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Summer Olympics HD coverage proves to be mixed bag

This year’s summer Olympics are generating a mixed bag of opinions among industry analysts and U.S. viewers.

As the first true HDTV Olympics, critics have not been kind. NBC’s HDTV feed is actually a day behind. And, in some cases, it’s two years behind. During the Games opening ceremonies, the network used HD footage from the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games to fill time.

The HD feed started with an approximate 30-minute delay from NBC’s network NTSC telecast and then slowly lagged to a 24-hour delay. The coverage, running in eight-hour loops, was taped delayed, but HD viewers weren’t told in advance it would be a day behind.

The Seattle Times said that even Comcast, the only cable outlet carrying HDTV in Seattle, was surprised, thinking the delays were to be an hour.

Even with the delays, NBC Universal has limited HD coverage to swimming, diving, gymnastics, track and field and the medal rounds of soccer and basketball.

Although the network is promoting a 24-hour channel with 399 hours of HD programming, it’s actually about 135 hours of original programming from six venues shown most days on an eight-hour loop.

NBC, which announced in June that it would offer the expanded HD coverage, is relying on host broadcaster Athens Olympic Broadcasting for HD feeds from venues at this year’s games. In 2006, at the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, the network plans to produce its own HD feed that will not be delayed.

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