Skip to main content

Olympics: NBCU to Unleash Tons of HD, 100 Concurrent Feeds

Calling up a cutting-edge armada of specially mounted HD cams capturing points-of-view and image detail never before seen by Olympics viewers—ranging from submarine aqua-cams that follow swimmers into the water with precision timing to bull’s-eye cams that sit literally in the center of the targets of oncoming Olympian arrows—exclusive U.S. rightsholder NBC Universal is planning to attack the summer Olympics like there’s no tomorrow… starting the day after, on Friday (Aug. 8).

And the good part: Virtually all of NBCU’s coverage will be in 1080i.

In what promises to be the most complex and expensive broadcast-cable-online treatment of any single sporting event ever undertaken by electronic media, NBCU will cover, produce, edit, re-purpose and feed many hundreds of hours of coverage of all 35 featured sports around the clock for 17 days through its numerous broadcast and cable networks, as well as online—while repackaging much of it for smart-phones and other mobile devices, and for other media such as Reuters and the Associated Press.

Transmission of the hundreds of events in 1080i (with most prime-time broadcast coverage in the U.S. to be live with some taped highlights) will be unprecedented in both scope and dedicated broadcast time, says NBCU, which has had exclusive U.S. rights to the summer and winter games for the past two decades. In all, the Peacock network says it plans to provide a minimum of 3,600 hours of coverage from nearly three dozen sites in Beijing, thanks to the deployment of more than 1,000 HD cameras and ancillary state-of-the-art digital equipment. (More than 2,000 hours also will be streamed for broadband Internet consumption.)

NBC plans to enhance its overall HD attack by migrating from Sony HDCam tape to Sony XDCam HD disc for most of its non-studio site coverage. NBC Sports execs said they asked engineers and producers since the summer games in 2004 to imagine the “coolest” devices they thought viewers would find most fascinating, and then they were able to turn nearly every concept into reality for the Beijing games. Virtually all the new, specially devised cameras (including fly- and lipstick-cams) and other unique tracking devices will be HD-capable.

NBCU’s networks set to carry various parts of Olympics coverage (including many “fringe” sports that have rarely ever been carried before, and never in prime time) include NBC Television (broadcast), and cable venues CNBC HD, MSNBC HD, Telemundo, and USA HD. (NBCU’s Bravo and Sci-Fi apparently will not provide any coverage.)

For more details on NBCU’s HD plans for the games, read the July 23 issue of TV Technology in print and online.

NBCU has set up a special Olympics Web site with a link allowing viewers to enter their Zip Codes and see what Olympics coverage their local NBC stations are offering.

In all, NBCU said it will be providing a near-constant flood of more than 100 feeds back to the United States at any given time. That’s several times more ambitious than any other of NBCU’s previous games coverage.

Chief host again will be Bob Costas of NBC Sports.