How Warner Bros. Discovery Brings All Its Brands Aboard for ‘Shark Week,’ From ‘House of the Dragon’ to ‘Beetlejuice Beetlejuice’ to DC Studios

How Warner Bros. Discovery Brings All Its Brands Aboard for ‘Shark Week,’ From ‘House of the Dragon’ to ‘Beetlejuice Beetlejuice’ to DC Studios

The recent “Shark Week” tradition of having a DC Universe superhero host the beloved Discovery Channel event continues this year when “Peacemaker’s” John Cena kicks off the festivities this Sunday. Cena’s gig as emcee comes after “Aquaman” Jason Momoa’s turn last year, and “Black Adam” star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s two-year stint before that. The difference between Cena and his predecessors was his lack of shark education.

“One of the interesting things about John is that, and he admitted this from the beginning, he really didn’t know a lot about sharks,” U.S. networks chief marketing officer Karen Bronzo told Variety of Cena, who is also tied to the WBD family as host of TBS’ “Wipeout.” And part of the mission of ‘Shark Week’ is to celebrate these amazing creatures and educate people about these creatures. And so he was really excited to come along for the ride with us, which was really gave us a whole different angle than we had last year with Jason Momoa, who was really interested in that topic, and knew a fair amount about it.”

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“Shark Week” premiere night will feature four specials, beginning with “Belly of the Beast: Bigger and Bloodier” at 8 p.m., with titles throughout the week including “Big Shark Energy,” “6,000 Lb. Shark,” “Sharktopia” and “Mothersharker: Hammer Time,” among others.

Bronzo notes the “great collaboration” between the WBD US networks team (run by chairman and CEO Kathleen Finch) and James Gunn and Peter Safran’s team at DC Studios to make Cena and all the DC-cross promotion work for this year’s “Shark Week.” But it wasn’t that hard to get DC on board, per Safran, who relished the opportunity.

“John Cena is going to be an amazing host for ‘Shark Week,’ and we are so thrilled with the ways ‘Peacemaker’ and DC are incorporated into this year’s iconic event,” co-chairman and CEO of DC Studios Peter Safran told Variety. “Thanks to Kathleen, Karen and the entire Shark Week team for their creativity and collaboration.”

But DC’s involvement is just the tip of iceberg when it comes to the synergy efforts Warner Bros. Discovery — which was formed out of the merger between Discovery and WarnerMedia in April 2022 — puts in around the annual summer programming block.

“What we’ve learned since we’ve been one company for the last two years is really how to work together in the most organic and authentic way,” Bronzo said. “In the very beginning, I think we did a lot of stuff because we felt like we had to, and it maybe wasn’t the greatest fit to do co-promotions for certain things. Over time, we’ve learned that what the audience responds to and what the brands feel the most comfortable with are the things that are most organic.”

Bronzo explains the WBD US networks marketing team’s process for Discovery’s “Shark Week” begins with briefing all sister networks and companies — “but we don’t tell people what to do.” “We say, you go home, you go you think about it, and then you come back to us and tell us what makes sense,” Bronzo said. “And by doing that, that’s how we get the best ideas. We would never have gotten there ourselves, but because they figured out the right way that would be really resonating with the audience for those specific brands, that’s when we really have the best outcomes for all of us.”

These efforts resulted in a co-branded promo with “House of the Dragon,” a TV spot for Warner Bros.’ “Beetlejuice Beetlejuice,” featuring sharks singing the iconic “Banana Boat (Day-O)” and star Winona Ryder (which you can view in the video above before it debuts on linear networks), Bleacher Report’s “Storytime” focused on Kobe Bryant and his love of sharks, a special episode of CNN’s “The Whole Story with Anderson Cooper” focused on ocean conservation, AEW’s shark-themed match on TBS, Food Network’s shark-inspired episode of “Summer Baking Championship” and a tie-in social media promo video featuring King Shark from “Suicide Squad.”

In turn, “Shark Week” — which boasts an audience 10 years younger than the average Discovery viewer, and in 2023 increased the number of people who did not watch Discovery in the prior six weeks by 49% with its lineup — is used to drive audiences there for the sharks to those other properties. Think of it as the advertising version of the symbiotic relationship between sharks and their parasite-eating remora.

“We grew last year in a linear environment. There’s something to be said for that; it’s really, really exciting,” Bronzo said. “And it gives us the opportunity to introduce this fresh, younger audience, to a lot of the other priorities across the company: the current season of ‘House of the Dragon,’ ‘Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire’ launching on Max, and ‘Beetlejuice Beetlejuice.’ Those, plus priorities across the U.S. networks portfolio, including ‘Barbecue Brawl,’ new ‘Impractical Jokers’ premiering. So we really do curate that week very strategically to make sure that we’re putting our most important properties front and center.”

Off screen, WBD has been trying to hook consumers into “Shark Week 2024” through partnerships with MLB, Georgetown Cupcakes, Playa Bowls, Beneath the Waves and Southwest Airlines, among others.

Bronzo, who says they will begin planning for “Shark Week 2025” as soon as this one wraps, is already eyeing next year’s host — and is looking beyond the DC talent lineup. She also “absolutely foresees female hosts in the future,” after more than a decade of men heading up the event.

“One of the things we’ve always been very conscious of, especially in bringing on the other experts that we have with the host, is making sure that we have diversity, that we have women voices, that we have diverse voices,” Bronzo said.

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