Hollywood Insider

Shark Week Gets Wacky -- and It Works

Has Discovery jumped the shark? Ratings say no

After a quarter century and 225 hours of content, Discovery just couldn't take Shark Week seriously anymore. The 26th edition of the themed programming week (Aug. 4-10) included a scripted mockumentary about a shark that likely doesn't exist (Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives), a documentary about a swamp shark that also probably doesn't exist (Voodoo Sharks), and the launch of a talk show (Shark After Dark) that chatted up Syfy's Sharknado star Tara Reid. The result: Discovery's biggest Shark Week ratings ever, peaking with 4.8 million viewers for Megalodon, and the network's largest 18-49 delivery in history. Yet the content caused a feeding frenzy online, captained by actor/professional fanboy Wil Wheaton, who accused the network of betraying its audience. Naturally Discovery doesn't think its famous stunt week has now jumped the...well, you know. ''We certainly weren't out to fool people; we respect our audience's intelligence,'' says Eileen O'Neill, Discovery and TLC's group president. ''Some people didn't appreciate it, but the vast majority of our audience enjoyed it.'' Moreover, O'Neill notes that the added attention from Megalodon helped boost viewership of science-based programming later in the week, so you can bet there's going to be some more shark silliness next year. ''It certainly demonstrates there's a range of storytelling our audience is willing to line up for,'' she says. We can't wait for 2014's Mer-Shark: The Body Found, Shark-quatch!, and Here Comes Chummy Boo Boo.

Originally posted Aug 23, 2013 Published in issue #1274 Aug 30, 2013 Order article reprints