NBC Universal Loads Up On Olympics


For Olympic fans who can't get enough winter sports, NBC Universal is offering unprecedented coverage of the Vancouver games.

NBCU detailed its record 835 hours of Winter Olympics coverage for the Feb. 12 to 28 event last week, more than double the 419 hours from Torino, Italy, in 2006.

This year's schedule across six platforms will chronicle all 15 sports competitions and mark the first time the Winter Games have been shot entirely in the high-definition format.

While NBC sets the pace from a linear perspective, with 193.5 hours of coverage topped by such marquee events as figure skating, speed skating and alpine skiing, NBCOlympics.com will feature some 400 hours of live event competition, plus more than 1,000 hours of on-demand access.

Powered by Microsoft's Silverlight technology, the site's video player will present the action in HD quality and offer DVR-style controls, enabling users to pause and rewind live Olympic fare. Users will have to authenticate with their video provider in order to view live and long-form fare.

USA Network will televise 41 hours with an emphasis on U.S. teams, especially hockey. Universal HD, currently available in 17 million homes, will encore USA Network's coverage.

CNBC will carry 101.5 hours, with an emphasis on live long-form curling, hockey and biathlon. MSNBC has 100 hours on tap, highlighted by the live quarterfinal, semifinal and medal-round hockey competition, as well as the U.S.-Canada men's game, plus extensive live curling, speed and figure skating.

Questions remain about how the Games will perform during a February sweeps period, against tough competitors such as Fox's top-drawer American Idol.

Most expect Canada's more viewer-friendly time zone to give Vancouver a Nielsen leg up on the 2006 Games from Torino, Italy, which averaged 20.2 million in primetime, compared with 31.9 million from Salt Lake City in 2002 and 25.1 million from Nagano, Japan, in 1998.

The Vancouver Games, though, will lose some $200 million, the first time an Olympics will finish in the red since NBC Universal Sports & Olympics chairman Dick Ebersol began producing the quadrennial competition in 1992.

Speaking on a panel at the Television Critics Association winter press tour on Jan. 10, Ebersol said that even though the advertising market has been picking up steam and will end up in line with ad sales for Salt Lake City and Torino, NBCU paid $820 million for the rights to Vancouver, versus $613 million for Torino.

Some view the public disclosure as a message to the International Olympic Committee to perhaps lower expectations for the bidding for the 2014 Winter Olympics and 2016 Games in Rio De Janiero, which should come later this year. ESPN/ABC and News Corp. are also expected to make a run.