On the Circuit with CableWorld editor Seth Arenstein NEW YORK — It’s Diversity Week here in Manhattan and we’re 10 blocks away from the NAMIC conference, but the only D word we’re using is dog—along with about 100 curious New Yorkers we’re watching pooches jump into a pool in Bryant Park.
The event, and that’s the only way to describe it—the place is crawling with press from The NY Times to CBS News—is the unveiling of Outdoor Channel’s new programming push. The channel, bearing its fresh new logo, will be diversifying (see, we used a form of the D word) its scope this fall, moving beyond traditional outdoor sports.

The first sport up is DockDogs, a newly sanctioned competition with a long, informal history. Its origins come from the days when dockworkers would bet each other on how far their dogs could jump off the dock.

It’s a growing sport—in 2 years the competitors have grown from 400 (dog and human) competitors to nearly 8,000, Outdoor Channel says. The network will premiere its 7-part Dock Dogs series beginning Oct, 9pm ET, showing the qualifying semifinals and culminating in the championship. In addition to a cash prize, the winner gets a car (preferably the victor will be a high-jumping dog with a driver’s license).

What we’re seeing today, and which you can view online at OutdoorChannel.tv, are 12 of the best teams, PR maven Bob Gold(en retriever) tells us. The dogs, on the command of their humans, have 90 seconds to run from the end of a 40-ft Astro-turf-topped dock and jump into a pool of water 4-feet deep, 40-feet long. The jumps are judged—using Olympics-grade equipment, no less—for height and length.

And there are style points. The mutts must grab a toy or ball thrown in the air as they hit the pool. If they don’t catch it on the fly, points are deducted. As we are watching a grizzled New Yorker points out, accurately, that some of the dogs seem more adept at catching the sphere than the Mets’ infield did Monday night.

But even crusty onlookers are warmed by Outdoor’s donation of a pair of $15K checks to groups fighting cancer in dogs and other pets. Sadly, the disease is spreading rapidly in the animal world.

But back to the pool; the dogs jumping on this sunny day in the park behind the New York Public Library are all champs and range in age and breed from Hazel, and 11-month-old Chocolate Lab to Country, a seven-year-old Greyhound/Coonhound.

They just competed at an event during the weekend and traveled all day Monday to be here, Gold tells us. The dogs’ teammates also run the gamut; the youngest handler is a 14-year-old student/pup-and-comer from PA. Now that’s diversity, of sorts. • More commentary from Seth Arenstein >

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