Shark Week returns for its 28th season this Sunday.
The show, which first premiered in 1988 and was called “Caged in Fear,” was Discovery Channel’s highest-rated show in adults last year. Over the years, it has been a mammoth success, elevating Discovery’s usual primetime statistics, according to The Atlantic. Over 62 million viewers tuned into the show in 2010.
However, shark experts say that over the years the show has introduced a more fictional spin rather than sticking with a more factual shark-based programming.
According to Boston.com, David Shiffman, a shark biologist and Ph.D. candidate at the University of Miami, echoed the sentiment, saying that “Shark Week” used to be a “celebration of sharks” that aimed to show “amazing animals in amazing places, and the amazing people who worked to study and protect them. In the past few years, there’s been a shift toward pseudoscience and fearmongering.”
Discovery has set an earlier release date for the latest season of “Shark Week.” It premieres on July 5, which is a month earlier than last year. It is also two weeks ahead of Syfy’s second annual Sharknado Week that will air from July 18 to July 25. While “Shark Week” will broadcast its most ever 19 hours of programming this time, Discovery has also set a Shark Weekend in late August, as reported by Adweek.
Discovery president Rich Ross, who will be handling “Shark Week” for the first time, said, “Shark Week is synonymous with summer, and to me, the holiday that is synonymous with summer is July 4. Our advertisers and promotional partners got it in a millisecond. They can launch something that builds their business over summer rather than the end.”
Volkswagen will be the presenting sponsor of the week-long shark-based programming for the fourth year. The automobile manufacturer is set to launch the Golf SportWagen by promoting the idea that wagons, like sharks, are often misunderstood.
According to Vinay Shahani, Vice President, Marketing, Volkswagen of America, said that the company’s partnership with Discovery “gets the creative juices going in terms of coming up with ways to makes this a really integrated program. It’s not just about the teasers we’ll jointly produce, or the ads, but what are some of the ways to engage consumers through other touch points? We’re really fortunate to have found a property like this.”
“We don’t celebrate the fear and anxiety,” Ross said, referring to the recent 40th anniversary of Jaws and the series of shark attacks that terrorized North Carolina beachgoers. “We celebrate the animal itself.”
This year, Discovery will partner with the Sea Save Foundation, seeking to raise “awareness about the beauty of marine ecosystems and their fundamental importance to human survival.” “Shark Week” also has partnerships with two other ocean conservation profits, Oceana and Ghost Fishing.
Shiffman said, “Much of the 2015 lineup looks like it will be better than the past few years, but there still may be significant problems.
“The Alien Sharks series is a fantastic example of quality natural history documentary filmmaking. It focuses on weird and wonderful sharks that rarely get screentime,” he said. Alien Sharks will return with a third instalment this year.
“Some of the trash that aired the last few years shows that people will watch anything if it has the word ‘shark’ in the title,” he added. “So why not make something good?”
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