Since acquiring Scripps last year, Discovery Inc. has been leveraging its entire expanded network portfolio to cross-promote its biggest programs, but the company is taking that strategy to the next level for Shark Week.
To market this week’s annual shark-themed event, which company execs call its “Super Bowl,” Discovery Channel worked with sister networks HGTV, ID, Food Network and MotorTrend to create spots that initially seem to be promos for a series like Chopped or Homicide Hunter before revealing themselves to be a surprise Shark Week spot.
“It’s a rug pull” and “reinventing that cross-channel spot,” said Josh Kovolenko, svp marketing strategy and operations, Discovery Channel and Science Channel.
“It’s not just Discovery Channel that celebrates Shark Week every year. The entire organization rallies behind it,” said Kovolenko. “Now we have this expansive portfolio, and we can run our message in front of all these additional viewers that might not be spending time on Discovery.”
As Shark Week enters its 31st year on the heels of 2018’s massive 30th anniversary celebration, “we have to reinvent every year,” said Kovolenko of marketing the event. “We have to keep it fresh for fans, and for ourselves.”
So for this year’s Shark Week campaign, Kovolenko enlisted the marketing departments from networks HGTV (which contributed a spot featuring its Good Bones stars), ID (Homicide Hunter), Food Network (Chopped) and MotorTrend (Barrett Jackson). Each promo only runs on the individual show’s home network.
All cross-channel spots were shot in-house, in most cases with the respective show’s production team. “It was important to us that it also looked like the show and it didn’t look like a promo team came in and shot it,” said Kovolenko.
In addition to those spots running on the four sister networks, Kovolenko created a spot featuring a montage of talent from five different networks—Discovery Channel, HGTV, Food Network, TLC and ID—screaming “Shark!” at the camera.
That spot, said Kovolenko, was inspired by a Shark Week promo that began running in May, who showed various animals and fish yelling “Shark!” After showing that earlier spot to talent, “they all got it and they all wanted to be a part of it,” said Kovolenko.
These cross-network promos are part of a Discovery Inc. initiative to strategically move its audience from platform to platform. One of the company’s earliest efforts on that front occurred during last year’s Shark Week, when Food Network’s Guy Fieri dove with sharks for a special that aired as part of that week’s programming.