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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.

Other than the Olympics, how much archery do you watch on TV? Badminton? Biathlon? Curling? Diving? Equestrian dressage? Handball? Luge? Speed skating? Synchronized swimming? Track and field?

Not that there's anything wrong with those sports. This is not criticism of the events or the athletes.

But while you might watch the gold-medal water polo match at the 2020 Summer Games, did you watch the USA take on Croatia at the World Water Polo Championships on Monday morning — an event that aired lived on the newly launched Olympic Channel?

NBC Universal, in partnership with the IOC and USOC, just turned their Universal HD channel into the Olympic Channel — the American version of the channel, which the IOC launched online last year. The IOC is hoping to launch linear Olympic Channels around the world.

"The good news now is for those who love the Olympics and love the sports that comprise the Olympics, there's not that wait in terms of turning on your television and seeing some of the finest competition in the world in these sports," said NBC sportscaster Mike Tirico in a conference call with reporters. "To put it simply, the Olympic Games will now have a home between the Games being played."

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.

(NBC is paying billions to air Summer and Winter Olympics through 2032.)

"Olympians don't just walk through a door every four years, compete, go back through that door and disappear," Tirico said.

Of course not. We all know athletes train for years; take part in various competitions; and, closer to the Games, compete at Olympic qualifying events to make the American team.

But how interested are we in that? How many of us would watch that U.S.-Croatia water polo match three years out from the Tokyo Games?

"Anything that brings more of the excitement of the Olympic Games to TVs around our country is something that is very special," said Tirico, who will be the prime-time host for NBC's coverage of the 2018 Winter Olympics. "Hopefully, new generations will be inspired by watching the Olympic Channel."

That's a noble goal. And more palatable than the everybody-wants-to-make-more-money explanation.

Is it a realistic goal? Only time will tell. It won't hurt archery, badminton and water polo, and maybe it will help.

According to NBC, the Olympic Channel launched in about 35 million homes, which is only about 30 percent of America's TV-equipped homes.

(You can also live stream it at, the Olympic Channel app, and the NBC Sports app, as well as streaming services like Hulu, Playstation Vue and YouTube TV.)

In Utah, you can see it on DirecTV (with the right programming package) but not on Dish. And it's not available to all Comcast subscribers, which is weird because Comcast owns NBC Universal.

There's no word on when it might make its way to all Comcast subscribers in the state of Utah.

"The growth of the channel ... will depend on the engagement that we see from the audience," said NBC Olympics president Gary Zenkel.

Scott D. Pierce covers TV for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.