Sunday's Other Bowl Game: Inside Discovery's Puppy Bowl XVIII

While millions of households will be tuned in on Sunday to watch the Los Angeles Rams take on the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI, other households will be viewing Team Ruff battling Team Fluff in the day’s other annual event, Puppy Bowl XVIII, on Discovery Communications Inc.’s DISCA Animal Planet cable network and Discovery+ streaming service.

Doggone Cute: The first Puppy Bowl was broadcast on Feb. 6, 2005, as an alternative viewing experience to the Super Bowl juggernaut that muscled out all other programming on game day. Margo Kent, the executive producer for Puppy Bowl I, recalled in a 2014 Rolling Stone interview, “It was always a joke: How do you counter the Super Bowl? Let's just put a box of puppies up there and call it a day. It's not worth trying to go against the Super Bowl.”

Tapping its canine cast from animal shelters around the country, Puppy Bowl served a double purpose of advocating for dog adoptions while offering those who had no interest in football with a happy distraction of playful puppies.

While the Puppy Bowl game is supposed to be a send-up of an NFL match, it mostly seems improvised as the game progresses. There are endless dog-related puns throughout the broadcast, such as “paws interference” when one puppy gets too rambunctious with his adversary, and the winning team aims for the Lombarky Trophy (a riff on the Super Bowl’s Lombardi Trophy).

Over the years, the Puppy Bowl has brought in other animals to spice up the proceedings: a kitten half-time show has been a staple of the event since its second incarnation and squads of rabbits, chickens, hedgehogs and penguins have cycled in and out over the years as cheerleaders.

Needless to say, Puppy Bowl productions are complex and need to be pre-recorded. The average production is shot three months in advance over a two-day span with 17 cameras on the puppies. Some of the footage that gets deleted involves on-field mishaps — many of the puppies are not paper-trained athletes.

Canine Champions: Last year’s Puppy Bowl drew 2.1 million viewers, up from the previous year’s 1.85 million. And while Super Bowl LV attracted 96.4 million viewers for ViacomCBS Inc VIAC, it was also the lowest watched Super Bowl since 2007.

This year's teams consist of more than 100 puppies from 67 shelters in 33 states, and the show's advertiser base is led by Berkshire Hathaway Inc.'s (NYSE: BRK-A) GEICO unit, which has naming rights to the Puppy Bowl “stadium.” Other official sponsors for Puppy Bowl XVIII include Church & Dwight Co., Inc.'s CHD Arm and Hammer Clump and Seal cat litter, Chewy Inc. CHWY, Home Depot Inc. HD, Subaru FUJHYPedigree Petfoods, Bissell, and the Yellow Tail wine brand.

The three-hour Puppy Bowl XVIII production is also bringing in two-legged guest stars, Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg, as team “coaches.” The only other human on camera is "rufferee" Dan Schachner. Snoop Dogg is also part of the Super Bowl LVI half-time show, making him the rare crossover participant between the two shows.

Puppy Bowl XVIII airs on Feb. 13 at 2 p.m. ET.

Related Link: How You Can Get A Free NFT Of The Puppy Bowl

Photo: Discovery Inc.

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