‘Shark Week’ Sets a New Ratings Record: What Does it Mean for Local Advertisers?

08.01.2023 Sara Brasfield3 min

Now in its 35th year, Discovery Channel’s annual “Shark Week 2023” turned in stunning viewership numbers in its debut last month: with 5.3 million viewers tuning in to Discovery Channel and streaming on Discovery+ and Max, “Shark Week” earned its highest-rated debut in three years.

Ratings were high across the weeklong television event, starting with its debut programming on July 23. Hosted by Jason Momoa, the star of “Aquaman” and an outspoken conservationist, Discovery Channel ranked No. 1 in primetime programming among adults and men ages 18 to 29. The first four nights of “Shark Week” also ranked first among women ages 18 to 34 (linear and streaming combined).

This surge in audience engagement didn’t happen by accident. A number of strategic changes—including bringing on Jason Momoa as the host and bolstering marketing and cross-channel promotion—were instrumental in setting up “Shark Week” for its decisive ratings revival.

Whether or not your business is interested in advertising around “Shark Week,” the ratings success of this TV event offers some valuable insights as you plan media buys and develop a multi-channel advertising strategy for your business. Here are the big takeaways from “Shark Week 2023” that matter most to local businesses.

There’s Value in Combining Linear and Digital Strategies

The 2022 merger between Warner Bros. and Discovery set up new opportunities to expand the reach of “Shark Week” to new streaming audiences. While the linear TV experience hasn’t changed at all, this year’s installment of the TV event was also made available on Max, formerly HBO Max—in addition to being available on Discovery+.

This diverse offering gave viewers flexibility in watching TV programming live or streaming on-demand at a later date. Both cable subscribers and cord-cutters could experience “Shark Week” in full force. But Discovery+ and Max were able to create additional engagement and promotional opportunities by recommending related “Shark Week” content to viewers watching this year’s original programming.

By distributing “Shark Week” across linear and digital channels, Warner Bros. Discovery was able to maximize audience reach for one of its signature TV properties. Advertisers, meanwhile, had expansive options for investing in ad space around “Shark Week” and similar programming, opening the door to more targeted and cost-effective media buys.

Cross-Promoted Media Events Create Diverse Ad Opportunities

Original programming was supported by a broader activation strategy around “Shark Week 2023.” Additional Warner Bros. Discovery channels and streaming platforms, including TBS, TNT, TruTV, TLC, Food Network, CNN and Travel Channel were all used to deliver “Shark Week”-inspired content, related programming, and other forms of cross-promotion during the week-long TV event.

This related programming creates new opportunities for identifying valuable media buys across Warner Bros. Discovery’s vast streaming and linear portfolio. Increased audience engagement during these promotional periods could offer premium value to advertisers targeting media buys to these properties.

As local businesses look ahead to future media buys, understanding the TV environment at the time of those planned buys can help you more accurately assess the value of potential ad buys. A digital media partner can help account for these events and influences when optimizing your ad mix and audience targeting efforts.

Media and Cultural Events May Offer a Creative Angle for Campaigns

To set up Shark Week for its massive ratings success, Discovery teamed up with a number of marketing partners to plan collaborations, brand tie-ins and promotional campaigns that would build awareness and excitement for its week-long TV event.

Even in cases where businesses aren’t official partners of these media companies and their events, local businesses should explore opportunities to build creative campaigns that leverage this event for their own business goals. A simple example is the way a local business might run Super Bowl-themed promotions or campaigns if a local team is playing in the big game.

In the case of ‘Shark Week,’ the possible tie-ins are endless: a local bakery could create shark-themed cupcakes and feature them on social media, while a retail store could bring in shark-related apparel and toys and promote them in and around shark week. These cost-effective promotional opportunities can help businesses build digital awareness and engagement for your company, in addition to cultivating a more fun, customer-centric brand experience.

From combining linear and digital campaigns to identifying cost-effective ad buys, a small business marketing consultant can help your business seize emerging opportunities to build your brand. Find out how Cox Media can help—contact us today to learn more.

About the Author

Sara Brasfield

Sara is a Marketing Manager on Cox Media’s corporate team in Atlanta, with a passion for writing and delivering relevant insights for advertisers. With more than nine years of experience in B2B marketing, Sara aims to help Cox Media’s current and future clients connect with their customers find new and unique ways to grow their business. Outside of the office, Sara loves spending time running, reading, and supporting her favorite sports teams (Go Braves & Gamecocks!).

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