Exclusive: First look at Discovery's social TV strategy for next month's 'Shark Week'

By Natan Edelsburg 

Shark Week is getting closer and closer (cue Jaws music), set to premiere Sunday August 12 at 9 p.m. Discovery has already begun to build hype around the big 25th Anniversary with a live stream from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. every day. That’s just the beginning. Lost Remote has learned the details of the networks social TV strategy for the upcoming week of “jawsome” programming.

Nearly a year ago Discovery’s social TV strategy included an update to their iPad app and a co-viewing section on their website. Now the network is making digital and social an intricate part to the fin-tastic programming they have ready. We spoke with Discovery Channel’s Director of Social Media Matt Chun about their new strategy, which includes more social photo sharing, social games and fan engagement.

Lost Remote: What’s the social TV strategy for Shark Week this year? How is it different than last?

Matt Chun: Shark Week is celebrating 25 years this August and, across all teams, we’re looking to give it as much bite as possible. While already a pop culture icon, the mandate this year is to engage our audiences on all screens for the entire week. From a social perspective, we have built in entertaining activation opportunities into our social strategy, challenging our “fin-atics” to show us their fandom… and making that enjoyable and rewarding.

While there are many layers, viewers will be given daily, real-life photo challenges, gamification opportunities (like Shark Week bingo at SharkWeek.com) and our signature, personality-filled real-time engagement across social platforms. Although we had more than 750,000 Tweets last year, there is an opportunity to further cement Shark Week‘s relevance in the greater pop culture canon. Therefore, we are also investing in creating shareable, contextually relevant pieces of content that honor this unique position.

LR: What partners are you working with?

Chun: We’re very fortunate to be able to bring in unique partners to the Shark Week experience – online and in real life. For example, we’ve been partnering with GetGlue for almost two years and will be offering limited-edition stickers and opportunities to win jawsome prizes. We’ll also continue to build on the success we’ve had with our Shark Week Socialcam channel, bringing fans classic shark clips and even video from our live, 360-degree Shark Cam.

Additionally, social media plays a key role in several of our non-social media partnerships, such as our pop-up shop in Los Angeles with Bolt Barbers (offering fans the opportunity for a fin-inspired hairstyle and tasking everyone across the country to create their own) or our special Shark Week cupcakes at Georgetown Cupcakes locations across the U.S. and online. In short, social media is infused in every part of the network’s strategy.

LR: How will any apps be used?

Chun: Last year, we launched Discovery Communications’ first co-viewing app, Shark Week Live. This year, we’ll offer users of our Discovery Channel HD app for iPad a revamped audio-synced viewing experience, Shark Week Plus, with behind-the-scenes information, photos, infographics, quizzes, polls and more.Shark Week Plus will be a fun companion to five Shark Week 2012 premieres:

-Sunday, August 12 at 9pm ET / PT : Air Jaws Apocalypse

-Monday, August 13 at 9pm ET / PT : MythBusters’ Jawsome Shark Special

-Tuesday, August 14 at 9pm ET / PT : How Jaws Changed the World

-Wednesday, August 15 at 9pm ET / PT : Shark Fight

-Thursday, August 16 at 9pm ET / PT : Great White Highway

LR: How will social be integrated with linear broadcasts of Shark Week?

Chun: In addition to encouraging fans to Tweet along by integrating the #SharkWeek hashtag, we’re offering fans the opportunity to see their musings on air, as we feature a live Twitter stream on air in our 9pm and 10pm hours all week – that’s 10 hours of fan-fueled TV!

Additionally, our 8pm ET / PT timeslot will feature Shark Week Reloads, with behind-the-scenes bites that add to some of our fans’ favorite specials, and we may have some other surprises in store.

LR: Is there a Shark Week dictionary?

We certainly have crafted our own vocabulary and signature phrases, which is bound to happen after 25 years. We love creating and discovering new ones, but some of our favorites are:

-Jawsome – Awesome, but with more teeth.

-Fin-atic – Ultimate Shark Week fan; known to host annual Shark Week parties (with homemade food, drink and decorations) or show other extreme levels of fandom (see: SharkWeekCountdown.com).

-Fin-tastic – Amazing, but with more fins.

-Chum – mixture used to attract sharks; someone to watch Shark Week with.

-~~~^~~^~~~: Say hello to our little friends… online.

We’ll definitely be tuning into Shark Week at both the linear and social ratings that will ensue.