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Nat Geo First on the Scene for 'Disaster'

The cable network is rushing a 'Costa Concordia' doc to air
  • February 7, 2012, 9:40 PM EST
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Less than a month after the Carnival Cruise ship Costa Concordia sank off the Tuscan coastline, the National Geographic Channel is on the scene with a refurbished documentary about the incident, appropriately titled Italian Cruise Ship Disaster: The Untold Stories, beating out Discovery's already announced project on the same topic.

The Nat Geo show, set to air Feb. 13 at 10 p.m., is a tweaked version of British insta-special on the event, Terror at Sea: The Sinking of the Concordia, a special that Dragonfly TV made for the U.K.'s Channel 4 and aired on Jan. 31 (the Costa Concordia ran aground on the 13th). The hour-long program includes CGI reworkings of the shipwreck itself, home video footage from Coast Guard workers and new interviews with U.S. passengers exclusive to the stateside edition of the special.

Rival cable network Discovery Channel announced in January that it would create a doc about the Costa Concordia, with Discovery's production and development evp Nancy Daniels telling The Hollywood Reporter that "[w]ith so many unanswered questions, Discovery will piece together not only the immediate events but [also] the bigger story of what comes next in recovery and restoration."

Nat Geo's Italian Cruise Ship Disaster won't have that new-doc shine, but it will be new to Americans and, like its ideological siblings The Last Days of Osama bin Laden on Nat Geo (aired shortly after the death of the al Qaeda leader) and Discovery Channel's iGenius (aired just after Steve Jobs' death), seems tailor-made to boost the net's content into the news headlines for a few days.

It's the latest in a series of green lights from newly minted Nat Geo president Howard T. Owens, formerly of newly News Corp.-owned Reveille (News owns 67 percent of Nat Geo with the rest owned by the National Geographic Society). Owens, installed by group CEO David Lyle in November, has been busy this year: Thus far, he's given the go-ahead to a telepic of Fox News star Bill O'Reilly's Killing Lincoln, along with two unscripted shows, Are You Tougher Than a Boy Scout and Wicked Tuna.