Shark Week’s fake docs net big ratings but land network in hot water with many fans

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Discovery Channel’s Shark Week debut Sunday reeled in record-high ratings in the adult demo but it also made waves with a lot of fans who are fed up with the network using fake documentaries like chum to lure viewers.

Sunday’s kick-off drew a total audience of 3.64 million (down about 10 percent from last year). It snagged a 2.27 rating in the valuable 25-to-54-year-old demographic —a 6 percent jump over 2013 and a new high for the annual summer tradition, now in its 27th year.

Shark Week spawned more than 4 million interactions on Facebook Sunday, according to the network. It was a trending topic on Facebook all day, driving 11 trending topics on Twitter during primetime.

Not all of those social media mentions were positive, thanks largely to the show “Shark of Darkness: Wrath of Submarine.”

The two-hour program — labeled as a “dramatization” by Discovery —claimed to tell the story of a 35-foot-long great white that supposedly terrorized the coast of South Africa. Not only was the story not true, “Submarine” was swimming with bad special effects and hammy actors, according to The Oregnonian and others.

The fake documentary, which delivered an average of 3.825 million viewers, was reminiscent of another fishy tale that led last summer’s Shark Week launch.

That one, called “Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives,” also got purists riled up with its faulty premise suggesting this long-extinct creature is still around. A “Megalodon” follow-up is scheduled for Aug. 15.

International Digital Times hit the nail on the head with this quote:

While Shark Week was conceived as a way to counter the perception from Jaws that sharks are ruthless killing machines, in recent years, it seems that Discovery Channel has discovered that instilling fear is more lucrative.

Shark Week continues tonight with “Jaws Strikes Back” at 8 p.m. (Chicago time) “Monster Hammerhead” at 9 p.m., followed by the talk show “Shark After Dark.”

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