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Geoff Daniels Previews Super-Sized SharkFest


Geoff Daniels, Nat Geo WILD’s executive VP and general manager, tells TV Real about this year’s two-week-long SharkFest.

Nat Geo WILD is doubling down on its annual SharkFest this year, expanding the summer programming stunt from one week to two, beginning July 15. “As summer kicks in and families are getting ready to head out on vacation, we know that there is a growing fascination and desire to see content around sharks,” says Geoff Daniels, the channel’s executive VP and general manager (and interim programming president at National Geographic Channel). “The demand from viewers wanting to understand more about these extraordinary creatures has grown year-over-year.”

The extended lineup, Daniels adds, also allows Nat Geo WILD to “create a bigger platform to engage that passionate, shark-loving audience, with all ***Image***the other amazing work that National Geographic is doing around shark conservation and protection of our oceans.”

This includes National Geographic Kids’ The Ultimate Book of Sharks, by National Geographic photographer and explorer Brian Skerry, and the recently announced Planet or Plastic? multiyear initiative to tackle the problem of pollution in the world’s oceans. “And then we’ll have photographers, explorers, conservationists [and] researchers engaging with the audience online. We’re also encouraging those in the New York area to go to our National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey experience in Times Square. In super-sizing the SharkFest experience, the audience can engage with this content they love on any level they want to, whether it’s online, on-air or in Times Square. Because we’re National Geographic, we can create that 360-degree engagement in a way that allows the audience to get the wonder and the excitement and the entertainment, but then fill that entire picture out with all these other elements that National Geographic is known for.”

The on-air content is the main event, and some of these shows have been in the works for anywhere from 18 months to 2 years, Daniels says. “To get that in-depth, scientific look at things, to see the behavior, you have to be in the water with the greatest filmmakers and marine biologists. It takes time.”

On what he looks for in ideal SharkFest content, Daniels says it starts with making the sharks “the stars of the show—they are the real celebrities! And***Image***what everyone wants with their favorite celebrity, if you will, is to understand what makes them tick. What are their motivations? What are the things that define these different species and their behaviors? I’m looking for researchers with the visual tools that can be deployed in the oceans to observe these sharks in their natural habitat in a way that is completely undisruptive to them. What ticks the boxes for me are things that ultimately give us new insights into what makes them so awe-inspiring, powerful and the ultimate survivors.”

Programming highlights include When Sharks Attack: Mayhem in Mexico, Shark vs. Tuna, Big Sharks Rule and Shark Kill Zone. Among Daniels’ favorites is 700 Sharks, in which a team of researchers “immersed themselves into one of the largest shark packs in the world. They go in at night when these sharks are hunting on the reefs. Most people think of a feeding frenzy as a complete melee. What 700 Sharks reveals is that these sharks are hunting cooperatively, like a wolf pack or a pride of lions. There is a social structure among them. Most people think they’re mindless, individual predators, but in fact, this is an example where they’re working together, similar to the way dolphins might work.”

Daniels is also excited about the follow-up to the doc The Whale That Ate Jaws. “It was about the way killer whales are hunting great white sharks. Now, there’s new evidence, new footage, new insights into how the tables are being turned on what you think is the greatest predator in the world’s oceans. These killer whales are coming in with almost surgical precision and uniquely preying on these sharks. Before you know it, you’re rooting for the great white shark! That, frankly, is what SharkFest is all about.”

The slate is heavy on original commissions, with some co-pros and acquisitions, Daniels notes. “With the big premieres, we’re looking primarily at commissioning, but from my standpoint, I don’t worry about the deal. I worry about if the focus is squarely on what we know the audience wants: the sharks as the stars and they can learn something, experience something, that changes how we see our relationship with this animal in a way that is inspiring and makes us want to protect them.”

Ultimately, Daniels says, “This audience wants to see the majesty, the power, the beauty and the mystery of these animals that have survived in our seas for millions of years. They want to experience the thrill of that primal relationship we have with them and see them in their natural habitat in a way that provokes that sense of awe and wonder. What SharkFest is all about is triggering that fascination and getting audiences to think differently about how smart, how social, how adaptable these sharks are in so many different situations, in so many ways that will just blow your mind.”



About Mansha Daswani

Mansha Daswani is the editor and associate publisher of World Screen. She can be reached on mdaswani@worldscreen.com.

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