Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl 2014 is the 10th anniversary edition of the hugely popular (12.4 million viewers last year) Super Bowl Sunday counter-programming event. Puppy Bowl helped popularize the trend of networks airing special programming “bowls,” and Puppy Bowl X will now also have cute competition from Hallmark Channel’s first Kitten Bowl, airing on the same day (Feb. 2).
How does Animal Planet look to stay leader of the pack with Puppy Bowl X? Aside from the usual cuddly canine competitors and the Kitty Halftime Show, Puppy Bowl 2014 will have new additions, including penguin cheerleaders and even the first Fantasy Puppy League, to launch on Animal Planet’s website later in January. The Fantasy Puppy League will allow fans to view profiles of 11 all-star puppy players and create a team ahead of the big game. Then, on the day of Puppy Bowl X, fantasy leaguers can keep track of how their furry teams are doing, with live stat updates onscreen and a leaderboard online.
Perhaps trying to head off the feline competition from Hallmark, Puppy Bowl 2014 will feature appearances by celebrity cats Keyboard Cat (performing during the Kitty Halftime Show) and Lil BUB.
Dan Schachner is back for his third year as referee in Puppy Bowl 2014, and Meep the Bird will again tweet as a sideline reporter. Familiar elements such as the water bowl cam, slow-motion “Too Cute” cam and an aerial view of the field (via a blimp with hamster pilots) will also return. Fans can vote for the Puppy Bowl X MVP online, with Animal Planet stating that viewers can directly affect a new ending of each broadcast (it airs six times) by helping crown the MVP in real time during each broadcast.
Ultimately, the Puppy Bowl is only as good as its puppies — and they are invariably adorable. This year, the network says that 66 rambunctious pups will take the field over the course of the Puppy Bowl. Among them are these members of the Puppy Bowl X Starting Lineup:
Brody — 15-week-old American Eskimo (pictured left)
Loren — 14-week-old Brittany Spaniel mix
Cici — 13-week-old German Shepherd mix
Aurora — 12-week-old Dalmatian
Shyla — 14-week-old Great Pyrenees
Ullie — 12-week-old Chihuahua dachshund mix
Laney — 13-week-old Brittany Spaniel mix
Bach — 14-week-old Bernedoodle
Suri — 14-week-old Siberian husky
Ginger — 12-week-old Old English sheepdog (pictured left)
Mandy — 17-week-old dachshund hound mix
Lily — 13-week-old basset hound
Pong — 12-week-old Havanese Shih Tzu mix
Danny — 12-week-old Papillon mix
Puppy Bowl X premieres Feb. 2 at 3pm ET/PT on Animal Planet. The special is two hours, and is repeated five consecutive times after its initial airing.
Puppy Bowl X: Damian Strohmeyer/Animal Planet