National Geographic Society and 21st Century Fox agree to expand partnership

The National Geographic Society and 21st Century Fox recently announced that they have reached an agreement to expand their 18-year partnership through which they have owned and operated the properties in National Geographic Channels – a joint venture of domestic and international cable television channels which together reach more than 500 million households globally.

The National Geographic Society is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organisation focused on its mission of science, exploration and education. Consideration for the transaction is valued at US$725 million. As a result, the Society’s endowment will significantly increase to nearly US$1 billion. The new entity will be owned 73 percent by 21st Century Fox and 27 percent by The National Geographic Society, with a shared governance structure and equal representation on the board of directors. The board chair will alternate annually, with Gary Knell, National Geographic Society president and CEO, serving as the board’s first chairman.

The new expanded joint venture will operate as National Geographic Partners and will combine the National Geographic television channels with National Geographic’s other media and consumer-oriented assets, including: National Geographic magazines; National Geographic Studios; related digital and social media platforms; books; maps; children’s media; and ancillary activities, including travel, location- based entertainment, archival sales, catalog, licensing and ecommerce businesses. Combining these assets into one organisation will create greater opportunities to pursue National Geographic’s mission of increasing knowledge through science, exploration and research.

Declan Moore, a 20-year veteran of the Society currently serving as chief media officer, has been appointed CEO of National Geographic Partners.

“The expansion of our nearly two decade partnership with 21st Century Fox is another milestone for The National Geographic Society, which for much of its 127 years has sponsored groundbreaking scientists and explorers and shared the knowledge and wonder with the world, using the best and most creative media platforms of each era,” Knell said. “The value generated by this transaction, including the consistent and attractive revenue stream that National Geographic Partners will deliver, ensures that we will have greater resources for this work, which includes our grant making programmes that support scientists and explorers around the world. As media organisations work to meet the increasing demand for high quality storytelling across multiple platforms, it’s clear that the opportunity to grow by more closely aligning our branded content and licensing assets is the right path. We now will have the scale and reach to continue to fulfill our mission long into the future. The Society’s work will be the engine that feeds our content creation efforts, enabling us to share that work with even larger audiences and achieve more impact. It’s a virtuous cycle.”

James Murdoch, CEO of 21st Century Fox, said: “We are privileged to have the opportunity to expand our partnership to continue to bring to audiences around the world, ‘The world and all that is in it,’ as National Geographic Society’s second president Alexander Graham Bell stated more than a century ago. We believe in the Society’s mission of bringing the world to audiences through science, education and exploration.”

The additional resources will enable The National Geographic Society to basically double its investment in an array of science, research and education programs. Plans include the creation of the National Geographic Grosvenor Centre for Education, dedicated to improving the geographic skills of high school students, and the establishment of Centres of Excellence in Cartography, Journalism and Photography, which will develop and fund innovations in exploration, mapping and storytelling. The National Geographic Museum, thought leader forums, and related programmes will remain under the Society’s purview, all with the support of a focused philanthropic development team.

Closing of the transaction is subject to customary conditions. The transaction is expected to close later this year.