National Geographic Transitions to For-Profit Brand with $725 Million Fox Deal

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National Geographic

Purity has fallen by the wayside. Since 1888, National Geographic has operated as a nonprofit and hasn’t worried so much about upping earning power as much as increasing learning power.

That’s not an easy model to sustain, though National Geographic did it for a long time before finally succumbing to a simple fact in today’s world: It’s hard to stick around and keep growing if the dollars don’t keep falling into the coffers.

The brand took a leap Wednesday as 73 percent of its magazine, books, maps, digital ventures and other media assets became part of Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox for $725 million. While earnings have been on the minds of folks at National Geographic for some time, now those eyeballs will be a little more trained on that number. With the transition, the brand moves from being a nonprofit to a for-profit, the Boston Globe reports.

“It has become apparent that ensuring the future of the society would require something bold,” the National Geographic Society’s chief executive, Gary Knell, said at an all-staff meeting Wednesday, as reported by The Washington Post. Fox and National Geographic have had partnerships since 1997, when the pair debuted the National Geographic cable channel, which is now the brand’s most lucrative asset. The pair have also launched smaller channels as well.

The Post notes that some of the magazine’s staffers are a bit nervous about what will happen to the brand under Murdoch, who also owns such entities as the New York Post, Fox News Channel and UK’s The Sun. Even some of the programming produced with Fox for the National Geographic cable channel has “been a source of embarrassment,” such as Doomsday Preppers (about survivalists) and Banged Up Abroad (featuring “holiday horror stories”). However, Fox’s chief exec (and Rupert’s son) James Murdoch said “there were no immediate plans to change the publication,” the Post points out.

Don’t worry, adventurers. The National Geographic Society itself was not part of the deal. It will remain a nonprofit education organization.

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