NBC, the American broadcaster that turned swimming tradition on its head to get a return on its investment by showing Michael Phelps racing to eight gold medals in US prime-time, has won certain "rights" to the world championships in Rome, 2009.
Highly unlikely that finals can be run to suit the American audience next time round: prime time US coincides with the dawn chorus in Rome. For swimming, the contract between NBC and FINA, is something to celebrate: an American TV network of that size and taking such a keen interest in aquatic sports takes us part way to Phelps's goal of raising the sport's profile (mainly in the US), and lends a professional hand to proceedings.
We hear that FINA liked the idea of the bigger spread of events. There is even talk of holding some events over three days - heats one day, semis the next and finals the next. Caution is the watchword. The Beijing programme ran over nine days. Thrilling as it all was, there is a tipping point to tolerance on many levels, including costs.
Phelps's amazing exploits have helped NBC to average 31.3 million viewers for the first five nights of the Summer Games, a 16% leap and 5 million more than the first four nights of Athens in 2004. General Electric is likely getting its money's worth after paying $894 million for Olympic rights.
NBC's challenge is to keep its nation tuned in. Meantime, $1 billion is NBC's projected ad revenue from the 2008 Summer Olympics. Now then boys, share and share alike. The day of the $1m prize in the pool may be nigh...