Each one of NBC’s ten O&O (“owned and operated”) stations across the country is sending a small team to the Summer Olympics. In the case of NBC Southern California, the lucky employees are anchor-reporter Robert Kovacik together with cameramen Sean Browning and Thomas Bravo.
“The goal is to make sure we highlight our local athletes, the participants, the spectators, to really show the Southern California participation in the London Olympics,” Kovacik tells FishbowlLA via telephone. “The nice thing is that all of these O&O crews are working together as a team. We’re sharing resources, potential interviews, story ideas… Right down to if I see a great shot of some guy walking around in a Yankees baseball cap, then I can pick up that shot and give it to our guys at WNBC in New York.”
“We’ll also be sharing a broadcast facility when we get there, and together, we are going to be a very strong and powerful operation,” he adds. “It also will afford me the opportunity to work directly with colleagues that I have admired for years.”
Kovacik says that since he called into his manager’s office back in February and told, ‘You’re going to the Olympics,’ it’s been a non-stop preparation process. Partly because NBC is aiming to make these the first “social Olympics.” As such, Kovacik will remain attached at the hip to his Twitter (@RobertNBCLA) and Facebook (/RobertNBCLA) accounts, posting updates as he goes.
One unique advantage Kovacik and his San Francisco and San Diego O&O colleagues have is the way the eight-hour time difference syncs up naturally with station programming. Following NBC’s nightly network block to midnight PT, Kovacik will come on live on KNBC’s late news at 8 a.m. London time, the next day.
“Our viewers here at home will always be one step ahead… My east coast colleagues are all jealous,” he says with a laugh. “I’ll also be doing live reports every morning on Today in LA, which will be one to three o’clock p.m. London time.”
“NBC LA is going to be adding a 4 p.m. newscast, and we will be on through to 6:30 p.m. with taped, live segments as warranted. There is also O Zone, a special nightly half-hour leading into the network’s national block, hosted by Fred Roggin.”
Kovacik has logged various scene-setting reports* ahead of the Games. Tonight, NBCLA will run his report on Prince Mumba, a Zambian-born athlete competing in the 800 meters. Mumba (pictured, below, with Kovacik) trains at the Santa Monica track club and is also a coach at the Windward School in Mar Vista.
“For this one event, there is going to be a whole section of west Los Angeles cheering for Zambia,” Kovacik says. “Prince told me he’s not just going to be running for his home country that day, but also the kids at Winward.” (He will be back at Winward in the fall.)
Another one of Kovacik’s favorite human interest stories is that of an Israeli air force veteran whose service for his country prevented the pursuit of competing in the Olympics. All these years later, the Hollywood resident is finally going to make it to an Olympics, where he will meet some of his relatives for the first time. “That’s what’s so great about the Olympics,” Kovacik marvels. “There are so many incredible personal stories, just waiting to be told.”
Kovacik and the other O&O teams will be using LiveU camera equipment that enables them to broadcast from any corner of the Olympic facilities. He says the same technology has been used recently by NBCLA for coverage of the Mexico drug wars and a plane crash in Glendale.
[Pictured in top photo with Kovacik: U.S. men’s volleyball team member Reid Priddy, a gold medal winner in Beijing hoping to repeat after recovering from 2011 facial fracture and reconstructive surgery.]
Update – 07/18/2012: Here’s a link to Kovacik’s Tuesday evening report on returning Olympic hopeful Prince Mumba.