EXCLUSIVE: National Geographic is looking to stay in The Hot Zone. Following the ratings and critical success of the limited series starring Julianna Margulies, the Disney-owned network has begun discussions with producers Fox 21 TV Studios, part of Disney TV Studios, and Scott Free to turn the program, chronicling the Ebola virus outbreak, into an anthology series.
Talks are still in early stages but I hear the idea is for each season to look at a different health-related crisis where science is a big factor in finding a solution to potential epidemic or public panic. I hear producers are zeroing in on the post-9/11 anthrax crisis as topic of the potential second installment
I hear the project has been put on the fast-track as Nat Geo had made launching a second scripted anthology series after Genius a priority. No word yet on if any of the cast from the original The Hot Zone would return for the potential followup, but all sides appear open to it. Margulies led The Hot Zone ensemble cast that also included Noah Emmerich, Liam Cunningham and Topher Grace.
The Hot Zone, which debuted May 27, has become Nat Geo’s most watched scripted series ever, topping Genius: Einstein and MARS, and the channel’s second most watched series overall just behind The Story of God with Morgan Freeman. It has been watched by 9.33 million viewers across the premieres and repeats in L+7, and saw a 101% lift in the demo from L+SD to L+7. In L+3, The Hot Zone averaged a .82 rating in the demo over its three nights. It lifted Nat Geo’s viewership 350% above the previous six week average.
Additionally, The Hot Zone has emerged as an awards contender for Nat Geo with strong reviews.
Based on Richard Preston’s best-selling book of the same name, The Hot Zone was inspired by the true events surrounding the origins of the Ebola virus and its arrival on U.S. soil in 1989. In it, a heroic U.S. Army scientist, Nancy Jaax (Margulies), working with a secret specialized military team, puts her life on the line to head off the outbreak before it spreads to the human population. The Hot Zone is a co-production of Fox 21 TV Studios and Scott Free Productions.
Nat Geo has been ramping up its scripted slate. It has two two scripted series – Barkskins and The Right Stuff – heading into production next month (Barkskins in Quebec City and The Right Stuff in Florida). The next season of Genius, centered on Aretha Franklin, is in pre-productoin.)
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