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Shark Week: The Oxymoron of the “Television Event”


For the past 3 decades, the summer months of July and August has been associated by many to one mysteriously popular event: Shark Week. My puzzlement with it is not even so much why people are fascinated by the subject itself, but rather how a television event has been able to transcend its medium and become such a widely touted aspect of American culture as it has become.

We’ve explored in the past the blurred lines between the concepts of “events” and “television shows”. Before the days of recording and broadcasting technologies becoming available to human society, the essence of an “planned event” was in the coming together of people to make something happen. When the radio became popular, society for the first time needed to make the distinction of experiencing something “live”. The reach of television further blurred the lines between the live experience and the virtual one, with some programs being viewed by hundreds of millions of people while only being attended live by a few tens of thousands.

Most “television events” as we know it though are either sporting events or, I would personally argue, television shows. Sporting events run by season, and nobody mistakens the concept of these events to think that the television aspect is somehow the core offering: athletes are not tv stars, they are athletes, and the broadcasting of their performances is merely a medium. Television shows run by season as well, but most shows are run on their own timelines based on network deals and to some extent storyline, if the show’s producer is able to negotiate successful deals and the show gets good ratings and support from the networks.

And that in my mind is what makes Shark Week quite unique. It’s format of a week long annual production always in the summer months makes it much more akin to a live event than it is to my understanding of any television event, and the fact that it’s been running so consistently for the last 30 years is what makes it even more incredible. It was in fact one of the Discovery Channel’s earliest shows — the network launched in 1985 and Shark Week inaugurated in 1988 — and by now certainly one of its most iconic, with some 30 million viewers every year tuning in to at least one episode or clip of Shark Week.

We are very decidedly moving into a world where the skills of event planning no longer just applies to the narrow definitions imposed by many currently in the events industry. It is becoming a skill that transcends industry is becoming increasingly applicable with everything we know about life itself. In the same way many in the tech industry believe everyone should learn at least basic programming skills, I believe everyone should at least be aware that the world becomes a much more interesting place if you can learn to observe it through the lens of event management.

See you at the next exploration!



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