NBC Uni's Olympic marathon


NBC Universal on Tuesday announced the most wide-ranging coverage plan of any Olympics in history, including 225 hours in 17 days on NBC and 3,600 hours total across TV, online and mobile.

It will be the first time that an entire Summer Olympics on TV will be available in HD. Coverage of the Aug. 8-24 Games will appear on seven networks: NBC, MSNBC, CNBC, USA, Telemundo, Universal HD and, for the first time, Oxygen. NBC Uni said 75% of the TV coverage will be live, even with the 12-hour difference between Beijing and the East Coast. All 34 events will be covered, and there will be specialty channels providing soccer and basketball games. There also will be coverage in Korean and Mandarin Chinese on separate channels.

"That's an enormous leap forward, and that's something that benefits not only homes with HD sets. … The source material (for all platforms) is of a much higher quality," NBC Sports executive producer David Neal said. "The trickle-down effect will help every user."

NBC was able to get Olympics organizers to schedule most of the key finals early in the morning Beijing time — for live primetime coverage on the East Coast. That primetime coverage will include all 32 gold-medal finals for swimming across eight days, four nights of gymnastics, beach volleyball and the men's and women's marathons.

"There's nothing as exhilarating for a producer, and I think an audience, as a live Olympics," Neal said.

No Olympics is without some level of controversy. In Athens in 2004, for instance, it was the pace of construction of venues and fears about attendance. But the 2008 Games have been a lightning rod for criticism about the Chinese government, raising fears among some broadcasters that authorities won't keep their word on allowing press freedom.

Neal said Tuesday that every Olympics has been a monumental challenge, and this one is no different. But he said that from a technological standpoint, the organizers have made the financial and technological commitment to make the Games a success.

"They are ready to go," he said. "They are at a higher state of readiness than any of the previous seven host cities that I've worked with."

Although some foreign broadcasters and journalists have criticized the government for its bureaucracy and wondered about restrictions, Neal said the cooperation they've received from Olympic and Chinese authorities is "first rate" and that they have a good relationship with them.

"(The Games organizing committee) and the Chinese government have promised access for the media," he said. "That was something they promised when they were first awarded the Games, and they have continued to reaffirm those promises. So I do believe we're going to be able to cover the Games as our audience expects us to cover them."

NBC's weekday coverage will run from 10 a.m.-1 p.m., 8-11:30 p.m. and midnight-1:30 a.m. EDT.

Telemundo will have 380 hours of the Olympics, including two men's soccer games the day before the opening ceremony. USA Network will focus its 165 hours primarily on Team USA's basketball and soccer, water polo, tennis and volleyball.

MSNBC will have 175 hours, including weekday coverage of softball, soccer, beach volleyball, wrestling, weightlifting, basketball and volleyball. CNBC will have 100 hours of boxing, softball, tennis, wrestling and badminton, after CNBC's "Closing Bell" coverage of the stock market.

A recent addition to the NBC Uni family, Oxygen, will have 20 hours of coverage that will focus daily on gymnastics and also have equestrian and tennis. (partialdiff)