TV Should Try Less Commentary - From Politics To Sports

Perhaps the world needs less commentary -- not just on politics, but entertainment and other genres. Some sports already implement this idea on cable TV.

The Chinese Basketball Association on the NXT channel, for example, has no commentary or play-by-play announcing -- just live video with live ambient audio inside the arena.

This isn’t the only sport. Cyclocross events -- a longtime popular European sport -- has found a home on some networks sans commentary, as well.

Cyclocross events are where cycling athletes compete on a closed five-mile circuit, typically in a park-like setting, full of all kinds of obstacles -- rough trails, sharp hills, staircases, as well as various terrain, grass, dirt, sand and mud, depending on weather. Athletes typically get on or off their bikes -- intended or not. Plenty of crashes can dot the race. Pretty easy to understand visually.

For many, popular sports generally provide ample competitive and entertainment value that is self-explanatory.. While commentary can be helpful, sometimes following the action -- without consistent verbiage -- works just fine.



In part, it lets the viewers pretend they are actually at the live event. Sports without commentary can be content that patrons see in an overall noisy bar. The downside, of course, is that we might miss some intricacies of a sport the average viewer won't know.

Forty-one years ago, on December 20, 1980, the NFL experimented in a game between the New York Jets and the Miami Dolphins. It had no commentators or play-by-play.

The two teams were playing the last game of that season -- as neither had qualified for the playoffs. Viewership was expected to be minimal.

NBC executive Don Ohlmeyer decided no commentators/play-by-play announcer would be a novelty for viewers. Ohlmeyer positioned this to give viewers the experience of actually being in the stadium.

Good news: Viewers still got to figure out what was going on. The Jets beat the Dolphins 24-17. Some critics said all this gave the game “no context” among athletes with “no past.”

In a growing TV world where all kinds of TV viewers need more fact-based content, maybe this could be a trend for other genres -- especially for TV content that needs less, not more hype.

Maybe some TV producers should think more like editors. And if they don’t, you could always put the TV on mute.

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