Disney has announced that senior BBC executive Tom McDonald has been named executive vice president, Global Factual/Unscripted Content for National Geographic, effective June 2022. He will report to Courteney Monroe, president, National Geographic Content. McDonald joins Carolyn Bernstein, executive vice president, Scripted and Feature Documentaries, as Monroe’s top creative lieutenants.
McDonald, a highly regarded creative executive with an exceptional track record across all non-fiction genres, joins National Geographic following Monroe’s recent unveiling of a robust and ambitious slate of unscripted original content for Disney+.
In this newly created New York-based position, McDonald will be responsible for leading the development and production of all global unscripted series and specials from concept to execution, across all programming categories and formats — including travel, adventure, exploration, history, science and natural history — that feed Disney+ and Nat Geo’s linear channels. Carolyn Bernstein will continue to oversee National Geographic Documentary Films.
Courteney Monroe, president, National Geographic Content said in a statement:
“Tom is a brilliant creative executive with extraordinary vision and impeccable taste. Having spent a decade at the BBC creating premium, genre-defining factual content, Tom is the perfect person to lead our efforts to produce best-in-class, must-see National Geographic content. I have known and admired Tom for quite some time and could not be more thrilled he is joining our team as we expand our programming ambitions to help drive the global growth of Disney+.”
McDonald’s direct reports and teams he will oversee include the following:
- Alan Eyres, senior vice president, Development and Production, Unscripted
- Janet Vissering, senior vice president, Development and Production, Wildlife/Natural History
- Michelle “Meesh” Upton, senior vice president, Production Management
In a statement, Tom McDonald said:
“It has been a privilege to work at the BBC, but the chance to join Courteney and her team at this pivotal moment in National Geographic’s evolution is an opportunity that was impossible to turn down. As I relocate to the U.S. and start a new chapter, I feel excited and energized by the opportunity to elevate National Geographic content across the Disney ecosystem. I cannot wait to get started.”
McDonald joins from BBC Studios, where he is managing director of Factual Productions, overseeing the creative and commercial strategy for the genre, a staff of over 500 people and over 300 hours of programming per year.
Recent successes for the division include landmark Natural History series “The Green Planet” and science landmark series “Universe” for BBC; history series “Blair & Brown: The New Labour Revolution;” timely feature documentaries such as “The Year Earth Changed” for Apple and “Grenfell: The Untold Story” for Channel 4; environmental programming including “Extinction: The Facts” for BBC and “Greta Thunberg: A Year To Change The World;” and hit health podcast “Just One Thing.”
Current projects in production include landmark and premium projects across documentary, history, culture, natural history and science for broadcasters and platforms around the world, including Apple, Discovery, National Geographic, NBC Universal, PBS, Bilibili, Channel 4, Sky Documentaries, the BBC and audio platforms including BBC Sounds and Audible.
During his time at BBC Studios, the Factual division has grown exponentially, especially in the U.S., has welcomed into the business some of the most exciting on-screen talent and filmmakers, and has won and been nominated for a huge range of awards, including BAFTA, Emmy®, Grierson and Royal Television Society Awards.
Prior to joining BBC Studios, McDonald spent over seven years in the Factual Commissioning department of BBC Content, latterly as head of Natural History and Specialist Factual Commissioning.
During his time leading the department, his team’s commissions received more than 20 BAFTA Television Award nominations in categories including Single Documentary, Single Drama, Features, Constructed and Specialist Factual, with wins for titles as diverse as “Muslims Like Us,” “Planet Earth II,” “Blue Planet II,” “Big Blue Live” and “The Yorkshire Ripper Files,” including winning BAFTA TV Moment of The Year twice.
Other highlights from his time in commissioning include Peter Jackson’s WWI film “They Shall Not Grow Old,” scripted drama “The Windermere Children,” feature documentary “Untouchable: The Rise and Fall of Harvey Weinstein,” “A Dangerous Dynasty: The House of Assad,” “Rise of the Murdochs,” “Seven Worlds, One Planet,” “Dynasties” and “A Perfect Planet.” He also commissioned a raft of returning series which remain key titles for the BBC, including “Inside the Factory,” “Amazing Hotels,” “Surgeons: At the Edge of Life,” “All That Glitters” and “A House Through Time.”
Before joining the BBC, McDonald was an executive producer at a range of the U.K.’s most respected production companies.