×

Discovery Defends Michael Phelps ‘Shark Week’ Special After Backlash

The Discovery Channel has defended its recent Michael PhelpsShark Week” special after some viewers complained the Olympian did not race head-to-head with a real great white shark.

“In ‘Phelps vs Shark’ we enlisted world class scientists to take up the challenge of making the world’s greatest swimmer competitive with a Great White,” Discovery said in a statement to Variety. “The show took smart science and technology to make the challenge more accessible and fun. All the promotion, interviews and the program itself made clear that the challenge wasn’t a side by side race. During Michael’s pre-show promotion, as well as within the first 2 minutes of ‘Phelps vs Shark,’ this message was clear and we are thrilled with the audience and the engagement around the world.”

In the special–which kicked off Discovery’s annual week of shark-themed programming–scientists determined the top swimming speed of a great white, and then showed Phelps swimming against a CGI shark based on the data collected. Phelps lost the race by just two seconds.

Viewers were upset, believing that Phelps was going to get into the water with a real shark. CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish wrote on Twitter, “Turns out ‘Michael Phelps races a shark’ was really just ‘Michael Phelps swims alone and then compares his time to a shark’s time.'” Others chimed in as well, saying they felt “robbed” or misled about the special.

Phelps requested a rematch shortly after the special aired.

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Conan O'Brien

    Why Conan O'Brien Moved Beyond Late-Night TV

    When Conan O’Brien signed his latest deal with TBS, he didn’t just agree to keep his late-night talk show on the air for another four years. In addition to hosting “Conan,” he promised to create digital content, podcasting, live tours, and other forms of entertainment. It wasn’t just an attempt to make more money or [...]

  • WWE NXT

    WWE's 'NXT' Moves to USA Network as Wrestling Competition Heats Up

    WWE has struck a deal to move its “NXT” franchise focusing on rising stars to USA Network starting next month. “NXT” will shift to USA from the WWE Network subscription streaming service as of Sept. 18. The deal comes as USA is about to lose WWE’s “SmackDown” showcase to Fox starting in October. USA is [...]

  • Conan O'Brien Needs a Friend Podcast

    Conan O'Brien on Podcasting and Why Late-Night TV Rivalries Are Over

    “Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend” is an irresistible mixture of philosophical discussions about art and life and pure zaniness. It’s a program from the late-night host turned podcasting ringmaster that defies easy characterization, and a show that manages to move seamlessly from moments of hilarity to unexpected instances of confession. In one episode, Jeff Goldblum [...]

  • Hollywood Recession Business Placeholder

    How an Economic Downturn Could Ravage Hollywood

    Trade-war fears, stock market volatility and, most recently, bond market signals that point to a pending recession are rattling investors, igniting concerns that another devastating downturn may be just around the corner. As those worries reverberate all the way from Wall Street to Hollywood, the entertainment industry is in for an unsettling reminder of the [...]

  • Apple TV Plus

    Apple TV Plus Will Cost $9.99 per Month, to Launch in November (Report)

    Apple is reportedly looking to launch the Apple TV Plus subscription-video service in November — around when Disney Plus is set to debut — for $9.99 per month. Apple TV Plus will bow in November with a “small selection” of shows, Bloomberg reported, citing anonymous sources. At $9.99, which analysts have guessed would be the [...]

  • RuPaul Charles - Outstanding Reality -

    RuPaul Charles to Receive Variety's Vanguard Award at Mipcom

    “RuPaul’s Drag Race” leader RuPaul Charles has been tapped to receive the Variety Vanguard Award at the Mipcom international TV sales conference, set for Oct. 14-17 in Cannes. The award recognizes television industry leaders who have made a significant contribution to the global business of entertainment. Charles has hosted and executive produced the VH1 franchise “RuPaul’s Drag [...]

  • The Tempest review all female

    Harriet Walter Joins 'Killing Eve' as Third Season Begins Production

    British actress Harriet Walter has joined the cast of BBC America’s multi-award winning “Killing Eve” for its third season, which began production this week. Danny Sapani has also been announced to join the cast of the show, which stars Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer. The Olivier Award-winning and Tony-nominated Walter recently finished production on Julian [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content