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Fasten Your Seatbelts for a Bumpy Summer

The official end of the fall-winter television season typically leads to a quieter, lighter summer for the industry. Thus far this year, though, events outside of the normal day-to-day business of TV have been anything but normal, and a couple of recent industry-related stories are already beginning to forecast what could be a very interesting and unusually busy summer in the world of television.

The presidential primary season has delivered its share of crazy twists and turns and unlikely scenarios that have driven ratings up for virtually all cable news networks. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any stranger or more unpredictable, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders contemplated debating each other in a very high-profile event.

Hoping to get in on the action, boxing promoter Bob Arum looked to bring the spectacle to pay-per-view. Arum’s Top Rank event promotion company was willing to put up a minimum of $20 million — as well as donate 80% of the net proceeds from “The Heavyweight Debate” between the two presidential hopefuls to a charity or charities of the candidates’ choice — in an effort to promote the show.

Trump ultimately backed out of the proposed debate prior to Memorial Day weekend, but given his penchant for creating media spectacles, can anyone rule out a potentially big, politically-themed PPV event before voters head to the polls in November?

Meanwhile, HBO’s Game of Thrones is one of the most digitally pirated shows on cable, but recently the pay TV service has taken its GoT digital piracy fight to the world of online pornography.

HBO is trying to curtail the uploading of titillating, nudity-laced scenes from its fantasy series to the adult Web service PornHub, according to published reports.

PornHub itself released audience figures that show site searches for GoT scenes and related adult parodies were up 370% on the site in the days prior to the show’s April 24 season six premiere, but the site’s traffic actually drops 4% during a Game of Thrones episode.

For its part, HBO has said in a statement that it is “aware of the issue and is in the process of getting material taken down from PornHub,” according to Business Insider.

Even the world of sports TV isn’t immune to the potential effects of unforeseen developments. The New York Daily News reported last week that some NBC employees are refusing to travel to Brazil to work on NBCUniversal’s massive coverage of the Summer Olympics this August for fears of contracting the dangerous, mosquito-borne Zika virus.

Brazil is struggling to control the spread of the virus, which has been linked to birth defects in children of pregnant women contracting the disease. NBC is expected to send more than 2,000 staffers to Brazil to oversee the company’s unprecedented linear and digital coverage of the games.

An NBC spokesperson told The Daily News that “the safety of our team members is always our first priority,” and that “no NBC personnel assigned to work in Rio will be required to travel if they believe that their personal health or safety is at risk.”

Fasten your seat belts. It could be a bumpy, unconventional summer in TV land.

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.