Puppies are adorable. American is obsessed with football. Put them together, and it’s the Animal Planet Puppy Bowl, a can’t-miss event each Super Bowl Sunday.
It started as a joke. With nearly every TV in America tuned in to the National Football League’s Super Bowl each year, other networks are lucky to get some scraps.
So Animal Planet tried an experiment in 2005: What if they filmed puppies wandering around on a patch of carpet fixed up to look like a football field?
“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,” executive producer Margo Kent explained to Rolling Stone in 2014.
Since then, sponsors have lined up and made the parody of the big football game something of an event itself. (Besides, Bissell knows cleaning up onfield “accidents” is a better marketing tactic than boring infomercials.)
The initial broadcast begins around noon on Super Bowl Sunday, then repeats several times over in a loop, with the “game’s” MVP changing based on online votes.
“It’s the biggest event of the year,” Discovery Communications President of Ad Sales Ben Price told Fortune in February. “It’s been growing every year since it started, and this year will be a record revenue growth.”
The event takes two days to film and involves more than 60 Discovery Communications employees.
Vox has a really detailed history of the program that’s worth a read, and Paul Lukas at Uni Watch has covered the behind-the-scenes workings of the event in 2015 and 2018. Lukas currently is attending the filming of 2019’s Puppy Bowl XV, so there will be another piece on the game closer to Super Bowl Sunday.
As time has gone on, things have gradually become more elaborate, as in the early years puppies essentially wandered around the room, often confused. But then writing and editing turned it into more of a parody of a football game, complete with punny penalties (pass inter-fur-ence, intentional ruffness) and scoring.
Halftime musical performances have included Kitty Purry and KittenSync, and a variety of non-dogs fill various roles throughout the telecast.
The rules are a little looser – any toy dragged across either goal line counts as a touchdown, and a ball kicked through the goal posts is a field goal. Beginning in 2015, actual competition was introduced as the puppies were divided into Team Fluff and Team Ruff.
Participating players are shelter dogs between 12 and 21 weeks old at the time of filming, who must be vaccinated and well-behaved. Many of them are already adopted by the time the program airs, but the program serves as an important tool in raising awareness for dogs at shelters nationwide.
Last year there was a spinoff event held called the Dog Bowl, which featured shelter dogs between 2 and 15 years old, who were divided into Team Paws and Team Tails.
Discovery Communications is the parent company of Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, Food Network, History Channel, HGTV and the Travel Channel, among others.