When Discovery's Shark Week begins on Sunday (July 5), the week-long celebration will feature expanded scientific online content on a dedicated site called Sharkopedia. Shark experts, or "finbassadors" as the network calls them, will take over Discovery's Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts to educate viewers about sharks, according to Variety. It's all part of president Rich Ross' plan to make Shark Week more of a scientific series of programming instead of an over-dramatized mix of truth and fiction.
"We're focusing hard on the scientists this year and the research that a lot of the science community is engaging in with shark behavior," said Discovery VP of documentaries Howard Swartz to USA Today. "We're really hitting that hard this year."
Sharkopedia, an extensive online guide to sharks, delves into pages upon pages on topics like shark conservation, shark attacks, shark sex, shark history, and the shark diet. Discovery secured a group of "finbassadors" -- scientists, divers, filmmakers, photographers, advocates and the like -- to develop this free content and run their social media accounts for the week. Also on tap for the network are Snapchat stories featuring mascot Chompie Jr. as well as live-streamed Meerkat events including a live shark feeding filmed at Baltimore's National Aquarium.
"There are so many different ways for people to interact with 'Shark Week', and we are building a big, multi platform experience that has huge reach across Facebook and Twitter," said Discovery exec Paul Pastor to Variety. The network will also be testing the aforementioned newer social media platforms.
Discovery's weeklong 'Shark Week' on network TV will also publicize the online guide, saying that the programs are "powered by" Sharkopedia. When its different TV shows mention shark facts, the channel will tell viewers to check out their online content.
Sharkopedia is the network's response to viewers' backlash against past programming which exaggerated the truth. "We live in a world that is both curious and judgmental when it comes to anything that smells of chicanery or lack of transparency," said Ross to USA Today. "When they found out [that certain programming] wasn't true, the backlash against the channel was fierce."