NBC Sets 4K Plans for Rio Olympics

NBC Olympics said it will provide select coverage of the Rio Olympics in the eye-popping 4K format to its various cable, satellite TV and telco TV distribution partners.

NBC Olympics, a unit of NBC Sports Group, said that coverage, provided on a one-day delay, will include 4K/Ultra HD footage from the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as coverage of several events, including swimming, track and field, basketball, the men’s soccer final, judo, with some “Rio scenic” mixed in.

One event from the previous day’s competition will be provided daily from August 6, the day following the opening ceremony, through August 22, the day after the Rio Games conclude.

NBC’s 4K coverage of the summer games will raise the bar on what it provided during the 2014 Sochi Winter games. Corporate cousin Comcast, for example, held several viewing parties to demonstrate 4K using clips from the games provided by NBC Sports.

Notably, NBC Olympics said its 4K UHD coverage of the opening ceremony in Rio will also support High Dynamic Range (HDR), providing richer, brighter pixels, as well as Dolby Atmos, an immersive three-dimensional audio platform.

NBC Olympics said it will distribute the 4K UHD coverage provided by Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS) and Japan’s NHK to U.S. distribution partners, who will individually choose how they will make the content available to their customers.

Among U.S. MVPDs, Comcast has already announced that it will start to ship the Xi5, its first HDR-capable box, on July 4, ensuring it will be available in time for the Rio games. The Xi6, which will also support 4K, is also in the works. DirecTV, now owned by AT&T, recently launched three 4K channels, including one dedicated to live events shot in the format. Dish Network began to distribute its new 4K-capable Hopper 3 DVR in February.  TiVo, meanwhile, is working on a 4K-HDR platform that is optimized for its MVPD partners.

The Olympics have been a consistent driver of technological advancements, and Rio will be no different,” Gary Zenkel, president of NBC Olympics, said in a statement. The stunning backdrop of Rio combined with the world-class competition of the Olympics will give the American audience a spectacular early look at this impressive new technology.”

“Since the London Games, OBS and NHK have been working together, experimenting on the future standard of 8K,” added Yiannis Exarchos, CEO of OBS. “Substantial recent technological advancements have allowed us to pursue this opportunity further for the Rio Games and to offer a 4K feed for a number of sports, down-converted from the original 8K, to NBC and other interested Rights Holding Broadcasters around the globe.”

According to a fresh forecast from Strategy Analytics, more than 11 million homes in North America will own an 4K/Ultra HD TV by the end of 2016.

For more details about the initiative, including the top tech challenges posed by it, please see Chris Tribbey’s expanded coverage at B&C