Animal Planet Calls Hallmark Channel’s ‘Puppy Bowl’ Rip-Off a ‘Copy Cat’

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When the dogs are away, the cats will play — just on a different channel

The fur is surely flying between Animal Planet and the Hallmark Channel — the networks behind the “Puppy Bowl” franchise and upstart “Kitten Bowl,” respectively.

Both cable channels spoke out to TheWrap about their head-to-head competition on Super Bowl Sunday.

“With the record-breaking success of Animal Planet’s ‘Puppy Bowl,’ our famous Kitty Half-Time Show and the huge viewership for our live Kitten Cam, we’re not surprised by a ‘copy cat,'” an Animal Planet spokesman told TheWrap, “After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”

In February, all eyes will turn to the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area’s Met Life stadium for the big game and its equally big commercials. At halftime though, many of those eyes — and clicker fingers — will shift to Animal Planet’s “Puppy Bowl” for an overdose of cuteness.

Also read: Howard Stern’s Wife to Host First-Ever Kitten Bowl

“Puppy Bowl” returns for its tenth — yes, tenth — installment. Since 2006, the romping marathon “game” featuring big paws and small bodies has had its own halftime show, featuring equally adorable kittens. But now the Hallmark Channel is getting in on the action with “Kitten Bowl,” and Animal Planet is not exactly finding it to be a coincidence.

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What’s perhaps worse is that Hallmark’s “Kitten Bowl” is under-cutting Animal Planet’s “Puppy Bowl” by three hours. The new feline version kicks off at noon, the canine one at 3 p.m.

The claws may be coming out a little bit, but puns-ahead Animal Planet is playing nice, at least publicly: “We’re just happy that pet adoption is being promoted and more animals are finding their fur-ever homes,” the network told TheWrap.

The Hallmark Channel announced Monday that the “Kitten Bowl” will be hosted by Beth Stern, Howard Stern’s wife. Play-by-play will be provided by the radio voice of the New York Yankees, John Sterling. The competitive product will also run on a long repetitive loop.

“We thought kittens should have their day,” a Hallmark Channel spokesperson told TheWrap. “‘Kitten Bowl’  is part of the network’s animal advocacy campaign, Pet Project, which is designed to shine a spotlight on and make a difference in this country’s epidemic of pet homelessness, while celebrating the many gifts pets bring to our lives every day. The kitties participating in ‘Kitten Bowl’ will be adopted to loving families…making puppies and kittens, alike, winners on Super Bowl Sunday.”

Prepare yourself for the ratings cat fight Feb. 2, 2014.