National Geographic Hires BBC Factual Head and ‘Blue Planet II’ Commissioner Tom McDonald

BBC head of factual Tom McDonald is joining National Geographic in the newly created role of executive VP, global factual and unscripted content, reporting into Courteney Monroe, president of National Geographic Content.

In the New York-based position, which he will take up in June, McDonald will work alongside Carolyn Bernstein, executive VP, scripted and feature documentaries. Reporting into McDonald will be Alan Eyres, senior VP, development and production, unscripted; Janet Vissering, senior VP, development and production, wildlife/natural history; and Michelle “Meesh” Upton, senior VP, production management.

McDonald will be responsible for leading the development and production of all global unscripted series and specials across all programming categories and formats, which feed Disney Plus and National Geographic’s linear channels. Bernstein will continue to oversee National Geographic Documentary Films.

McDonald comes with a stellar track record from the BBC, where his commissioning credits include “Blue Planet II,” “A Dangerous Dynasty: House of Assad,” “Thatcher: A Very British Revolution,” “Untouchable: The Rise and Fall of Harvey Weinstein” and Peter Jackson’s WWI film “They Shall Not Grow Old.”

The executive’s move is the latest in a series of high profile departures from the BBC. Earlier this month, director of BBC Film Rose Garnett and director of BBC Drama Piers Wenger joined A24, the indie studio behind “Moonlight” and “Lady Bird,” to oversee its international film and TV slate. They were followed by BBC diversity lead Miranda Wayland who is set to join Prime Video/Amazon Studios Europe.

Monroe said: “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 Plus.”

McDonald added: “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.”

During his time at BBC Studios, McDonald oversaw the rapid growth of its factual division, including in the U.S. He first joined the BBC as a commissioner in 2012.

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