'Shark Week' results in ratings frenzy for Discovery

Fans complain about a fake documentary -- but come back for more.

By Benzinga Aug 8, 2013 2:34PM

Face it. TV shows about sharks are both fascinating and big business. Described as "ultimate predators" they eat everything, fish, seals, even occasionally, people. Because of this, when Discovery Communications (DISCA)'s Discovery Channel's "Shark Week" kicked off Aug. 4, more than 4.8 million viewers tuned in.


As a result, Bloomberg said, Discovery is poised to best its 2012 Shark Week record of 21.4 million total viewers during the period. 


"Shark Week's" first offering, "Megalodon: The Monster Shark That Lives," it turned out, was a mockmentary about a fake search for a 1.5 million-year-old shark that, according to the premise of the program, might still live off the coast of South Africa. Except it doesn't.


That didn't stop 79% of Discovery Channel's from assuming the story was true. 


When they found out the show was fake, they complained. Then tuned right back in for the next show in the weekly lineup, "Shark After Dark," which was basically a shark-themed talk show.


A sampling of Discovery's Shark Week programming for 2013, offers some insight into the reasons why the channel ranked No. 1 with 18 to 34 year olds in 2012, according to Ad Age, a ranking the network may well repeat in 2013.


"Sharkpocalypse," according to the network, "examines the alarming trend of sharks moving in closer to shorelines and debates whether there is a connection between declining shark populations and the increase in shark attacks."


"Alien Sharks of the Deep follows American and Japanese scientists as they descend into the deepest and darkest unexplored oceans on earth in search of some of the more incredible and bizarre sharks on the planet, from the Goblin shark to the elusive, giant Megamouth shark."


Finally, the one even Discovery viewers couldn't quite swallow -- Megalodon, whose pre-broadcast notes warned, "… was a massive prehistoric shark that would eat just about anything in its path, including whales. Good thing it went extinct... or did it?"


Despite complaints about "Megalodon," "Shark Week" is expected to be a huge ratings success for Discovery. As Forbes pointed out, as a for-profit business, Discovery Communications' success is measured by ratings and profit, not reality.


Discovery Communications' 52-week range is $52.13 to $89.58. Shares were selling for $82.70, down slightly, in early trading, Thursday.


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