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April 4, 2013

Animal Planet returns

NEW YORK (AP) — Animal Planet wants to help you tap into your inner wild.

That’s the network’s message as it unveils 11 new shows along with 20 returning favorites in the season ahead.

Never fear: Super Bowl Sunday’s wildly popular “Puppy Bowl” is right where it belongs on the network’s slate (to be officially announced to advertisers today).

And there will be more awww-some cuteness on “Animal BFFs,” a new series that will document the love of odd-couple chums in the animal kingdom.

On the other hand, “Polar Bear Crossing” will transport viewers to Manitoba, Canada, where the human population of the tiny town of Churchill is outnumbered by its not-always-so-neighborly cohabitants: polar bears.

“Underworld” dives into underwater caves around the world, where mysteries lurk that were previously witnessed by few if any humans, and where danger is as prevalent as wonders.

And don’t forget Billy and Ami Brown, who, with their seven children, have taken residence deep in Alaska’s wilderness. For this “Alaska Bush Family,” a harsh environment, dangerous critters and a challenging terrain are just part of everyday family life.

Going wild is the latest step for Animal Planet, which previously recognized people as part of its animal equation with its “Surprisingly Human” push.

“There is no animal planet and human planet — it’s all ONE planet,” says Marjorie Kaplan, the network’s president and general manager. “So we decided to tell the human stories that happen at that intersection.”

It worked. In 2012, the network grew by 17 percent among viewers in the 25-to-54 demographic, and by 23 percent among men 25 to 54. It was the network’s most-watched year among total viewers.

“But then we asked ourselves, is there more elbow room in this brand?” says Kaplan. “The intersection of human and animal is really about the connection of humans to the wild. We’re not getting rid of our animals, but there are places we can explore that are about how we, as humans, live on this wild planet.”

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