Shark Week hoo-ha-ha.
The millennial generation was raised watching shark-friendly movies like “Finding Nemo” and “Shark Tale,” but there’s one annual series that forces students to delay their Summer B studying for obsessive television watching — Discovery Channel’s Shark Week.
Cox Media consultant Raul Martinez said trends show the Gainesville ratings parallel or exceed the national show ratings.
“We know that Shark Week gets a lot of viewership,” Martinez said.
But for George Burgess, the director of the program for shark research at the Florida Museum of Natural History, the value of sharks extends far beyond the entertainment in Shark Week.
“A shark is a topic of great interest to the public,” Burgess said, “a natural phenomenon that we can’t control, like hurricanes and lightning.”
Burgess has been featured on Shark Week regularly and said he hopes to see a lot more education during the week’s shows. But he said he knows the over-the-top circumstances portrayed by the show are what interest UF students.
“It’s the thought process of dying in the mouth of an animal or being eaten,” he said.
UF entrepreneurship master’s student Jeffrey Kaplan, 27, said he is terrified of sharks, but that’s not why he chooses to watch Shark Week.
“It’s almost like a cultural event,” he said. “I tune into Shark Week because of all the hype and marketing around it.”
Discovery Channel’s character-driven approach with Shark Week 2013 has created a larger opportunity for audience interaction.
A man in a shark suit who goes by “Bob the Shark” appeared on Shark Week’s “Shark After Dark” talk show series Sunday night. Overnight, his Twitter account, @BobTheShark, gained more than 23,000 followers after only nine tweets.
“‘Shark After Dark’ is hysterical,” Kaplan said. “They are putting the fun in science fiction.”
On Saturday, the college entertainment website BroBible even posted a drinking game for the week’s viewing.
Shark Week may be sensational, but Burgess said sharks are to be respected, not feared.
This year has seen about 30 shark attacks in seven months, which is low compared to 80 in 2012, Burgess said. There have been nine incidents in Florida in 2013.
“We shouldn’t fear sharks, but understand that it’s a wilderness experience,” he said. “It’s not like hopping into the YMCA pool.”