NEW YORK — Executives at NBC Sports are betting on choice when it comes to viewing the Tokyo Olympics, which they are hyping as the “biggest and most impactful media event ever.”
The choice entails fans being able to pick and choose the events they want to watch, no matter what time zone they reside in, as a way to get more eyeballs on television screens.
But for the expected millions of fans who are used to watching the main Olympic events, such as gymnastics, track and field and men’s basketball, on NBC, there will be a new way of watching.
The streaming service Peacock will broadcast women’s and men’s gymnastics, along with every Team USA men’s basketball game, plus the men’s and women’s 100-meter finals. Those events will be shown live, while those watching during primetime on NBC will get a package of select broadcasts.
NBC Sports executives laid out their plans for the Tokyo Olympics on Wednesday, just 30 days out from the Opening Ceremony on July 23. Because NBC’s investment is so large (NBC Universal is paying the International Olympic Committee $7.75 billion for the Olympics through 2032), the TV ratings will play a big part of whether these Games are called a success.
30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York. (Photo: Richard Drew, AP)
Eight different networks, including USA and CNBC, and the NBC Sports Network, will be broadcasting 7,000 hours within the 35 sports of the Games. The plan is to offer programming and break it into blocks, complete with quick bits and alerts about what is showing on other channels.
“Our job is to pick the best platform and put it on the biggest stage,” said Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBC Universal television and streaming. “The time-zone difference allows us that flexibility.”
Viewers are going to be able to watch anything they want by going to other simultaneous broadcasts.
“This will be the most meaningful Olympics of our lifetime,” said Molly Solomon, executive vice president of content and executive producer. “People are craving the shared experience, and we have adapted to the changing consumption habits.”
That's where Peacock comes in. Peacock, which launched as an over-the-top streaming service in July 2020, is hoping to bring more people to the platform. Comcast, which owns NBC Universal, said Peacock reached 42 million subscribers in the first quarter of 2021. Peacock will feature live coverage every morning, as well as original programming that will allow fans to keep track of highlights and full event replays.
“We want to bring the best of Tokyo. A short burst of energy," said Rob Hyland, NBC Sports coordinating producer. “We want to break up block programming and want to bring the best event, especially in the morning. We will have something for everyone.”
Also adding to the broadcasts will be virtual-reality graphics highlighting specific athletes, and an outdoor set in Tokyo, one of seven set locations for primetime host Mike Tirico.
One of the biggest concerns is the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which is why the Games were postponed a year in the first place. When it comes to contingency plans, executives stressed they are doing everything they can to ensure crews are safe.
“The safety of our staff and following protocols is first and foremost,” said Pete Bevacqua, chairman of NBC Sports Group. He said there is a “strong plan in terms of creating safety,” which has been planned since the postponement.
NBC says it won’t be in a position to inform the International Olympic Committee how the Games should be conducted or whether they can move events if the virus becomes an issue.
“We will adhere to all IOC protocols and cover events as they happen,” Bevacqua said.
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