What to expect from NBC's 'unprecedented' summer Olympics coverage

Photo of Paul Schott

STAMFORD — Mark your calendars: The Tokyo summer Olympics will start on July 23 and run until Aug. 8.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the postponement of the 32nd Olympiad, and Japan is still grappling with the health crisis. But NBCUniversal, which includes the Stamford-based NBC Sports division, still has ambitious plans. Details announced by the broadcaster this week include a record 7,000 hours of programming across two broadcast networks, six cable networks and several digital platforms.

At the same time, the broadcaster will be returning to its roots. It first covered an Olympiad in 1964, the previous time that the summer games were held in Tokyo.

“After a devastating year, the world comes together again, finally, in Tokyo this summer,” Molly Solomon, executive producer and president of NBC Olympics Production, said in a statement. “We are going to deliver the most comprehensive — and accessible — coverage for any sports event in history. The depth and breadth of our broadcasts will be unprecedented, showcasing once-in-a-generation athletes and storylines that will capture the incredible uniqueness of these games and our times.”

Here is a look at some of the highlights of NBCUniversal’s coverage, which will mark its 11th-consecutive Olympics presentation and ninth consecutive summer games — both records for a U.S. media company.

How much Olympics programming will there be on the NBC broadcast network?

The network will provide 17 consecutive nights of primetime coverage and a total of 250 hours of programming.

Comparable to the 2018 winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, NBC will broadcast its primetime show live across all time. zones with continuing coverage on “Prime Plus” (formerly the late-night show) following late local news.

How will NBC cover the opening ceremony on July 23?

NBC is planning a full day of Olympics programming on the NBC network that will culminate with a primetime presentation of the ceremony.

The day will begin with the network’s first-ever live morning broadcast of an opening ceremony, followed by a special edition of “Today” and then NBC’s first-ever Olympics daytime show on the opening Friday of the games.

What are some of the Team USA storylines that NBC will focus on?

Having won more overall medals than any other nation at six consecutive summer games, Team USA will again feature prominently in NBC’s coverage.

NBC officials said that they high hopes for a number of the top American athletes including gymnast Simone Biles; swimmers Caeleb Dressel, Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel; and runners Allyson Felix and Noah Lyles.

They also cited the “particularly formidable” U.S. women’s teams, whom they expect to contend for gold medals in basketball, soccer, softball and water polo, as well as team events in gymnastics and rowing. In men’s basketball, the “Dream Team” will compete for its fourth-consecutive gold medal and 16th overall.

On which cable channels will I be able to watch the Olympics?

Five English-language NBCUniversal cable networks - USA Network, CNBC, NBCSN, Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and Golf Channel - will present a total of more than 1,300 hours of coverage.

What will be the extent of coverage on digital platforms?

NBC Sports Digital will stream more than 5,500 hours of the Olympics on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app — including all 41 sports and 339 medal events on the Tokyo program, as well as the opening and closing ceremonies.

In addition, the streaming Peacock service will be a hub for studio programming.

What will be the extent of Spanish-language coverage?

Telemundo Deportes, the exclusive Spanish-language home of the Olympic Games in the U.S., will carry more than 300 hours of programming across Telemundo and Universo.

How many employees will NBC be sending to Tokyo? What types of COVID-19 requirements will they face?

There will be approximately 1,600 staff members in Tokyo.

“We’ve been following strict Comcast NBCUniversal protocols since the pandemic and will continue to do so for our Olympics production in Tokyo and in the U.S.,” said an NBC spokesman. “Our team in Japan will also be following the strict protocols put in place by national and local governments, the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee and the International Olympic Committee.”

What role will Stamford-based employees play?

There will be about 1,700 people working at NBC Sports’ Stamford headquarters this summer for the Olympics.

Their work will cover production, programming, and support functions.

More than 30 announcing booths will be in operation, along with eight control rooms and six studios. In addition, the digital production team will be primarily based in Stamford.

Many who can work from home will continue to do so — as they have done for the past 16 months.

pschott@stamfordadvocate.com; twitter: @paulschott