So Discovery brought Shark Week back the following year with even more shows including “Shark: Maneater or Myth?”, “Shark Hunters of Achill Island” and “Sharks of San Francisco.” Now, the cultural phenomenon that Stephen Colbert once deemed “One of the two holiest of holidays.,” has become the longest-running programming block in cable television history, pulling in an audience of more than 20 million views every year since 1995. So why has Shark Week made such a splash? It all starts with a killer subject that both frightens and fascinates people, says Shark Week host Paul De Gelder. Of course, America’s obsession with sharks didn’t begin with Shark Week – it dates back to the 1975 Steven Spielberg movie “Jaws,” says Marc Berman, TV analyst and creator of the Programming Insider. Discovery holds a special place in shark history thanks to the fact that it gets some of the best footage of sharks. Whether we’re scared or not quite sure how we feel about the great sea predators, Shark Week still has got many people hooked. Viewers were able to get live footage of great white sharks launching themselves 15 feet above water for the first time in the 2001 “Air Jaws” feature – the fourth most-watched Shark Week special. During last year’s special, Olympic medalist Michael Phelps squared off against a CGI shark, and racked in more than 5 million viewers nation-wide, making it the most watched Shark Week special ever.
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