NEW YORK — Shark Week just finished its 33rd edition on Discovery, a television event so old that one advertising executive joked it could have its own children.
But some recent research illustrated its potency in bringing new viewers to the network, something increasingly important in an era where television networks and streaming services are competing furiously for eyeballs.
A study by LG Ads found that during Shark Week last year, 37% of the people who tuned in hadn’t watched Discovery at any point during the previous month. That phenomenon was more pronounced for National Geographic Explorer’s Shark Fest, where 51% of viewers hadn’t seen the network the month before.
For both networks, more than one-third of those new viewers came back for other programming within the next month.
“In a world where cable just doesn’t come on automatically when you turn on your TV, that just is incredibly important,” said Justin Fromm, an executive at LG Ads.
It’s the definition of event programming, which networks use to advertise their wares — as the NBC Universal networks will do starting this Friday with the Olympics.
National Geographic Explorer has actually spread Shark Fest over six weeks, beginning earlier this month. The programming has also been made available over the Disney+ streaming service.
Discovery programs averaged 687,000 viewers in prime time last week, oddly lower than the previous week, although there was competition from the NBA Finals and baseball’s All-Star Game. The first night of Shark Week, July 11, is the most popular and was counted in last week’s Nielsen company figures. Viewing increased among viewers aged 18-to-49, an indication that the network’s audience composition was different than typical weeks.
Benefiting from their sports events, ABC averaged 4.1 million viewers in prime time last week, and Fox had 2.9 million. NBC had 2.6 million, CBS had 2.4 million, Univision had 1.6 million, Ion Television had 1.1 million and Telemundo had 1 million.
Fox News Channel led the cable networks, averaging 2.13 million viewers in prime time. ESPN had 1.35 million, MSNBC had 1.28 million, HGTV had 1.23 million and Hallmark had 1.01 million.
ABC’s “World News Tonight” led the evening news ratings race, averaging 7.6 million viewers. NBC’s “Nightly News” had 6.1 million viewers and the “CBS Evening News” had 4.7 million.
For the week of July 12-18, the 20 most-watched programs, their networks and viewerships:
1. NBA Finals: Phoenix at Milwaukee, Game 4, ABC, 10.26 million.
2. NBA Finals: Milwaukee at Phoenix, Game 5, ABC, 9.62 million.
3. Baseball: All-Star Game, Fox, 9.62 million.
4. “America’s Got Talent,” NBC, 7.1 million.
5. “Home Run Derby,” ESPN, 6.29 million.
6. “60 Minutes,” CBS, 5.96 million.
7. “Celebrity Family Feud,” ABC, 4.84 million.
8. “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” ABC, 3.95 million.
9. “NCIS,” CBS, 3.925 million.
10. “Home Run Derby Prelude,” ESPN, 3.925.
11. “The Chase,” ABC, 3.83 million.
12. “Big Brother” (Thursday), CBS, 3.81 million.
13. “The Bachelorette,” ABC, 3.71 million.
14. Soccer: Mexico vs. El Salvador, Univision, 3.64 million.
15. “Big Brother” (Wednesday), CBS, 3.63 million.
16. “NBA Countdown” (Wednesday), ABC, 3.5 million.
17. “Big Brother” (Sunday), CBS, 3.49 million.
18. “The Neighborhood,” CBS, 3.36 million.
19. “American Ninja Warrior,” NBC, 3.32 million.
20. “To Tell the Truth,” ABC, 3.26 million.