Score one for the puppies.
These cute and clumsy creatures double as media disrupters -- or in this case, dis-RUFF-tors.
In its 11th year, Animal Planet's "Puppy Bowl" returns as one of television's most successful moves in counter-programming. The annual Super Bowl Sunday event begins at 3 p.m., providing an alternative to viewers who are not enthused by the match-up on NBC between the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots.
Last year, "Puppy Bowl X" fetched a whopping 13.5 million viewers.
Although that's a fraction of the Super Bowl audience, it still ranked as one of cable TV's top programs of the year.
"'The Puppy Bowl' was envisioned as the low-impact version of the Super Bowl," Rick Holzman, general manager of Animal Planet, said in an interview with the Times. It debuted in 2005 as a tongue-in-cheek twist on America's favorite game.
"But it really started to take on a life of its own in 2011. That's when the game surpassed 9 million viewers," Holzman said.
Animal Planet, part of Discovery Communications, had upped its game on social media to promote the event, which also promotes the adoption of abandoned pets.
"Now, Puppy Bowl has become part of the pop culture fabric of the Super Bowl," Holzman said. The network has a "Puppy Bowl Cafe" in Super Bowl Central in downtown Phoenix, complete with puppies that are available for adoption.
The event helped unleash a puppy trend. "In recent years, we have seen more advertisers use puppies in their Super Bowl commercials," Holzman said.
The stars of this year's "Puppy Bowl" are 85 homeless dogs, between the ages of 12 weeks and 21 weeks, who came to Animal Planet through rescue groups and shelters. All of the puppies are available for adoption.
Fifty-five canines are expected to make the starting line-up.
The cheerleaders? Five Nigerian dwarf goats. Katty Purry will perform at half-time, provided she doesn't get too bored. Katty is a cat wearing a blue wig a la Katy Perry, who is the main attraction for the actual Super Bowl half-time act.
Animal Planet employs 17 cameras, including GoPros cameras, for the event. There are 60 crew members, 50 volunteers and 65 puppy escorts.
No need for energy drinks or a barrel of Gatorade. Animal Planet trucked in 15 pounds of dry dog food, one case of wet dog food, six pounds of cat food and two cases of water. Instead of a locker room there will be 20 pounds of cat litter, 1,200 puppy pads and 315 poop bags.
Oh yes, and 200 dog toys. (Not deflated -- yet).
Animal Planet won't be the only media outlet trying to disrupt the NFL's main event. Google's YouTube is staging its own half-time show from its studios in Playa Vista in Los Angeles. YouTube's online show will be studded with stunts, perhaps even people diving into a big vat of nacho cheese.
And there's even fur-competition. Hallmark Channel is putting its spin on Super Bowl Sunday, staging "Kitten Bowl II," which begins at noon with its participants doing their best to eclipse the cuteness of the "Puppy Bowl" players.
"We like to say that there are a lot of copykats," Animal Planet's Holzman said. "But the world is a big enough place for that."