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NBCU Doubles Winter Games Coverage for Vancouver

With the Winter Olympics now less than a month away, NBC Universal mapped out its schedule for the Vancouver Games, almost doubling its presentation from its coverage from Torino, Italy in 2006.
Spread across six platforms -- NBC, USA, MSNBC, CNBC and Universal HD, as well as -- NBCU, in what will be the first Winter Games shot entirely in high-definition, will present the most in-depth coverage in history for a Winter Olympics, with some 835 hours, chronicling all 15 sports competitions. That compares with 419 hours from Torino and 375.5 from Salt Lake City in 2002.
"What's unique about Vancouver is that more than any time in winter sports history, the United States over the last two years has emerged as the dominant international winter sports power," said Dick Ebersol, chairman, NBC Universal Sports & Olympics and executive producer of NBC Universal's Olympic coverage, in a statement. "I remember the 1964 and 1968 Winter Olympics when the U.S. team won one gold medal in each. This U.S. team should have potential medal winners almost every single day of the Vancouver Olympics."

While NBC sets the pace from a linear perspective with 193.5 hours, topped by such marquee events as figure skating and alpine skiing, will feature some 400 hours of live event competition -- four years ago, the site streamed two hours of the men's gold medal hockey as a test -- as well as more than 1000 hours of on-demand access to full-event encores and host-feed coverage of all 15 Winter Olympics sports. There will also be extensive highlights such as event recaps, best-of montages, commentator analysis and athlete-specific clips.

Powered by Microsoft's Silverlight technology, the site's video player will present the action in HD quality and offer DVR-style controls, enabling users to pause and rewind live Olympic fare .
Once again, USA Network, available in 98.5 million homes, will be the cable home of the U.S. Olympic Team. The "characters network" will offer some 41 hours of coverage, beginning on Valentine's Day, with a focus on the men's and women's curling (with live action on nine of the 12 tournament days) and ice hockey teams. All Team USA hockey games, both men's and women's, will be seen live, the majority of the time on USA Network.

Universal HD, currently available in 17 million homes, will encore USA Network's coverage.
Available to 95 million households, CNBC will carry the second most Olympic hours on the linear side. Beginning on Feb. 13, CNBC will come out of the chute with 100.5 hours of Games action, with an emphasis on live long-form curling, hockey and biathlon. Weekdays CNBC will present Games coverage from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m.
MSNBC has 100 hours on tap, highlighted by the live quarterfinal, semifinal and medal-round hockey competition, as well as the U.S.-Canada men's game. MSNBC will also provide extensive live curling coverage, including medal round games, in addition to live speed skating and figure skating. MSNBC begins its coverage on Saturday, Feb. 13. Its weekday windows: 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. and 3 a.m to 5:30 a.m.
As for the Peacock itself, its Vancouver schedule is sliced into three dayparts -- afternoon, primetime and late-night  -- over 17 days, beginning with the Opening Ceremony on Friday, Feb. 12, at 7:30 p.m. (ET). As alluded to earlier, NBC's primetime coverage will showcase men's and women's figure skating and alpine skiing. Other primetime plays: freestyle skiing, short track, snowboarding and speed skating.
Relative to the latter, NBC's initial primetime event coverage will be the 1500-meter gold medal, speed skating final. The U.S. has a strong team, led by five-time Olympic medalist and Seattle native Apolo Ohno, who needs two medal to surpass Bonnie Blair as America' most-decorated Winter Olympic athlete. 

For its part, Universal Sports, the joint venture network featuring Olympic-style competitions that is owned by NBCU and Leo Hindery's InterMedia Partners, will present live studio news and information programming, plus highlights and results updates, during the 2010 Winter Olympics.

With the TV rights to Vancouver totaling $820 million, up from $613 million for Torino, Ebersol, speaking on a panel at the TCA winter press tour on Jan. 10 in Pasadena, Calif., said NBCU would lose some $200 million on the Games.

Although the ad market has picked up over the last four months and sales will be comparable to those generated in 2002 and 2006, Ebersol said this will mark the first time the Olympics would be in the red since he began producing the Games in 1992.

Ebersol said the International Olympic Committee will likely open up the bidding for the 2014 Winter Olympics and 2016 Summer Games in Rio De Janiero this year. Under that time table, General Electric would make the call on NBCU pursuing those competitions. Regulatory approval for Comcast becoming the majority owner in a joint venture with NBCU is expected to take a year.