Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox has gobbled up a larger stake in The National Geographic Society’s media unit in a deal that will expand their collective reach to more than 500 million households globally.
The joint venture, which will combine National Geographic channels with its other digital, media and publishing, travel and licensing assets, increases its National Geographic’s Society Endowment to nearly $1 billion.
The transaction is valued at $725 million. Under the contract, the new entity, called National Geographic Partners, 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 chief executive officer, serving as the board’s first chair.
Declan Moore, a 20-year veteran of the society currently serving as chief media officer, has been appointed ceo of National Geographic Partners.
Since 21 Century Fox first inked its joint venture with Nat Geo 18 years ago, the educational-oriented brand has rapidly expanded its footprint across media.
“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 programs that support scientists and explorers around the world. As media organizations 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 added: “We believe in the society’s mission of bringing the world to audiences through science, education and exploration. We’re working hard to focus our portfolio on brands that have unquestionable consumer appeal. This expanded partnership, bringing together all of the media and consumer activities under the National Geographic umbrella, one of the most treasured names in the world, creates vast opportunities and enables this business to be even more successful in a digital environment. In addition, we look forward to benefiting from Declan’s leadership and his keen ability to make the spirit of National Geographic come to life every day through rich storytelling across media for millions around the world.”
According to Nat Geo, the additional resources will allow it to double its investment in an array of science, research and education programs. Plans include the creation of the National Geographic Grosvenor Center for Education, dedicated to improving the geographic skills of high school students, as well as the establishment of Centers of Excellence in Cartography, Journalism and Photography, which will “develop and fund innovations in exploration, mapping and storytelling.”
The transaction is expected to close later this year.