NBC goes wall to wall in Beijing

2,200 hours of Olympic coverage on Internet is a first

A year before the Summer Olympics kick off in Beijing, NBC Universal said Tuesday that it will offer the most coverage ever televised to the U.S.

The 3,600 hours of coverage — including NBC primetime and the company's cable TV and broadband assets — will dwarf the 1,210 hours NBC and its cable channels televised for the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. In Beijing, NBC and cable will account for 1,400 hours, with the other 2,200 hours available for free on the Internet.

It's the first time that broadband video will be employed to stream coverage of the Games, allowing NBC to carry up to 212 hours a day for the 17 days of the 2008 Olympics beginning Aug. 8, 2008.

Adding up the total number of Summer Olympic hours of coverage from the 1960 Games in Rome to Athens comes to 2,562 hours, far short of what NBC will offer in China.

NBC starts its countdown clock today with a broadcast on "Today" that will include coverage of the organizers' celebration as well as visits from Olympic athletes at the network's Rockefeller Plaza headquarters in New York. It also will be a test of the AT&T-China Netcom network that will bring digital-signal coverage of the Games next year.

While the time difference and the ability to check results and sometimes highlights via the Internet has impacted Olympic ratings, NBC was able to work with the Olympic organizing committee to make sure that the swimming, gymnastics and beach volleyball finals will be live to the East Coast despite the 12-hour time difference between New York and Beijing.

Also sporting coverage will be USA, MSNBC, CNBC and Telemundo. Live and on-demand coverage will be available online at NBCOlympics.com. NBC will release details of its mobile wireless coverage plans later.