Olympics: NBCU Readies for Record HD Coverage

The next couple of weeks will be an especially good time to own a large-screen HD television set.

Athletes aren’t the only ones looking to break records in Vancouver starting this weekend. Each time NBC Universal and its myriad networks cover an Olympics, it has naturally tried to outdo itself. And a big element of its expanding coverage in recent games has revolved around its HD components — which, to no one’s surprise, will break all TV coverage records this time around (at least for the winter version of the games) for sheer number of hours aired in 1080i, starting this Friday evening (Feb. 12).

In fact, it will be the first Winter Olympics to be covered entirely in HD by NBCU — including daily doses of HD online streaming.

All in all, by producing 835 hours of coverage over 17 days, NBC Universal said it will again take advantage of six of its media platforms — the NBC broadcast network and affiliates, and cable outlets USA, MSNBC, CNBC and Universal HD, as well as online at NBCOlympics.com (NBC Universal, which is currently available in less than 20 percent of American homes, will re-air much of USA’s coverage.)

NBCU said among the major reasons for its huge commitment to its HD and other coverage (which will be more than the combined hours of previous winter games in Torino, Italy, and Salt Lake City) is the fact that most major activities such as the Opening Ceremonies can be covered live for primetime audiences, thanks to Vancouver’s proximity to the American West Coast.

Over the two weeks of the games, NBCU said its coverage will average almost 50 hours per day — which, it points out, is more than the total coverage of the entire 1976 winter games in Innsbruck, Austria (with ABC Sports and legendary Olympics anchor Jim McKay doing the honors).

For details on a lot of the behind-the-scene activities and equipment being used by NBCU, see recent articles on preparations underway in Vancouver in TV Technology, as well as sister publications Multichannel News and Broadcasting & Cable.