COLUMNIST: Will Olympic Channel Get Us to Care About Water Polo?

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The sorta-hyped Olympic Channel is now live and serving up splashy events from Hungary as the 17th FINA World Championships begin. With it comes the expectation that viewership and fandom of those Olympic sports that languish between the quadrennial event will rise. But will it?

(Balazs Czagany/MTI via AP)

So inquires Scott D. Pierce, TV critic and reporter for The Salt Lake Tribune, who leaves the question an open one while sharing details of the Olympic Channel’s origin.

The joke about the Olympics that isn’t really a joke is that, every four years, we watch sports that we otherwise don’t care about at all.

The spawn of NBC Universal, the Olympic Channel is a rebranded version of the late Universal HD outlet. Launched a year ago in cahoots with the International Olympic Committee, it is now showing off international water polo content a year after the Rio Olympics. The IOC hopes to roll out similar Olympic channels around the globe with the aim of building interest in sports that don’t typically get much media attention between Olympic years, writes Pierce.

“NBC, the USOC and the IOC all have a stake in promoting the Games. If the channel can build interest, that builds viewership — or so the theory goes — and higher ratings mean more money.”

No surprise – NBC has paid billions for the right to broadcast Olympic Games for the next 15 years. The idea is to bump those viewership numbers in an effort to offset those massive expenses. Will it work? Pierce offers scant guidance saying, “time will tell.”

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“It won’t hurt archery, badminton and water polo, and maybe it will help.”

Maybe it will.

American water polo fans will have a say. Live streaming and channel numbers for the (limited) carriers of the cable channel can be found at OlympicChannel.com.



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