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The History of Shark Week

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Get ready to dive into Shark Week!

The annual Discovery Channel programming started Sunday and runs throughout this week until July 13. This year marks the 36th anniversary of Shark Week; it’s the longest-running cable TV programming event in History. The event is wildly popular—the 30 Rock character Tracy Jordan, played by Tracy Morgan, even famously said in one episode: “Live every week like it’s Shark Week.” Here’s everything you need to know about the beloved weeklong event.

What is Shark Week?

Each year, the Discovery Channel holds a weeklong event over the summer dedicated to shark-themed programming. The content was initially devoted to conservation efforts and addressing misconceptions about sharks. But some experts have criticized the event, saying that it focuses on the sensationalism of shark attacks rather than on Science and conservation, as reported by NBC News.

There are 21 programs featured in this year’s Shark Week, including Monster Hammerheads: Species X, which airs Tuesday at 10 p.m. EST and is about a potential new species of hammerhead sharks. You can find the festive week’s full schedule on The Discovery Channel’s website.

When did Shark Week begin?

Shark Week started on July 17, 1988, when Caged in Fear aired on the Discovery Channel. The show was about testing a new motorized cage meant to resist shark attacks. Nine other shows premiered that year. The ratings during the very first Shark Week almost doubled Discovery Channel’s primetime average, according to the network.

Because of the great public reception to the first Shark Week, the Discovery Channel brought the event back the following year—and it soon became an annual summer event.

Read More: Are Shark Attacks Increasing? Here Are What the Data Say

Who has hosted Shark Week?

Shark Week was hosted for the first time in 1994, by the author of Jaws, Peter Benchley, according to the Discovery Channel. That year also marked the 20th anniversary of Benchley’s best-selling shark novel that inspired the cult-classic film. 

Since then, many notable celebrities and conservationists have hosted the event, including Dwayne Johnson, Jason Momoa, and Nigel Marven. This year’s event is being hosted by John Cena.

How popular is Shark Week?

More than 22 million viewers tuned into the event last year across the Discovery Channel, discovery+ , and Max, according to owner Warner Bros. Discovery. The 2023 event was the highest-rated Shark Week in three years.

Who watches Shark Week?

Throughout last year’s Shark Week, Discovery ranked as the number one primetime cable network with men and women between the ages of 25 and 54, as well as men and women between the ages of 18 and 49, according to Warner Bros. Discovery. During the 2023 event, Discovery ranked as the number two primetime network across all of television with men between the ages of 25 and 54, as well as men between the ages of 18 and 49.

“Shark Week once again proves to be summer’s most anticipated programming event,” Howard Lee, president of Discovery Networks and TLC, said in a press release last year. “We kept our momentum going each night and attracted a big audience.”

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