Sharks, Tigers: Nets Ready to Rumble?

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Tiger or shark — which is the more fascinating, formidable predator? Viewers can decide for themselves this week as National Geographic Channel and Discovery Channel each air themed programming, featuring the powerful creatures.

National Geographic will explore feline ferocity during its "Wild Cat Week" block at 8 p.m., while Discovery swims through its annual "Shark Week" stunt at 9 p.m.

But executives from both companies were loath to call this a programming cat fight, much less handicap a fish fray.

Although many programs were pre-empted by Wild Cat Week for the week of Aug. 10 to 17, Nat Geo did not intend its theme week to be a counterprogramming move, according to vice president of communications Russell Howard.

"This is not meant to compete with Shark Week," he said. "Wild Cat Week is not a promotion in any sense. There are different marketing levels with various tiers of support, and the very minimum is on-air promotion. We're not even doing that."

Howard said National Geographic's "Be The Explorer," an adventurer marathon scheduled to air the last week of September, is a better comparison.

"This is an example of one of our fully integrated promotions that includes cable operator support [cross-channel spots], local market advertising, on-air promotion and an online component," he explained. "To draw up the comparison of Shark Week with Wild Cat Week is comparing apples to oranges."

The theme week will only be recognizable through graphic packaging in the form of opens and bumps to commercial breaks, Howard added.

A Discovery spokesman declined comment on the initial run of Wild Cat Week and whether the network deemed NGC's efforts as some sort of programming duel.

Historically, one of Discovery's most popular programming plays, Shark Week is in its 16th rendition, having aired annually since 1988. Since 1995, the stunt has cumed over 20 million viewers per year. Last year, that total reached 23 million.

Discovery dived in Aug. 10. with the world premiere of Anatomy of a Shark Bite, featuring underwater and topside footage of a bull shark bite. Robo Shark, a state-of-the-art animatronic apparatus, will use its camera infiltrate and illuminate the essence of wild shark behavior Aug. 13.

Wild Cat Week is set to pounce with a network premiere of Walking With Lions
on Aug. 11 at 8 p.m., launching a five-night search into the alluring world of lions, tigers, jaguars, cheetahs and mountain lions.

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