The Olympics: If you’ve got the time, NBC certainly has the coverage

The Olympics: If you’ve got the time, NBC certainly has the coverage


If you’ve got 70 hours in your day, NBC can fill it with Olympics.

The network, which paid $793 million for the rights to televise the Athens Summer Games, will spread 1,210 hours of coverage over seven channels from today through Aug. 29.

That’s more hours than the combined total of the past five Summer Olympics. There will be at least some coverage of all 28 Olympic sports, featuring about 10,500 athletes from 202 countries around the world.

As always, the Olympics are more than sports. The Games are a cultural extravaganza and a really big TV show.

Besides NBC and its high-definition stations, the Olympics will be on cable channels MSNBC, CNBC, USA, Bravo and Telemundo. Tonight at 8, Channel 4 airs opening ceremonies.

There will be more live coverage — 300 hours — from Athens than from Sydney in 2000. Because of the seven-hour time difference between Athens and New York, most of the live events will be on cable in the daytime and NBC on the weekends.

Of course, some of the premiere events — swimming, diving, gymnastics and track and field — will be shown on tape so they can be seen in prime time, which usually churns up criticism. Serious sports fans want to see things live.

“Our responsibility to our affiliates and advertisers is to get the biggest audience possible,” Randy Falco, president of NBC Universal Television Networks, said in a conference call. “And our responsibility to the audience is to put events on when viewers are available to watch — and that’s in prime time.”

Multi-talented Bob Costas returns as host of prime-time coverage, which will be loaded with swimming, gymnastics and track. The evening programs also will have athlete profiles — those “up-close-and- personal” features made famous by Jim McKay years ago on ABC.

Hard-core sports fans may object to these warm-and-fuzzy segments, but Olympics viewers, who tend to be less hard-core than other sports fans, love them.

And producers believe they’re important.

“There will be storytelling by the announcers,” said Dick Ebersol, president of NBC Sports. “When you put the Olympics up there, no matter what the sports are, they’re really not known by the American viewing public. But (in Athens) there won’t be the feature load that we’ve had in the past.”

How else will the Athens Olympics be different on TV?

New technologies, other than HD for the HDTV elite, include innovations in “virtual graphics.”

DiveMotion is a video-imaging tool that will be used in replays to analyze diving techniques.

LaneIDs, the virtual graphics that placed countries’ flags in pool lanes the last time around in swimming, will now include swimmers’ names. Also in swimming, there will be a virtual “world-record line.”

In track and field, there will be world-record lines and a “line- to-beat” for events with multiple heats.

NBC is hoping slow ticket sales in Athens won’t translate into lower ratings for the 17-day telecast. The network is close to its target of selling $1 billion in advertising, and poor ratings would be a bad sign. NBC has invested heavily in the Olympics, with rights acquired through the 2012 Summer Games.The Olympics

Opening ceremonies will air at 8 tonight on Channel 4.

Copyright Copley Press Inc. 2004

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