NBC using 11 platforms for unprecedented Olympic coverage

U.S. gymnast Simone Biles practices her balance beam routine on Thurs., Aug. 4, 2016, during a training session at the Rio Olympic Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Biles, is a three-time world all-around champion, but is competing in her first Olympic Games.
U.S. gymnast Simone Biles practices her balance beam routine on Thurs., Aug. 4, 2016, during a training session at the Rio Olympic Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Biles, is a three-time world all-around champion, but is competing in her first Olympic Games. TNS

Every Olympics on NBC inevitably establishes a new record for volume and breadth of coverage, and this year’s numbers for the Rio Games are both staggering and unprecedented: 6,755 hours over 11 platforms.

And more good news: Most of the prime-time programming on NBC will be live, though the Opening Ceremonies will be on a one-hour delay.

Of those 6,755 hours, 4,500 will be available on NBCOlympics.com for authenticated pay-TV subscribers. The remaining 2,200-plus hours will be available on NBC, seven cable networks and two specialty channels.

“If my memory is correct, in Atlanta [at the 1996 Summer Games], there were about 170, 175 hours of coverage, and we thought that was a heck of a lot and so did America!” said Bob Costas, who will be hosting a prime-time Olympics show for the record 11th time.

As usual, NBC will mix competition with tear-jerking athlete profiles.

“There was a time when there was some validity to the critique that some of the athlete profiles were a bit over the top — too much hearts and flowers, too many violin strings,” Costas said. “ I think at one time [former NBC Sports chairman] Dick Ebersol, after we kind of saw the light, joked that we have now taken asthma off the list of potentially fatal diseases.

“But when you watch these athlete profiles, you’ll see that the vast majority of them are designed just to familiarize you with these athletes. A lot of them are quirky. A lot of them are funny. A lot of them are designed to give you a better idea of what he or she is about.”

A primer on what to expect:

▪ NBC’s 260.5 hours of coverage begins with the Opening Ceremonies on Friday and will include heavy doses of swimming, gymnastics, track and field, diving, beach volleyball, volleyball, and the men’s and women’s basketball finals. Those are the events that typically draw the most eyeballs.

On most days, NBC will air coverage from 8 p.m. to midnight, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 12:35 a.m. to 1:35 a.m., with a replay from 1:35 a.m. to 4:30 a.m.

▪ NBC Sports Net will air 330 hours, with 16 hours on most days (8 a.m. to midnight). At least 20 sports will be showcased, including a lot of U.S. women’s soccer and men’s and women’s basketball.

▪ Bravo offers 94.5 hours of tennis-dominated fare. For each of the first five days, Bravo will televise Olympic tennis for more than 12 hours, from 9:30 a.m. until 10 p.m. The final four days will each feature eight hours of coverage, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

▪ CNBC’s 42 hours feature elimination-round basketball and volleyball, plus archery, beach volleyball, cycling, rugby, water polo, wrestling and others sports. CNBC’s coverage will air from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays, after the network’s financial programming ends.

▪ MSNBC will carry 78.5 hours, including men’s basketball, beach volleyball, rugby, soccer, volleyball, and water polo, among other sports. On 10 of the 15 days, MSNBC will air Olympic programming from noon to 5 p.m.

▪ USA Network has 110.5 hours of programming, mostly from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, with a focus on men’s basketball, beach volleyball, cycling, rowing, synchronized swimming, volleyball, water polo and more.

▪ With golf returning to the Olympics for the first time in more than a century, Golf Channel will carry 115 hours, including the men’s tournament (Aug. 11-14) and the women’s tournament (Aug. 17).

▪ Telemundo and NBC Universo will present 273.5 hours, the most extensive Olympic coverage in the history of U.S. Spanish-language television, and 100 hours more than London in 2012. Among the highlights: coverage of the Mexican men’s soccer team, which will be defending its London gold medal.

Both networks will weave in features focusing on Olympic athletes from Latin America and the United States. Famed soccer announcer Andres Cantor will be among NBC’s hosts.

▪ NBC will offer specialty channels for basketball and soccer, with 779 hours of content. They will be available through cable, satellite and telco providers.

▪ NBC’s streaming digital coverage will so be comprehensive, NBC executive Gary Zenkel said, that “we expect consumption of the Olympics to soar throughout that period on both our web and mobile apps. These are optimized for viewing. So whether it’s the core fan of a sport, it’s there every second.

“If you like tennis, you can watch three courts at one time. And then if you’re just away from your television and you want to catch what’s on NBCSN, it’s there as well. It still amazes me that 6,700 hours is right here if you have a cable subscription. We will put all of the video streaming [for mobile] on the NBC Sports app.”

Brian Roberts, CEO of NBC parent company Comcast, noted that “there will be up to 41 live streams, every athlete, every moment, that you’ll be able to choose from.”

▪ What’s more, NBC will distribute “4K Ultra HD” coverage to cable, satellite, telco providers, and other partners. The 83 hours will be made available on one-day delay and will include 4K UHD footage from the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, swimming, track and field, basketball, the men’s soccer final and judo. It promises ultra-high resolution that is roughly four times that of current HD.

▪ Comcast’s Roberts said delivering more than 6,700 hours is “a laboratory for what’s the future of television. And so we looked at the 6,700 hours not with trepidation but with excitement. … It’s like watching every NFL football game since 2008. It’s kind of impossible to do in 17 days.”


Several notable changes to NBC’s lineup:

▪ Mike Tirico, who left ESPN this summer, will be one of NBC’s afternoon hosts, along with Al Michaels and Dan Patrick.

▪ Fox’s Ryan Seacrest will be permitted to work for NBC as its late-night Olympic host. He was a special correspondent for NBC at the 2012 Olympics. Mary Carrillo, NBC’s late-night host in 2012, will serve as a correspondent on these Olympics.

▪ Nastia Liukin replaces Elfi Schlegel as the gymnastics coanalyst, with Tim Daggett, alongside Al Trautwig. Schlegel was quite capable, but adding Liukin (a 2008 Olympic gold medalist) appears an attempt to become more contemporary.


▪ Marv Albert (on loan from TNT) and Doug Collins (on loan from ABC/ESPN) will call the men’s basketball gold-medal game.

▪ Matt Lauer, Meredith Vieira and Hoda Kotb will host Friday night’s Opening Ceremonies.

▪ Former star skaters Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski, who served up colorful, light-hearted reports and played off each other delightfully well at the 2012 Games, will again serve as correspondents. … Former Olympians Apollo Ohno and Tanith White and golf analyst David Feherty also will be NBC correspondents in Rio. … Johnny Miller, Nick Faldo and Annika Sorenstam will be among those announcing golf.

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