NBC plans to achieve unprecedented time in Olympics coverage
BY LORI RACKL TV Criticfirstname.lastname@example.org July 22, 2012 10:56PM
St. Paul's Cathedral is seen in the distance as the Olympic rings hang from the Tower Bridge, Thursday, July 19, 2012 in London. Opening ceremonies for the 2012 London Olympics will be held Friday, July 27. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Updated: August 23, 2012 6:12AM
NBC promises to deliver all the Olympic coverage you could possibly want. And then some.
The peacock network’s ambitious plans for the July 27-Aug. 12 Summer Games call for a staggering 5,535 hours of programming — nearly 2,000 more than came out of Beijing four years ago. The copious content will be spread across multiple platforms, giving viewers more ways to watch than ever.
For the first time, all Olympic sporting events and medal awards will be shown online, live, at NBCOlympics.com, for a total of more than 3,500 programming hours. Instead of viewing a single feed that switches from one track-and-field event to another, users can watch a stream dedicated solely to the javelin or long jump, for example.
‘‘We think streaming during the day will help drive people to prime-time,’’ NBC Sports President Mark Lazarus said.
It’s a bit of a risky proposition, but one that’s virtually inevitable in today’s 24/7 information era.
The network will face a bigger challenge drawing evening viewers with the London Games than it did in Beijing, where the 13-hour time difference allowed it to broadcast plum swimming and gymnastics events live in prime-time hours.
No such luck with London, which is six hours ahead of Chicago. As a result, daytime coverage on the broadcast network will expand significantly, beginning most weekdays at 9 a.m. on Ch. 5.
As for which events will get covered in prime-time by Bob Costas and Olympics rookie Ryan Seacrest, expect London to look a lot like Beijing.
‘‘I think they’ll stick to the format where 93 percent of the prime-time telecast will be five sports: gymnastics, track and field, swimming, diving and beach volleyball,’’ said sports media expert Andrew Billings, author of the book Olympic Media: Inside the Biggest Show on Television.
‘‘The Olympic audience is dramatically different from your typical sports audience,’’ Billings said. ‘‘It’s about 60 percent female, and those are sports the whole family will tune in for.’’
NBC Universal is spreading the Olympic action across several of its cable channels. Boxing goes to CNBC. Tennis will air live on Bravo. MSNBC will carry more than 150 hours of badminton, table tennis, weightlifting and other sports, spanning 18 medal events.
The biggest slice of the programming pie goes to its fledgling NBC Sports Network, known as Versus until earlier this year. The round-the-clock channel — NBC’s answer to ESPN — will average a whopping 14 hours of Olympic content a day, focusing on Team USA basketball, soccer and field hockey, among other sports. Programming will kick off at 3 a.m. most days to coincide with the live action in London.
‘‘It’s going to help put NBC Sports Network on the map,’’ Billings said.
NBC also is beefing up its Spanish-language Olympics coverage on Telemundo, and it will make specialty channels devoted to basketball and soccer available to cable and satellite providers.
In another Olympic first, the games will be shown in 3-D for those with a compatible TV set and programming package.
When it comes to Olympic coverage, you might be wondering: Is there an app for that? There are two. The mobile apps — called ‘‘NBC Olympics Live Extra’’ and ‘‘NBC Olympics’’ — will let people watch events in real time and access extra content on their iPads, iPhones and some Android devices.
As is the case with live online streaming at NBCOlympics.com, the apps’ surplus content will be available at no extra charge for cable and satellite customers
who get MSNBC and CNBC as part of their package. (The vast majority of TV owners do.) You’ll need to verify you’re a pay-TV subscriber, which you can do at NBCOlympics.com.