There aren’t enough hours in the day to watch all the Winter Olympics coverage that NBC and its cable partners are serving up.
Even if you want to watch someone hurtling headfirst down a mountain or actually know what the biathlon is, it’s impossible to see it all live. NBC’s planned 416 hours of coverage (including the broadcast network and cable outlets) from Turin, Italy, averages out to 24.5 hours a day.
“We are reinventing the clock,” said David Neal, executive producer of NBC Sports.
(MSNBC is a joint venture between NBC and Microsoft.)
The Winter Games open Feb. 10 and competition stretches for 16 days after that. NBC executives are privately trying to downplay ratings expectations, given that Olympics on U.S. snow and ice — like Salt Lake City in 2002 — tend to draw more interest. But they’re hoping a strong United States team will spike the TV turnout.
“The thing that our viewers will immediately notice each day is the strength of the U.S. Olympics team,” Neal said. “It’s the most accomplished Winter Olympics team that the U.S. has ever fielded.”
It’s not like NBC is going to wrap itself in a flag and ignore accomplishments of foreign athletes, but it helps if there are more competitions with a national rooting interest, he said.
Looking for the compelling storiesFor the winter Olympics to really take off for NBC, it requires some kind of story, some personalities that intrigue viewers. Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan won’t be around this time, but Michelle Kwan is continuing her quest for ice-skating gold.
And American skier Bode Miller introduced himself to the world away from snow-covered mountains with his “60 Minutes” interview on CBS admitting he has skied after drinking.
“I’m waiting for my thank-you card from my good friend (NBC sports boss) Dick Ebersol for picking out a star for the Olympics and promoting him so well,” joked CBS News and Sports President Sean McManus.
NBC’s prime-time coverage will feature high-profile sports like figure skating, skiing and snowboarding. And, because Turin is six hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, those competitions will be taped instead of shown live earlier in the day.
That’s an increasing risk in a wired world — even NBC’s Olympics Web site will provide up-to-the-minute results — but Neal said research shows viewers want to watch those sports when it’s most convenient to them.
NBC has assembled a veteran, familiar announcing corps, led by prime-time host Bob Costas. Daytime and late-night host Jim Lampley is working his 13th Olympics, surpassing the record set by ABC’s Jim McKay.
New to NBC’s team is longtime skating analyst Dick Button, a 1948 gold medal winner. He’ll join Tim Hammond, Scott Hamilton, Sandra Bezic and Andrea Joyce in talking over the skating competition.
During the figure-skating competition, the USA Network will air a one-hour show at 6 p.m. ET called “Olympic Ice,” providing news, analysis and interviews on the sport.
‘Every sport will have...some coverage’USA, MSNBC and CNBC will provide many hours of coverage — USA and MSNBC during the day and CNBC for three hours in the early evening after the stock market closes.
“For the first time in the Winter Games, every session of every sport will have at least some coverage,” Neal said.
That includes, for die-hards, a numbing 26 curling matches — 15 of them shown live.
All 54 games of the men’s and women’s hockey games will be shown live, mostly on the cable networks. All games involving the U.S. teams will be shown commercial-free. Gold medal games for the men and women will be shown on NBC.
The Spanish-language Telemundo will offer Olympics news updates and a late-night highlights show. NBC’s digital channel will offer a high-definition simulcast of the NBC coverage, although not of anything on USA, MSNBC or CNBC.
NBC promises relatively few new technological twists. A yellow line, similar to those shown to mark the first down on football games, will be used in ski jumping to show the mark an individual skier needs to win a gold medal.
The network has also improved its virtual graphics that allow it to superimpose the image of another skier racing down the mountain next to a competitor, to show how their runs compare to each other, Neal said.
Used in Salt Lake City, it caused some viewer confusion: some people called in to NBC concerned that two skiers were on the course at the same time and would crash.