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‘Shark Week’ Controversy Aside, Discovery Channel’s Formula Still Works

Justin Maiman
Daily Ticker
‘Shark Week’ Controversy Aside, Discovery Channel’s Formula Still Works

"Shark Week" is back, and this time the cable TV shark fest is being circled by some fresh controversy.

Discovery Channel, whose parent company is Discovery Communications (DISCA), kicked it off this year with "Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives." It's a so-called "mockumentary" and now some diehard "Shark Week" fans are on the attack -- boycotting the popular programming because the movie wasn't "truthful" or "scientific."

The executive producer of "Shark Week" defended the movie: “It’s one of the most debated shark discussions of all time, can Megalodon exist today? It’s Ultimate Shark Week fantasy."

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It's a formula that has worked over and over. Sunday night's "Megalodon" pulled in 4.8 million viewers, the best rating for a single "Shark Week" episode ever.

"This is a concept that Discovery launched 26 years ago which is amazing. Last year the week drew over 21 million viewers. It's a huge hit with a certain segment of the audience," says Porter Bibb, managing partner at Mediatech Capital Partners.

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Bibb says "the scare factor" drives big ratings but it also allows the channel to test out other new ideas it's working on like "Shark After Dark" -- a new late night talk show that also debuted Sunday. More than two million viewers watched the show, a "respectable" showing, according to the Los Angeles Times. Bibb says, "they hope that they can end up with a compelling new program concept for late night viewers and they're using 'Shark Week' as the platform to launch it."

"Shark Week" is also a social media phenomenon -- it was the focus of more than one million tweets on Sunday. Other program highlights this week include "Sharkzilla: Sharktweeto," "Great White Serial Killer" and "Sharkpocalypse."

Discovery Communications, with a market cap of $30 billion, is up 55% this year.

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