August can be a slow month for TV. Good thing for the proliferation of themed weeks.
There's been an abundance of week-long events in recent years dedicated to a variety of topics, including animals (real and magical), weather events and niche interests.
This month alone you can find at least six themed weeks airing on cable networks. The biggest and longest-running, Discovery's "Shark Week," kicks off on Sunday. In its 27th year, the week-long event dedicated to all things sharks helped spawn the theme weeks that now clutter the program guide.
Going head-to-head with "Shark Week" for the second year is Nat Geo Wild's "Sharkfest," which will also kick off on Sunday.
But themes are not just for sharks, or adult viewers. Children's network The Hub, a sibling of Discovery, will join in on the action after "Shark Week" wraps by airing "Bark Week" from Aug. 17 through Aug. 22. The Hub will borrow programming from another sibling, Animal Planet, to run series like "America's Cutest," "It's Me or the Dog," "Bad Dog!" and "Too Cute!" It will also show dog-themed family movies like "101 Dalmatians," "Cats & Dogs" and "Scooby-Doo."
Velocity (yet another Discovery network) aired a "Dream Car Week" July 27 through Aug. 2, setting record ratings for the network.
Sportsman Channel, a network dedicated to outdoor sports like hunting and fishing, is now airing its "Aporkalypse 2014," an entire week spent exploring feral hogs and issues associated with their spread. And Syfy ran its own week-long "Sharknado Week" last week as a launch pad for "Sharknado 2: The Second One." It averaged 1.7 million total viewers in prime-time, 73% above Syfy's usual summer viewership to date, with nearly 26 million people tuning in at some point during the week.
Earlier in the calendar, "Tornado Week" has been a success for Weather Channel over nine years, as has "Monster Week" on Animal Planet.
"By creating a theme week a network has something to create buzz about and promote," said Billie Gold, VP-research and programming, Carat. "They always choose a topic that they know is of high interest to their viewers and to potential new viewers and basically package these shows together as an attention-getting gimmick. And it works."
Last year's "Shark Week" was watched by an average of 2.1 million viewers in prime-time, with 29 million people tuning in to the network at some point to sample programming. It was also the most-watched programming among 18-to-49 year olds for the week, beating out all of broadcast and cable.
Despite the growing plethora of options, theme weeks are still attractive to marketers looking for fun ways to project their brands. Sponsorships typically including funky consumer products and giveaways.
Dunkin' Donuts is the newest "Shark Week" partner, creating a donut this year that looks like a life preserver. It has also reimagined its logo with a missing bite and rolled out the slogan, "Shark Week Runs on Dunkin'."
Cold Stone is a returning sponsor, selling shark-themed ice cream sundaes like "The Shark Week Frenzy," while Southwest Airlines offered a "Shark Week" experience to those flying this summer, which included an exclusive "Shark Week" TV channel on board flights.
And Volkswagen is returning for a third year, incorporating its 2015 Golf TDI Clean Diesel into programming and custom content.
Since it doesn't look like themed weeks are dissipating any time soon, Ad Age has some suggestions for themed weeks we'd like to see on TV.
Naked Week: Naked is the newest trend in reality TV, with shows like VH1's "Dating Naked" and Discovery's "Naked and Afraid." That means it must be time for a full week of clothes-less TV. Of course, we'd expect the Parents Television Council to protest. But really any network could take part. E!, for example, should consider a "Naked Kardashian Week," while ABC could try "The Bachelor: Naked Rose Ceremony." HBO might have the best odds of stringing together a week's worth of programming featuring real nudity, though.
Live Musical Week: NBC is already trying to turn everything into a live musical, most recently with "Today" show host Kathie Lee Gifford announcing she wrote an 18-minute musical that will be performed by the show's cast and crew. Fox also has plans to air a live performance of "Grease." While any show can be turned into a musical, it really could present the best opportunity for CNN as CEO Jeff Zucker looks for a way to bring a splash of entertainment into the cable news network. "CNN Musical Week" could do just that, with Anderson Cooper and co. singing the news all week long. We bet Wolf Blitzer has a nice baritone.
Zombie Week: Surprisingly, this doesn't exist yet. We aren't talking about just airing AMC's "Walking Dead" over and over. Let's incorporate zombies into every show -- zombies posing as ad men in "Mad Men," replacing the girls in HBO's "Girls" and lurking in the background of shows like "Real Housewives." Can you spot the zombie? Nope, that's NeNe Leakes.
"Shark Tank" Week: Since there's already been plenty of iterations of weeks dedicated to sharks, how about another, different kind of shark? Take one entrepreneur on ABC's competition series and lock him or her in a room with perhaps the most outspoken judge on the show, Mark Cuban, for seven days. Let hilarity ensue.
"CSI"/"NCIS" Spin-Off Week: Each procedural is getting yet another spin-off this fall. Leading up to those premieres, let's challenge CBS to create as many iterations of these shows as possible and have them air throughout the week. Possible spin-offs could include, "CSI: Hollywood" and "NCIS: Alaska."