According to AdAge, Discovery Channel execs first conceived of their big-name summer staple “Shark Week” during a hotel room brainstorming session way back in 1987, when cable was still new and the channel itself was only two years old. Desperate to attract viewers, they noticed that shark-related programming always precipitated a ratings jump. In a moment of inspiration, former executive Steve Cheskin reportedly blurted out “shark week”, leading founder John Hendricks to respond with a smile and a eureka-like “that’s it!”
Now, a quarter of a century and a generation of shark enthusiasts later, “Shark Week” is cable’s longest-running promotion; it has consistently attracted more than 20 million viewers since 2003. Even more impressive is AdAge‘s report 35% of all cable social-TV activity recorded during “Shark Week” this year was directly related to “Shark Week” programs. This trend may have something to do with the fact that the programming attracts fairly young, tech-savvy viewers: Scott Felenstein, senior VP-ad sales at Discovery Channel, told AdAge that the average “Shark Week” viewer is 31 years old, roughly 8 years younger than Discovery’s usual audience, making it a hot topic on social media and a potential goldmine for advertisers.
“For Discovery, it’s the Super Bowl,” said Felenstein.