As far as pure volume and scope, no undertaking in television history rivals NBC Universal’s Olympic coverage that starts Friday across 10 platforms, including six TV networks.
The numbers are staggering: 5,535 hours combined among NBC, NBC Sports Network, MSNBC, CNBC, Bravo, Telemundo, NBCOlympics.com, two specialty channels and the first-ever 3-D platform.
To put it in perspective, 16 years ago, the 1996 Atlanta Olympics were covered on just one channel — NBC — which aired 171 hours. By contrast, Spanish-language channel Telemundo will surpass that by two hours over the next 17 days.
The tonnage dwarfs NBC Universal’s coverage of the 2008 Beijing Olympics by nearly 2,000 hours.
“If you put those 5,535 hours across a linear platform, it would be 7 1/2 months of continuous coverage,” NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus said. “It’s a tremendous undertaking, to a level that’s never been done before.”
But what’s most viewer-friendly is this: For the first time, all Olympic events will be streamed live on the Internet (NBCOlympics.com). And much of the daytime coverage on NBC and the cable networks will be live. But NBC’s prime-time show will air on tape, because London is five hours ahead of U.S. East Coast time.
NBC decided that airing all the events live on the Internet, but saving most of the marquee ones to air on tape in prime time, would not diminish ratings.
“What we have found over the years is the more content we make available on the more platforms and the more accessible it is, the more interest there is in the Olympic prime time,” NBC Olympics president Gary Zenkel said. “So we reached a conclusion we were going to make every event available online.”
NBC, airing its seventh consecutive Olympics, expects more than 200 million viewers over the 17 days but doesn’t anticipate turning a profit on its $1.18 billion rights fee.
What to expect
The prime-time show, hosted for a ninth time by Bob Costas, will focus, as usual, on gymnastics, swimming, diving, track and field and beach volleyball.
Daytime coverage will feature those sports and others, including basketball, with Al Michaels and Dan Patrick sharing host duties.NBCOlympics.com:
For the first time, there will be multiple concurrent streams for select sports, including gymnastics, track and field and tennis. At its peak, there will be 40 — 40! — simultaneous streams. Keep in mind that the online option will be available only to verified cable, satellite and telephone company customers.
The breadth of Internet coverage marks a shift for NBC, which sliced the number of live streams from 25 at the 2008 Beijing Games to two during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games. But long-time former NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol has left the network since the Vancouver Olympics, and the new Comcast management team seems more eager to embrace technology and live streaming.
Two apps — one focused on live streaming, the other on short-form highlights and schedules and results — will be available to mobile and tablet users.NBC Sports Network: Michelle Beadle MSNBC: Kelly Tilghman CNBC: Fred Roggin Bravo: Pat O’Brien Extras: Telemundo: Andres Cantor Final note: