mentorship program designed to provide clear career path for young, new diverse talent who are interested in working behind the camera. It will be a beacon to production partners as they look to hire the next generation of diverse talent,” she said.

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