Has Nat Geo found its Shark Week?
At TCA, Nat Geo's spinoff network Nat Geo Wild touted what the network hopes will be a new annual programming event: Big Cat Week.
Stocked with specials like "Big Cat Odyssey," "Lion Warriors, "Lions on the Edge" and "The Leopard Queen," the week is clearly a feline knock-off of Discovery Channel's hugely popular Shark Week. Yet executives squirmed to avoid the comparison.
"Do the lions ever run into any sharks?" asked one critic.
"What I can tell you is during the week you will never hear anybody say 'we're going to need a bigger boat,'" said senior vp Geoff Daniels, verbally ducking.
The critic persisted: But this is just like Shark Week with cats, right?
"It's more than just a week devoted to animals with big teeth," Daniels bristled. "These are some of the most powerful and majestic animals on the planet who are in danger."
With the lion population dropping from 450,000 to 20,000, Daniels pointed out the themed week is inspired by global concerns about saving large cats from extinction. Big Cat Week is about protecting endangered species, not luring viewers with pointy teeth.
Critic: "Can't you build a week off something that's not a predator? There's plenty of other species worth saving. An Antelope Week?"
Daniels counters that the survival of large predators like big cats are key to the whole ecosystem.
At this point, I want to take to the stage, grab the microphone and properly represent this network, saying: "Of course we're knocking off Shark Week. It's a huge f--king hit. We should have done this years ago. We're branded National Geographic, sure, but we're also a TV channel. You like watching wildlife? On the cable TV savannah, the law of survival is to grow your ratings or die. Discovery Channel is the king of this jungle and we want to take it down."