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Comcast Hooks 'Shark’ Premiere

Discovery Channel has plunged into premiering popular shows on demand, developing an extensive multiplatform campaign with Comcast Corp. around the 19th annual “Shark Week” stunt.

The prize catch: the on-demand premiere of an uncut show, Shark Rebellion, 10 days before it debuts on Discovery that is flanked by an array of customized short- and long-form programming available to the biggest U.S. cable company’s approximately 10 million digital-video customers.

“The goal is to take our VOD to the next level,” Jennifer Dangar, vice president of new media distribution at Discovery Networks, said. The programmer already makes available 75 hours of on-demand content per month.

She said Discovery Networks plans to make on-demand programming premieres a monthly feature, working with more affiliates and showcasing content from its stable of networks on a rotating basis.

TLC will be up in August, she said, declining to disclose which of the channel’s offerings will debut on-demand.

Discovery also plans quarterly on-demand premieres within the context of multiplatform specials like Shark Week. Coming up: a push behind the debut of China Revealed, the first installment in the 60-episode, high-definition series Atlas.

Available to Comcast On Demand customers on July 20 (before the Aug. 3 Discovery Channel debut), Shark Rebellion examines why there have been 45 attacks over the past decade off the Brazilian city of Recife — after only one attack in the prior 75 years.

Comcast’s Discovery on Demand folder also contains behind-scenes shorts; 10 exclusive episodic vignettes dubbed “Shark Bites”; a video diary from host Mike Rowe (of Discovery’s Dirty Jobs) and four “classic” Shark Week shows.

Additional episodes during the July 30-Aug. 4 stunt will swim to Comcast On Demand after they air on Discovery.

The “Dive Into Shark Week” campaign also includes a Shark Week microsite on Web portal Local ad sales efforts, including sweepstakes and a host of premiums and promotional materials, and hundreds of Comcast cross-channel spots will provide support.

Comcast senior vice president and general manager of video products Page Thompson praised the comprehensive effort. “We want to continue to collaborate with networks to drive promotional opportunities for their programming and provide us with great on-demand product,” he said. “Our research with Nielsen shows that VOD can have a positive impact on linear programming.”

Shark Rebellion also will be in the preview loop on Comcast’s on-demand barker channel. ”We sometimes see doubling and trebling of on-demand viewing for shows featured there,” Thompson said.

Comcast has worked before with VH1 (Hogan Knows Best), TBS (Return to Gilligan’s Island), Noggin (Franklin’s Magic Christmas Movie), and others, to premiering basic-cable fare on demand.

Last summer, cable’s longest-running stunt performed well, attracting 20.6 million viewers. Shark Week averaged a 1.5 household rating from July 17-21, 2005, its best showing since 2001.