Hallmark Channel announced today that it will be launching an annual event franchise called Kitten Bowl, starting Feb. 2, 2014 — Super Bowl Sunday. If the idea of cute little animals running around as alternative viewing to Super Bowl pre-game shows sounds familiar, it may be because you are thinking of Animal Planet’s very successful Puppy Bowl, which will be entering its 10th year on that very same day next year. It looks like the two networks will be going at it like cats and dogs for ratings in the near future.
While Animal Planet does feature kitties in its Puppy Bowl during the halftime show (they’ve also begun including a variety of small pets, including hedgehogs, bunnies, etc. on the sidelines), puppies, as the show’s name implies, are certainly the main attraction. But has the canine focus potentially turned off a significant portion of other viewers, the cat-loving crowd? Perhaps that is what Hallmark Channel is thinking. They are giving the entire three hours of their Kitten Bowl to the cats, and the concept is a bit different from the Puppy Bowl. Whereas the pups in Puppy Bowl are allowed to pretty much run around and do whatever dogs at play will do, Kitten Bowl will be structured as a cat agility competition.
“The agility competition,” says a Hallmark Channel release, “will consist of a basic obstacle course of hurdles of varying heights, A-frame Alpine Scratchers, tunnels, hoop jumps, and weave poles. Lures, like laser pointers, and toys on a string will be used to get the kittens through the course, but food will not be allowed. Cat agility competitions, which are modeled after the equestrian sport of show jumping, normally include rules which state that cats must complete a course in under 270 seconds, completing each obstacle in a prescribed manner. In a typical feline agility contest, a cat would complete between six and fourteen obstacles, with winning cats completing the course in ten seconds or less. In ‘Kitten Bowl,’ however, the competitors are kittens, and any form of cuteness is the key to the game.”
Aside from the format, another difference between Kitten Bowl and Puppy Bowl will be the start time. With Puppy Bowl historically starting at 3pm ET/PT on Super Bowl Sunday, Hallmark Channel is perhaps hoping to get a jump on the pups and catch viewers’ eyeballs by starting their event at 12pm ET/PT. It will then repeat every three hours until 9pm ET/PT, while Puppy Bowl generally repeats until 3am the next day. We’ll see if Animal Planet plays defense on this and decides to move the start of Puppy Bowl up, or if they feel confident enough in their franchise at this point to believe that viewers will tune in to them once the first airing of Kitten Bowl is done.
One thing Hallmark Channel seems to have learned form Puppy Bowl is the idea of cross-marketing for their network. As Animal Planet started doing with this past Puppy Bowl, Hallmark Channel will be incorporating some of their network talent into the proceedings, namely “top-tier” stars from Hallmark Original Movies, according to the release. Unlike the Animal Planet event, though, where their talent simply commented on the events occasionally, Hallmark says Kitten Bowl talent will actually suit up as judges, referees and sideline trainers.
Animal lovers also needn’t worry about the welfare of the kitties in Kitten Bowl, says Hallmark, as the release mentions that the annual event is supported by the American Humane Association, which is the network’s animal welfare partner. Kitten Bowl is part of Hallmark’s Pet Project initiative, and like the Puppy Bowl, Kitten Bowl will feature adoptable animals from rescue associations and shelters.
In a first for Hallmark Channel, the network says they will be asking viewers at home to vote via social media for the MVK (Most Valuable Kitten) of Kitten Bowl.
So what do you think? Will Kitten Bowl fill a void for cat lovers? Will it be a ratings threat to Puppy Bowl? Or is it just a nice complement and addition to programming for animal lovers? If you enjoy Puppy Bowl, will you watch Kitten Bowl? Can Puppy Bowl and Kitten Bowl peacefully live together?
The first Kitten Bowl premieres Feb. 2, 2014, at 12pm ET/PT, and repeats every three hours until 9pm, on Hallmark Channel. It will be an annual special.
Kitten Bowl photo courtesy of Hallmark Channel