Beijing Olympics: Wall-to-wall multimedia blitz
NBC is calling it the "most ambitious single media project in history."
The network's coverage of the upcoming 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics beginning Aug. 8 will encompass an unprecedented 3,600 hours over seven television networks. In addition, it runs across the Internet, interactive TV and mobile phones, with more air time than all of the televised Summer Games put together. It's also the first time the Olympics will be entirely broadcast in high-definition.
"Even the smallest lipstick camera - the camera that's embedded in the target at archery that gives you that point of view of the arrow coming directly at the target - is in HD," said David Neal, executive vice president of NBC Olympics.
Fans won't have to wait hours after the events happen to see them either. About 75 percent of the coverage will be live despite a 14-hour difference between Beijing and Salt Lake City. Half of that will be in primetime.
Although television programming normally is delayed one-hour in Utah, KSL general manager Greg James said his station will show the Olympics live here when NBC does.
"Part of the joy of the Olympics is not hearing who won but watching them win," he said. During the day, KSL, the NBC affiliate in Utah, will broadcast daily Olympics coverage in three parts, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., from 7 to roughly 11:30 p.m. and midnight to about 1:30 a.m. The 10 p.m. news will be pushed back every night one hour.
Meanwhile, the Games also will be telecast on basic cable channels MSNBC, USA, CNBC, Oxygen, Universal HD and Telemundo (where it will be broadcast in Spanish).
Viewers also will be able to experience the thrill of the Games wherever they are. In a digital initiative that began with the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, NBC is blowing out the broadcast on NBCOlympics.com and through mobile phones that carry the network's NBC2Go mobile TV service through carriers Verizon and AT&T.
Fans can follow their favorite athletes on the Web site and on their cell phones with stats, profiles and streaming video.
"What's really revolutionary here for us in 2008 is that the viewing experience of the Olympics is really at the fingertips and at the choice of the viewer," said Gary Zenkel, president of NBC Olympics.
Through it all, NBC promises coverage of all 34 Olympic sports, from aquatics to wrestling.
NBC/Universal Chairman of Olympics and Sports Dick Ebersol said during a meeting with television critics last month the network's coverage will focus on amazing stories of athletes, and he promises to deliver "17 days and nights of unscripted drama."
"I think the country is really ready for this," he said. "It isn't exactly a joyful time in America right now - $4 gas, people who can't afford vacations, wild prices on food and so forth. They're really looking for something to cheer for."
And the network, though covering the Olympics for the U.S., insists it will not predominantly profile American athletes to the detriment of foreign athletes, a criticism the network has faced in past Games.
"Are Americans somewhat more interested in American performers?" Olympics host Bob Costas said. "Of course they are, but we don't insult the intelligence of the audience. They're interested in any good story, wherever it may appear."
About 3,600 hours of the 2008 Beijing Summer Games will be telecast from the Opening Ceremony Aug. 8 to the Closing Ceremony Aug. 24. And three quarters of it will be live.
In between, all 34 sports will be covered by NBC and its sister cable networks, as well as on the Web at NBCOlympics.com, on mobile phones and video on demand in what is being called the biggest telecast of an Olympiad ever.
Highlights of the broadcast include:
- Twenty five of the sports will be broadcast live on NBCOlympics.com and on television, the most of any Olympiad.
- In Utah, however, all primetime television broadcasts will be tape-delayed one hour. The daytime broadcast will be live.
- NBC's coverage will average more than 212 hours per day on TV and the Internet.
- For the first time, the entire Olympics air in high-definition.
- The networks will be televising all 58 men's and women's soccer games and all 76 basketball games.
- Cable channel Telemundo will provide all coverage in Spanish.
- Video streaming through NBCOlympics.com provides picture-in-picture and quad-screen viewing.
For 17 days, NBC Universal will blast fans with all the video, stats, interviews, and profiles one could ever consume.
Here's a breakdown of the networks that will broadcast competitions:
(Cable channel times are Mountain times for Comcast cable. Times for satellite providers may differ.)
NBC (9 a.m. to 5 p.m., 7 to 11 p.m., 11:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. on weekends; 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., 7 p.m. to about midnight, 12:05 to about 1:30 a.m. on Monday through Friday)
- All gold 32 swimming gold medal finals, four key nights of men's and women's gymnastics, beach volleyball, men's and women's marathons, basketball, water polo, diving, cycling, track and field, rowing and whitewater canoeing.
USA Network (Midnight to 10 a.m.)
- USA men's and women's basketball and soccer, tennis, volleyball, water polo.
MSNBC (3 a.m. to 3 p.m.)
- Softball, soccer, (including opening soccer matches), beach volleyball, wrestling, basketball, volleyball and weightlifting.
CNBC (10 p.m. to 2:30 a.m., 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.)
- Boxing, long-form coverage of softball, tennis, weightlifting, wrestling and badminton.
Oxygen (7 to 9 p.m.)
- Gymnastics, equestrian and tennis.
Telemundo (1 to 5 a.m., 6:30 to 9 a.m., 11 p.m. to midnight)
- Spanish-language coverage of soccer, basketball, gymnastics, diving, volleyball, track and field, swimming and baseball.
Universal HD (24 hours)
- 24-hour high-definition simulcasts of Olympic events as well as repeats of CNBC and MSNBC coverage.
Video On Demand
- Access recaps from Athens, previews of Beijing, Team USA profiles, daily highlights, and feature stories anytime through video on demand services by cable and satellite providers.
Comcast's Video on Demand will offer 60 pre-games shows including "Athens in Review," "Classic Moments," "Beijing 411," "Meet the Athletes" as well as next-day highlights.
News, medal counts, TV listings, Team USA profiles and more from NBCOlympics.com also will be available through interactive TV applications available through some cable and satellite providers.