Shark Week 2020: How The Pandemic Added To This Years Programming – Forbes

This year's 'Shark Week' celebrates the 20th anniversary of 'Air Jaws'.

Its that time of year again and as always, Shark Week delivers some of the most exciting content on television. This year, Discovery is upping its game with even more science, stars and sharks than ever before. The new lineup includes more than 20 hours of programming and explores the uncharted territoryof how the current Covid-19 pandemic is impacting our seas.

Shark Week has proven to be an extremely important franchise for Discovery from both a ratings standpoint, as well as a vehicle to attract new viewers to the cable network.

This year, the viewer will tag along with A-List stars including Mike Tyson, Will Smith and Shaquille O'Neil. And, this years pandemic offers researchers the once in a lifetime opportunity to study how the global lockdown and reduced amount of human interaction and activity in our oceans has impacted the hunting patterns of sharks.

Last years programming shot Discovery up to the No. 1 slot, making it cables top network during Shark Week. Nearly 27 million viewers tuned in. According to analysis by Alphonso, average unique viewers (total day) last year were up 23% compared to the week before. In total, 28% of Shark Week viewers were new to Discovery last year.

The data shows how important the franchise is for short-term and long-term gains, says Raghu Kodige, co-founder and Chief Product Officer for Alphonso.The sizable audience attracts a variety of advertisers but the ability to pull in new viewers also allows Discovery to expose these individuals to promos for other shows, potentially expanding their base beyond Shark Week.

Two specials in this years lineup are dedicated to the Covid-19 pandemic: In Shark Lockdown researchers explore the waters off New Zealand where the largest female great whites are measuring over 20 feet long, earning the nickname the 747s. With no human interaction during COVID-19, researchers built a self-propelled cage to see how hunting patterns have changed. And, in Abandoned Waters researchers study how Covid-19 has affected the massive great whites at Australias Neptune Islands.

Marine Biologist and Ph.D. Alison Towner details how the worldwide shutdown has given sharks the opportunity to return to their natural behaviors and reclaim the oceans.

Marine biologist and Ph.D. Alison Towner lists 5 ways the pandemic is impacting sharks.

Towner, whose work includes research on white sharks with a focus on tracking and telemetry, as well as the driving factors of their movements, says scientists have recently been able to study sharks up close in ways that were nearly impossible prior. Here she lists five ways in which life for sharks has changed over the last several months.

This year's 'Shark Week' includes over 20 hours of programming.

Our oceans cover over 75% of the planet. Every second breath we take comes from the ocean thanks to marine plants and algae, explains Towner. Ecosystems are all about balance. If the top domino is tipped over, a systematic knock-on ripples through each trophic layer until most of the pieces are affected in some way or another.

Sharks, she adds, are one of the oceans top dominos. There are over 560 species of sharks on our planet. The earliest shark remains date back some 450 million years. Sharks Skates and Rays have survived multiple mass extinction events and adapted to thrive in extreme ocean habitats from the shallow coastal seas to the deepest darkest depths.

Their ability to survive is where the hope lies for Towner. Our planet is hurting from over-excessive wildlife extraction and consumption. The virus came from an animal in a wet market in Wuhan, China. If that doesnt support the notion that change needs to happen regarding our impacts on wildlife as humans nothing will. The next generation, those who do not want to see another pandemic rear its head, and those who want to see shark numbers bounding back from the loss of 100 million a year, now have the power at their fingertips to learn, educate and spread the plight of the shark with how to help.

Education is imperative to the plight of sharks. Tragically, these predators are threatened by a global shark fin trade. Efforts to fight this brutal, cruel and wasteful practice continue and through Shark Week the aim is to educate fans about why healthy oceans need sharks.

In the last 50 years, humans have advanced their capabilities to extract from the oceans to industrial scale levels, Towner explains. Factory fleets roam the high seas so advanced that they dont need to dock to offload their catch. These huge fleets can process all the meat fins and other body parts of sharks out of sight. They have naval technology, spotter planes and trackers to locate areas where remaining pockets of fish seek refuge. Nothing can hide and the chase to feed the growing populations of humans never ends. The cure for our suffering shark stocks will be the next generation of ocean ambassadors and their childrens actions.

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Shark Week 2020: How The Pandemic Added To This Years Programming - Forbes

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