NBCU’s Olympic Coverage Most Ever for Winter Games

When the curtain falls on NBC Universal’s coverage of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, the programmer will have aired 835 hours of action, representing the most total hours ever for a Winter Games. In fact, NBCU’s slate promises to be so comprehensive that it will offer viewers more Olympics programming than the 2006 Torino and 2002 Salt Lake City Games combined (794.5 hours).

Beginning Friday, Feb. 12, NBCU will spread its coverage across five linear TV networks (NBC, USA Network, MSNBC, CNBC and Universal HD), as well as the dedicated Web site NBCOlympics.com. In contrast to the Peacock’s summer Games schedule, viewers won’t find supplemental Olympic competition on Bravo, Oxygen and Telemundo.  

The roster breaks down thusly: NBC’s schedule is divided into three dayparts––afternoon (2 p.m.-5 p.m.), prime time (8 p.m.-11:30 p.m.) and late-night (12:35 a.m.-5 a.m.), accounting for a total slate of 193.5 hours over 17 days, beginning with the Opening Ceremony. The bulk of the broadcaster’s prime time coverage will be devoted to men’s and women’s figure skating and alpine skiing, although NBC will also offer a nightly soupçon of freestyle skiing, speed skating and snowboarding.

Among the American athletes on whom NBC will lavish its attention are: two-time gold-medalist speed skater (and Dancing with the Stars champ) Apolo Ohno; World Champion alpine skier (downhill, Super G) Lindsey Vonn, who’s prospecting for her first Olympic gold; Chicago-born speed skater Shani Davis, the first African-American to win gold in an individual event; and the Flying Tomato, snowboarding icon Shaun White.

Meanwhile, USA Network and MSNBC are being positioned as the home of hockey and curling. Team USA hockey games (both men’s and women’s) will be seen live during USA’s noon-5 p.m. window, while the news net will host the Feb. 21 USA-Canada preliminary. USA’s 41 hours of coverage begins Feb. 14, while MSNBC’s daily 5:30 p.m.-8 p.m./3 a.m.-5:30 a.m. split shift kicks off the day before. All told, MSNBC will carry 100 hours of competition.

Each day after the NYSE’s closing bell sounds, CNBC will devote 12 daily hours to the Games (5 p.m.-5 a.m.). The financial network will carry 100.5 hours of Olympic programming, including live curling and biathlon. Lastly, Universal HD will repurpose USA’s coverage in a three-hour window (9 a.m.-noon).

If Team USA is as dominant as anticipated, NBCU viewers are in for a stateside medal-fest. “What’s unique about Vancouver is that more than any time in winter sports history, the US has emerged as the dominant power,” said Dick Ebersol, chairman, NBC Universal Sports & Olympics and executive producer of NBC Universal’s Olympic coverage. “I remember the 1964 and 1968 Winter Olympics, when the US team won one gold medal in each. This team should have potential medal winners almost every single day.”
On the Web, NBCU will stream 400 of hours of full-length live events, while offering 1,000 hours of on-demand replays, highlights, montages and clips that highlight specific athletes. NBCOlympics.com is once again being powered by Microsoft’s Silverlight Web video technology.

As was the case in the 2008 Summer Games, NBCOlympics.com will be prominently featured on Microsoft’s MSN portal, providing a huge traffic funnel.

While NBC has the exclusive rights to stream the games, the biggest sports sites on the Web are planning extensive coverage. Yahoo Sports will host an official Olympics microsite that will be populated with feature stories on various athletes and countries participating in the games. The site will also produce a daily video series–Yahoo Sports Olympic Minute–and will once again publish its Fourth Place Blog. In 2008 that blog yielded one of the more popular stories to come out of the Beijing games—a feature on why Olympic divers shower after each dive.