During Shark Week, millions of viewers tune into the week-long Discovery Channel event to learn about one of the most mysterious creatures known to man. Shark Week likely involves some nail-biting, face-making and shuddering while viewers sit on the edge of their seats, anticipating the next moment during the celebrated annual event.
Discover the origins of Shark Week and learn how it quickly became one of the highest-rated Discovery Channel television events.
Creation Of Shark Week
The creation of shark week did not involve some highly creative and scientific minds sitting in an office meeting room discussing an idea for a future television event. The Atlantic describes the idea for it as a “Shark Week’s journey from lowly cocktail-napkin scribble to national TV holiday.” You guessed it; the creation of the week came about after some Discovery Channel executives brainstormed on ideas to boost ratings while in a bar.
Brooke Runnette, an executive producer of Shark Week, told The Atlantic that while some of the Discovery Channel executives sat drinking at the bar, one of them said something to the effect of ‘You know what would be awesome? Shark Week!’ At least one of them wrote the idea down on a cocktail napkin, resulting in what is now a pop cultural juggernaut.
To date, it continually boosts the number of viewers tuning into Discovery Channel since the first Shark Week episode aired July 17, 1988.
All Of The Hype
Early on, the Discovery Channel and Shark Week executives proved they had the savvy know-how to fascinate, educate and entertain viewers. They gave captivating titles to individual episodes and in some cases, to the entire week. Who could resist sitting in front of the television with the bowl of popcorn when Discovery Channel aired the 1993 “Shark Week: We Dare You to Watch?”
Even with the earlier hype from the movie Jaws, which boosted interest in sharks, as well as the fact that the first shark airing resulted in primetime ratings that nearly doubled from Discovery’s normal average, Discovery Channel seemed to realize the potential for even greater success of the week. Discovery Channel put forth an active effort to heavily invest in the week, with Jaws author Peter Benchley serving as the first Shark Week host in 1994. It became much more than a sort of historical account of the evolution and dangers of sharks, with each annual week-long marathon events captivating increasing numbers of viewers.
With each year setting new records for the number of viewers tuning in, the week dedicated to sharks had a full-fledged celebrity edition in 2002. In 2014, CNN reported that the debut of Discovery Channel’s week-long ode to the master of the sea had broken records by pulling in the highest ratings in its history. CNN said that more than 3.6 million viewers tuned in to watch the debut episode. While it continues to draw in viewers eager to become part of the “shark pop culture frenzy,” the week is not without controversy.
Controversy: The Megalodon
In calling the 2013 shark episode “Megalodon: The Monster Shark That Lives,” a mockumentary, Jennifer Welsh, writing for Business Insider, compared the episode to a fake documentary that claimed evidence shows that mermaids do exist. The episode claimed that the Megalodon, an extinct 50-foot long shark, still exists today.
Fallout called for viewers to boycott the week long viewing of sharks, while the scientific-loving community voiced a swift call for an apology to viewers.
Today, the week continues to pull in more viewers, who often take to social media in anticipation of Shark Week, referred to as a pop cultural phenomena.