What you need to know about the Shark Week vs. SharkFest Feud

Nashalie Addarich
Nashalie Addarich

If you can’t get enough of everything shark-related, we’ve got great news for you because your binge-watching list is about to get longer. This year, we get five weeks of all things sharks as Discovery Channel’s long-standing Shark Week and National Geographic’s SharkFest go head to head in becoming the nation’s most respected shark documenter.

To loop you in on all the Shark Week vs. SharkFest frenzy, SharkFest extended its regular 6-day shark celebration to three weeks in 2019. This year, National Geographic decided that three weeks weren’t enough, so they upped it to five whole weeks, making it four times longer than Discovery Channel’s Shark Week. 

Shark Week: 32 years of fin-tastic reputation

Discovery’s first Shark Week premiered in July 1988 with 10 episodes. Since then, the event has grown exponentially in popularity, turning it into a hit amongst viewers in the U.S. — Shark week reels in millions of spectators each year. Over 35 million people tuned in to Discovery Channel’s week-long shark programming in 2018 to learn about this big fish that has been long misunderstood. 

Shark Week was initially produced to create awareness around shark protection efforts and correct the common misconceptions surrounding these mysterious creatures. Over time, it shifted its focus into more entertainment-oriented programming. This caused some severe backlash among experts and viewers, calling the event sensationalist. “It’s disappointing that you have so much potential with a really interesting subject and that potential is lost because they focus on sensational aspects,” stated shark expert Dr. Stephen Kaijura.

Criticism aside, Shark Week has become the longest-running programming event in cable TV history, broadcasting in over 72 countries.

This year, Shark Week is kicking off with a special appearance from former professional boxer, Mike Tyson, in “Tyson vs. Jaws: Rumble on the Reef.” Tyson stated, “I took on this challenge to overcome fears I still deal with in life’.

Where to stream:

Shark week will be aired through Discovery Channel from August 9 until August 16. If you don’t have cable, you are just in luck because you can now stream Shark Week this year through DiscoveryGo. All you have to do is sign-in through its website or the DiscoverGo app with your TV provider. 

You can also purchase last year’s episodes through Google Play Movies & TV, Prime Video and iTunes. If you are subscribed to Hulu, you can enjoy last year’s episodes for free.

Shark Fest: 5 weeks of all things sharks 

What once began as a week-long program showcasing the mesmerizing natural habitat of sharks on Nat Geo WILD, has quickly become a 5-week behemoth of over 100 hours of shark entertainment — to think that the first SharkFest program aired only eight years ago.

SharkFest 2020 began July 19 with “World’s Biggest Tiger Shark” and will continue throughout the Summer with episodes airing every night and over 17 hours of original content. Some of the things you can expect to see in the documentaries this year is scientific research, fun facts and impressive underwater footage of these giant predators. 

During SharkFest, National Geographic will highlight its Pristine Seas Project, which brings awareness about how mass fishing and pollution are affecting our oceans’ ecosystems. The project’s mission is to protect the remaining wild places in the sea by showcasing how the ocean would look today without human intervention.

Where to stream

This year, National Geographic will broadcast Sharkfest through the National Geographic and Nat Geo Wild channels, but you will also be able to stream through their newly launched SharkFest website.

If you can’t get enough of this year’s SharkFest, you can view previous seasons on Amazon Prime, Google Play and Apple TV.

Shark rivals with a common goal

Even though Shark Week and SharkFest are in a rivalry to be the nation’s best shark show with the most ratings, they share a common goal — shark conservation and debunking myths and common misconceptions. Both events aim to educate the public with scientific data and reveal these giants in their natural habitat at the bottom of the ocean.

Both shows want to address the common fear surrounding shark attacks by teaching us why sharks behave the way they do and how we can stay safe while navigating the deep waters. Being conscious of the importance of protecting sharks results in also understanding that they are an integral part of marine ecosystems. By helping them, we are also helping safeguard all marine wildlife.

Whether it’s fascination or utter fear, we can all agree that people are captivated by sharks.

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About the Authors

Nashalie Addarich is an editor for Reviews.com. She recently made a career switch from the legal field, where she was an attorney in Washington, DC. In her free time, she enjoys learning new languages. You can also find her editorial work on The Simple Dollar.