Winter Olympics: NBCU eyes Total HD

If you've never seen Vancouver up close and personal in the winter season, seeing it in 1080i from NBC Sports may be the next-best thing to being there. At least that's what NBC Universal is hoping as it reportedly grapples with filling all its commercial avails in a nagging economy as the network readies for total HD coverage starting with the Feb. 12 Opening Ceremonies.

While NBC Sports has covered the last several Olympics in summer and winter mostly in HD, the games in Canada will be the first to be totally aired and recorded in HD, the network said on its recent press tour. According to primetime host, Bob Costas, the HD quality will be produced to do justice not only to the games themselves, but also the unusually picturesque surroundings.

As of now, NBC Sports plans to air about 825 hours over the two-week-plus series of events — much of it live, thanks to an American-friendly time zone that's situated along North America's Pacific coast. Huge time-zone differences at past games in China and other locales often meant sports results could be well-publicized by media competitors and scores of Web sites long before the actual Olympics coverage could be shown by NBC on a tape-delayed basis in prime time.

Yet despite having the luxury of presenting a lot more live coverage in prime time this time around, NBC still will have its share of competitors: The Olympics will square off on no less than four nights with television's highest-rated weekly series — "American Idol" on Fox.