NBC's Neal: Beijing Olympics to Kick-Start Mainstream HD Adoption

New York -- NBC's coverage of the Summer Olympic Games from Beijing next summer should have a major impact on consumer awareness of high-definition television in both the United States and overseas, NBC Sports executive producer David Neal declared Wednesday morning at the HD World conference here.

In a keynote address, Neal, who also serves as executive vice president of NBC Olympics, said NBC would deliver some 756 hours of HD coverage from Beijing beginning Aug. 8, 2008. This marks a big increase from the last Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, where NBC produced 399 hours in HD, and a major bump from the Torino (Italy) Winter Olympics, where it offered 303.5 hours in HD. NBC's first Olympic HD effort -- the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City -- offered 122 hours of tape-delayed coverage.

"It will be a signature moment for the adoption of high-definition as a mainstream delivery medium for consumers," Neal said, predicting that more than 50% of U.S. households will have HDTV sets in 2008.

Beijing will be the first Olympics to be produced completely in HD, which Neal credited to the efforts of both Chinese organizers and host broadcaster Olympic Broadcasting Services, an arm of the International Olympic Committee. The Games will be covered by some 1,000 HD cameras and 60 HD mobile units, and organizers are wiring all of the brand-new Olympic venues with fiber-optic cables suitable for distributing HD signals. Neal estimated that China is spending some $40 billion on the Games overall.

"The Chinese are making it happen with a very healthy checkbook, and NBC and other broadcasters are able to take advantage of it," he added.