Do you have burning shark-related questions that you want answered? Of course you do: it's Shark Week.
Well, you're in luck. Discovery's "Shark Week," the annual week-long devotion to all things sleek and, well, shark-related, is in full swing. And, this year, the company is adding something new to its extensive coverage plan -- live video chat.
Live video has been part of Shark Week for a few years now -- last year, streams pulled in more than 67,000 unique viewers. But shark-lovers this year can tune into the live camera at the National Aquarium's Blacktip Reef Shark tank not only to watch the sharks swim, but also to chat live with scheduled experts who will be fielding questions underwater. The next show will be at 3:20 p.m. on Tuesday, and viewers can submit questions on Discovery's chat or via Twitter using the hashtag #SharkDiverChat.
Or you can just tune in and watch the sharks.
Streaming video has really had its moment in the sun this year, bursting in popularity thanks to apps such as Periscope and Meerkat, plus the success of sites such as Twitch. Brands and individuals alike have turned to live video in a big way to make real-time connections.
Discovery, for example, is reaching out to viewers and the scientific community this year as part of a push to be more authentic and educational, said Jason Robey, executive interactive producer on the Shark Week team. "The shark cams and live Q&A are important to that strategy," he said, also highlighting online efforts such as Discovery's "Sharkopedia" -- a collection of shark facts -- and a library of online clips.
The chat could also help Discovery reach out to younger viewers, as the demographics for Shark Week in general tend to be on the younger side, Robey said. "That's part of why we've built such a juggernaut on the digital and social side," he said.
The camera footage is being streamed in partnership with UStream, a live video company that's been around since 2007 and has partnered with Discovery and its Animal Planet channel in the past to supply live footage for Shark Week and other events.
The steady rise of interest in streaming video has been interesting to watch over the years, said Ustream's chief executive Brad Hunstable. And traditional media companies such as Discovery are not the only ones to taken up the charge, he said. Ustream has also been getting more interest from firms that don't normally broadcast anything and that are looking to streaming video to run webinars, share product launches and more.
"We've done things with Intuit and Home Depot," he said. "With our company, a significant portion of it comes from enterprises."
Still, Discovery's Shark Week offers up a prime example of what Hunstable called "supplemental TV content," in which channels can offer extra content on your phone that goes beyond what's on TV.
In the future, Hunstable said, he expects that virtual reality will become an equally important part of the enhanced viewing experience. Imagine, if you could "swim" around the shark tank yourself -- without risk to you or any animals that may come in contact with your flippers, he said.
"You could imagine a day where this is done with virtual reality, and you could be in the aquarium," he said. "That's not too far in the future."