Dear Discovery Channel: Let The FIN Begin!

Twenty-eight years ago, you embraced a much-maligned species demonized in the movie “Jaws” and created “Shark Week” to educate us about these magnificent creatures. Mixing highlights of the latest research, dramatic footage and narrative, you increased our respect for sharks and awareness of conservation issues, and elevated sharks into animal documentary rock stars. Much of what we know about sharks can largely be attributed to “Shark Week,” now one of the longest-running events in cable television history. 

And still, each year you continuously outperform and outdo yourself. You have captured new audiences while recapturing existing ones year after year. And, you’ve done a fantastic job of balancing naturalists, dramatists, real-life stories, and made-for-TV drama across a vast array of online and offline channels.

It gets harder each year, doesn’t it? In today’s crowded, over-scripted reality media landscape, with attention-deficient and binge-watching audiences, no doubt you are thinking about how you get above, around and through the noise during primetime and across social networks.



Here’s something to think about as you race into the final days: atmospheric marketing. Atmospheric marketing is more than a catchphrase. It’s a marketing approach brands like yours use to wrap their arms around the customer so they can be more than passive viewers, and instead be a part of the experience. It’s engaging with your customers based on how they want to experience your content and how they want to interact with you. 

In your planning, I’m sure your whiteboards were filled with strategies, which undoubtedly included addressing the following issues:

  • Maintaining your primetime appointment viewing audience with an optimal experience while embracing binge-watchers.
  • Enhancing on-demand viewing with real-time, cross-channel, interactive content that is appropriately targeted and personalized.
  • Creating bite-sized content that boosts the brand value through cross-channel distribution and syndication.
  • Using social media, affiliate sites and partner campaigns for effective and proactive cross-channel promotions.
  • Addressing increasing audience fragmentation as you expand into new demographics.
  • Increasing revenues on related goods and services.
  • Driving value and sentiment for your partners.

Think about it. In a data-driven world, we all have systems to collect and analyze information. Too often though, it’s backward-looking to help gauge things like page views, video loads and social engagement. But what if you could ingest that data in real time and act on it before the next commercial? Wouldn’t that be a game changer? 

Today’s audiences are overwhelmed with choices that have led them to possess the shortest attention spans of any generation before them. I can’t remember the last time I sat in front of the TV without a second device clicking away. You know it’s happening. What have you done to prepare for it? You have the data somewhere, across your systems. But ask yourself: is it real time? Can you re-engage via the devices I'm on right now? Can you react to changing behaviors in the moment? If not, what’s stopping you?

Yes, dealing with the data and audience fragmentation puzzle caused by various audience segments and devices is particularly critical. 

Today’s viewers don’t want to feel like an anonymous drop in a 53-million-viewer bucket. To return year after year, they need compelling, personalized experiences that address their individual interests and understands how they like to participate. The onus has been placed upon you to synthesize and use data to envelope viewers in highly personalized atmospheres that anticipate their wants and needs. 

You’ve rocked “Shark Week” for 28 years, producing an incredible legacy that includes boosting shark tourism and increasing shark conservation. I’m counting down to “Fin-dependence Day,” July 5, and am really interested in seeing how you blend the ever-increasing demand for cross-everything engagement. My smartphone, tablet, computer, TV, streaming, friends and I are ready. Let the “fin” begin!

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