Nat Geo UK Restructured: London Team Reporting Into Disney EMEA Production Hub

Liam Keelan
Liam Keelan BBC

EXCLUSIVE: The Nat Geo UK-based commissioning and production team has been restructured and now feeds into Disney’s EMEA production hub, reporting to Liam Keelan.

The move is understood to have taken place several weeks ago, with the Nat Geo London-based team now focusing on international productions, regional European and local market productions. The team is also working closely with London-based Sean Doyle, Disney’s Director of Original Production, Unscripted General Entertainment for Europe and Africa, it is understood.

The Nat Geo team, which comprises the likes of Commissioning Editors Carolyn Payne and Simon Raikes, Associate Producer, Development and Production Alexander Lawson and Production and Development Coordinator Daisy Bryant, now reports into Keelan (pictured), Disney’s Vice President Original Content, Europe and Africa, whose main focus is Disney+. Keelan, a former BBC Studios scripted exec and BBC commissioner who joined 18 months ago, reports into Diego Londono, EMEA EVP, Media Networks and Content.

Disney, which owns Nat Geo, is looking to prioritize two-year-old streamer Disney+ and, alongside adult-skewing vertical Star, the Nat Geo vertical sits on the platform, consisting of high-end shows such as Limitless With Chris Hemsworth.

The Nat Geo UK team previously reported straight to Nat Geo US and commissions a number of international and US shows per year including the likes of Buried Secrets Of The Bible, Drain the Oceans and Mars: One Day on the Red Planet.

Given Disney’s desire to drive international subs to Disney+, one UK indie sector source familiar with the team said integrating the two “makes perfect sense.”

Another countered that Nat Geo UK has lost a degree of autonomy that came with pitching ideas straight to the US.

“This feels like a return to an older model where there are more regional commissions and to fund them well they need to get buy-in from other regions,” added the second source.

Disney+ has so far commissioned 21 international series, of which 16 are scripted and five non-scripted, most recently unveiling Spanish drama original Balenciaga (working title) at last week’s Disney+ Day, as the team targets 60 by 2024.

Non-scripted offerings include David Beckham competition Save Our Squad.

Keelan has spent the last couple of years building up his team and it now features two ex-Channel 4 commissioners, Sean Doyle and Lee Mason, who oversee non-scripted and scripted respectively, while Johanna Devereaux is also Director, Scripted Content, EMEA.

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