Still publishing its flagship National Geographic magazine, the not-for-profit National Geographic Society (NGS) has expanded into an array of venues to enhance our knowledge of the big blue marble. The NGS has staked claims in the worlds of television and the Web, as well as in book publishing and map-making. With News Corp., it operates the National Geographic Channel US, a cable channel that reaches about 70 million households worldwide. The organization also supports geographic expeditions (it has funded more than 8,000 scientific research projects), and sponsors exhibits, lectures, and education programs. The NGS was founded in 1888, the year the first issue of National Geographic magazine was published.
During the 120-plus years since its founding, the NGS has grown to become one of the world's largest not-for-profit scientific, educational, and conservation organizations. Its activities now extend into film, television, radio, music, books, DVDs, school publishing programs, exhibits, tourism, retail, and interactive media. Besides the award-winning National Geographic magazine, the organization publishes several other titles, including National Geographic Traveler, National Geographic Explorer, and National Geographic Kids.
As might be expected, the NGS's publishing operations are geographically diverse. National Geographic magazine is published in more than 30 local-language editions and has subscribers worldwide. Poor advertising prospects ultimately led the group to wind down regular publication of its National Geographic Adventure magazine, which was printed eight times a year and focused on adventure travel and eco-tourism. It still publishes special biannual issues of National Geographic Adventure, however, and it plans to maintain the brand online and in books. National Geographic had failed to sell the magazine because it was unwilling to leave its own name on the cover, and potential buyers weren't interested in a magazine simply titled Adventure.
The organization's National Geographic Channels International (NGCI) is owned by a pair of suitors. Fox International Channels, which operates, develops, and distributes factual and general entertainment channels, owns 52% of NGCI. One of the fastest-growing cable networks worldwide, NGCI reaches some 165 countries. NGHT, a unit of the National Geographic Society, holds a 27% stake while a BskyB subsidiary owns another 21% share.
NGS is enjoying the big screen, too, thanks to its global reach. The Society's National Geographic Entertainment (NGE) division plans to produce up to 15 films by 2013 through a joint venture with Imagenation Abu Dhabi. The films, which will focus on people's relationship with the world, their environment, and each other, are budgeted between $5 million and $60 million. NGE also has acquired the rights to the film Blue Man Group: Mind Blast, a 3-D, live-action comedy that began distribution to IMAX and other theaters in early 2011. In 2010 NGE released Restrepo, a documentary that follows a platoon of US troops in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley; it won the 2010 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize.
Besides movies, NGS works to stay ahead of competition such as Discovery Communications by diversifying. In recent years, the organization has bought educational and English as a second language (ESL) publisher Hampton-Brown, as well as The Green Guide, publisher of an environment-oriented website and newsletter. The move has paid off. Education publisher Cengage Learning in mid-2011 announced it's acquiring NGS's school publishing unit and extending its use of the NGS brand. The deal will expand NGS's world-class content -- including images, video, and articles. – less