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NBC Does Niche Sports Right

Every time I flip on twitter someone is annoyed that NBC is tape delaying some of the events for prime time television. Columnists have joined in, and one of them has even been suspended, for tweets like this.
  • America's left coast forced to watch Olympic ceremony on SIX HOUR time delay. Disgusting money-grabbing by @NBColympics
Tape delaying is nothing new, and since money makes the world go round it's not surprising. However, I think this is a very smart move, and the ratings seem to agree.

Let's look at the sports.

Diving. The last time I dove I was 23 years old and I did a cannonball off a dock, after about five beers and a watermelon liqueur shooter. I don't know the rules of diving without a beer or a dock. Do I really need to see diving live?

Synchronized swimming. I can barely walk and chew gum at the same time. I really need to see it live so I can critique the judges scores on that dolphin throw? Nope.

Swimming is on and Michael Phelps, well, he's doing something. Going for gold I guess. Look, I follow his exploits, but I have no idea what the current backstory is. I was playing the third at Mohawk when the trials were on, I don't know what hairless man with large feet can give him a run this year. I have no idea what to expect. Do I need to dart in on my Saturday morning to see it live? Nope.

What NBC and others do with niche sports is give the full back story. They tell you that so and so is up against it because she lost a finger in a woodshop accident when she was ten. They let you know that the Brits are going crazy over a young good looking kid that can dive off a board, and if he loses Fish and Chips will be mercilouslly thrown at his Chinese diving opponent.

Then there's the rules. Sheesh, I need them for the majority of these sports. What in the hell is going on with the balance beam? All I know is "fall off" is bad. I need the rules and at 9:40PM while sipping my orange juice, I get them.

That's what watching the Olympics on television is. Learning what new sports are about, getting the back story, listening to the violins, triumphing against all odds, singing the anthem after everyone slowly but surely appreciates what you've accomplished.

How do you do that live? You don't. That's why, in my opinion, people watch in prime time.

What's it have to do with horse racing?

Well, horse racing is a niche sport too. While some shows are doing it right (like Bet Night Live in Canada) by getting newbies involved by giving them contests to play, we try to be everything to everyone in one half hour or hour long show. Rules, backstories, betting, some cookie story about a horse's name. 'Let's throw everything at them and hope it sticks', seems to be the strategy.

You are going to jam everything into a live telecast of the Spiral Stakes and people are going to be enthralled? Not likely. It's a license to grab the remote.

I am not much on TV saving racing, so it doesn't matter much to me either way, I guess. But I think what NBC is doing is nothing out of the ordinary for niche sports that people watch once every couple of years. Horse racing can probably learn a thing or two from it.


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