ST. CHARLES, Mo., Nov. 17, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Royal Canin, a global pet food leader and The American Kennel Club today announced the return of the AKC National Championship to television via a new partnership with Hallmark Channel. The three-hour special, featuring America's most beloved dog breeds, will premiere on Monday, January 23, 2017 at 6-9 ET/PT. The show will be anchored by AKC Vice President Gina DiNardo and sportscaster Jason Knapp and will feature special appearances by celebrity Jerry O'Connell.
"We're proud to be the home of this prestigious national championship dog competition," said Bill Abbott, President & Chief Executive Officer, Crown Media Family Networks. "Hallmark Channel has long been deeply committed to pets and pet welfare through a variety of key partnerships with animal advocacy groups and across our program schedule, and we're delighted to now partner with AKC National Championship and Royal Canin for this exciting competition." Actor, television personality, and dog lover Jerry O'Connell will make special appearances throughout the show, taking viewers on a journey where, together, they will learn about pure bred dogs at their best, what the judges are looking for, and what happens behind the scenes at one of the most prestigious dog shows in the world. "As the owner of a German Shepherd and lover of all dogs, I am excited to be a part of this year's AKC National Championship," said actor Jerry O'Connell. "Between getting to see some of the most exceptional dogs in the world to learning about new breeds and the amazing things dogs can do like agility courses and dock diving - I know it will be an experience of a lifetime." More than five thousand of the top national and international dogs are expected to compete in the AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin, making it the largest dog show in North America with the largest monetary award in the world of dog sports. The three-hour pre-recorded special will feature winners from each of the competition categories, highlights from the Agility and Dock Diving competitions, and some of America's brightest up and coming Junior Showmanship handlers. The show will culminate in the crowning of Best in Show. The AKC National Championship will be held in Orlando, Florida from Dec. 17-18, 2016. As in the previous four years, the show will also be streamed via a live webcast at www.royalcanin.com/akcdogshow. Last year's popular live stream garnered 6.2 million viewers over two days. "As a pet food leader among breeders and a long-time supporter of purebred dog sports, we are proud to partner with Hallmark Channel to bring the AKC National Championship back to national television," said Keith Levy, Royal Canin USA President. "The emphasis Hallmark Channel places on pets and how they enrich our lives is a perfect complement to our brand philosophy, and how we can work together to create a better world for pets. Together, we're looking forward to shining the spotlight on the magnificent details that make dogs extraordinary." Dennis Sprung, President and CEO of the AKC, added, "We are excited to bring our treasured National Championship back to national television through Hallmark Channel. For the past 16 years, we have hosted the best canine competitors in the world and highlighted the wonderful aspects of the canine-human bond. Hallmark Channel has demonstrated a long-standing commitment to the welfare of our canine companions which is at the core of our mission. We are delighted to be a part of this collaboration and look forward to showing people the dynamics of the dog sport." As part of the festivities, Royal Canin will launch a national sweepstakes on Saturday, December 17, 2016 to coincide with the first day of the AKC National Championship. The " My Best In Show" sweepstakes will give consumers an opportunity to win exciting prizes including a grand prize and instant win prizes. For more information, please visit: www.royalcanin.com/akcdogshow or www.akc.org/events/national-championship/. ABOUT ROYAL CANIN USARoyal Canin USA is a leader in science-based cat and dog health nutrition. Founded by a veterinarian in 1968, Royal Canin has more than 40 years of experience in delivering individualized nutritional solutions. In collaboration with an expert team of nutritionists, breeders and veterinarians from around the world, Royal Canin places cats and dogs at the central point of the innovation process. The Royal Canin product line offers a range of diets based on size, age, breed, lifestyle and therapeutic requirements. Royal Canin diets are available at veterinary hospitals and pet specialty stores nationwide. Royal Canin is a subsidiary of Mars, Incorporated. To learn more about Royal Canin, visit www.royalcanin.com and "LIKE" us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/royalcaninus. ABOUT HALLMARK CHANNELHallmark Channel is Crown Media Family Networks' flagship 24-hour cable television network, distributed nationwide in high definition (HD) and standard definition (SD) to 89 million homes. The country's leading destination for quality family entertainment, Hallmark Channel delivers on the 100-year legacy of the Hallmark brand. In addition to its signature original movies, the network features an ambitious lineup of other original content, including scripted primetime series, such as "Good Witch" and "When Calls the Heart"; annual specials like "Kitten Bowl" and "Hero Dog Awards" and; a daily 2-hour lifestyle show, "Home & Family." Additionally, in November 2014, Hallmark Channel became the exclusive home to world premiere presentations of the acclaimed Hallmark Hall of Fame franchise. Dedicated to helping viewers celebrate life's special moments, Hallmark Channel also offers such annual holiday programming events as "Countdown to Christmas" and "Countdown to Valentine's Day." Rounding out the network's diverse slate are television's most beloved sitcoms and series, including "The Golden Girls," "The Middle," "Last Man Standing," "Little House on the Prairie," and "Frasier." Hallmark Cards, Inc. owns and operates Crown Media Family Networks. For more information, please visit www.crownmediapress.com; Hallmark Channel on Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube. ABOUT THE AMERICAN KENNEL CLUBFounded in 1884, the American Kennel Club is a not-for-profit organization which maintains the largest registry of purebred dogs in the world and oversees the sport of purebred dogs in the United States. The AKC is dedicated to upholding the integrity of its registry, promoting the sport of purebred dogs and breeding for type and function. Along with its more than 5,000 licensed and member clubs and its affiliated organizations, the AKC advocates for the purebred dog as a family companion, advances canine health and well-being, works to protect the rights of all dog owners and promotes responsible dog ownership. More than 22,000 competitions for AKC-registered purebred dogs are held under AKC rules and regulations each year including conformation, agility, obedience, rally, tracking, herding, lure coursing, coonhound events, hunt tests, field and earthdog tests. Affiliate AKC organizations include the AKC Humane Fund, AKC Canine Health Foundation, AKC Reunite and the AKC Museum of the Dog. For more information, visit www.akc.org. AKC, American Kennel Club, the American Kennel Club seal and design, and all associated marks and logos are trademarks, registered trademarks and service marks of The American Kennel Club, Inc. Become a fan of the American Kennel Club on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter @AKCDogLovers.