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Animal Planet ‘Takes On’ Sports

2/28/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

Animal Planet is stepping into the
sports arena with the launch of two new reality series,
but network officials say the new genre play
won’t sideline its core animal-loving viewers.

Once known for light, family friendly shows
like Crocodile Hunter before recently adding drama-
themed reality shows like Whale Wars, Animal
Planet will take another programming turn
into sports themes with the March 6 launch of
Taking on Tyson. Later this summer comes Hillbilly
Handfishin’
, a series that takes a unique look
at the outdoor-sports genre, according to Animal
Planet Media president and general manager
Marjorie Kaplan.

Taking on Tyson, about former heavyweight
boxing champion Mike Tyson’s attempts to compete
in the relatively unknown sport of pigeon racing, is expected
to drive more male viewers to the network, although
Kaplan says the current audience is virtually split 50-50
between male and female viewers.

Hillbilly Handfishin’ follows “self-proclaimed hillbilly”
Skipper Bivins, who catches catfish using his
own fingers and toes as lures. While that sounds maleskewing,
Kaplan said the show
should also appeal to female
viewers: When the pilot aired
in 2010, women viewers outnumbered
men.

GOAL: AUDIENCE BOOST

Despite the sports themes, Kaplan
said the two series will
appeal to a broad audience of
male and female viewers, and
hopefully will increase the
network’s 2010 average primetime
audience of 590,000 total
viewers.

“Our goal is to bring in both
women and men … For us, it’s
not really a gender issue,” Kaplan
said. “It’s about storytelling.
We know men and women
both want to dive into these
worlds and have real, visceral
experiences in their entertainment.”

As with the popular Whale
Wars
, Kaplan said she doesn’t
feel the move into sports will
alienate the core audience of
pet lovers. “Of course, these
shows are an opportunity to
broaden our audience, but at
the same time we think people
who want animal-themed
shows will find plenty to engage
them.”

Animal Planet also is gearing
up a summer reality series focusing
on a family-run, aquarium-
building business. Tanked
will center on Las Vegas-based
Acrylic Tank Manufacturing
(ATM), run by brothers-in-law
Brett Raymer and Wayde King,
officials said. The company
specializes in building unique
aquariums, fi lled with unusual
creatures, for celebrities and ordinary
Joes alike.

September