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Olympic-size coverage

NBC News Channel is going for the gold in its efforts to cover the Olympics this September. Reporting the event is a major undertaking for the affiliate news service, which will deliver 19 days of news, supplying a projected 2,000 live shots for local stations.

"We're looking forward to the Olympics,'' says NBC News Channel President Bob Horner. "It's our goal to make sure that every single NBC affiliate has the opportunity to have some kind of enhanced coverage, not just taped, but enhanced live coverage,'' says Horner.

News Channel's operation involves about 150 people; including staff from the news service, a contingent from NBC's owned stations, as well as journalists from Hearst-Argyle Television, Gannett Broadcasting, Belo and LIN Television. News Channel will also assist NBC affiliates from Salt Lake City, Nashville, Boston, Indianapolis and San Francisco, which are sending their own news teams to Sydney.

"This is a much larger, more elaborate operation than many people thought we would be able to launch for an Olympics,'' says Horner. News Channel's main newsroom is at the International Broadcast Center close to where NBC Sports is actually televising the broadcast. "We have a great live-shot position at the Olympic Plaza area where we can see the stadium, the Superdome, the Olympic torch, and it's very close to the athletes' village. We think it's a great live-shot location,'' he says.

Coverage commences Sept.13, two days before the opening ceremony, and extends through the entire 17 days of competition. News Channel is using five correspondents in Sydney to provide local broadcasters with the custom live material.

Besides providing custom live shots requested by affiliates that won't be in Sydney, the service plans to constantly update it's Olympic material, sending at least 24 items a day to stations. Live shots will be made available almost 24-hours a day, covering a station's 6 a.m. ET newscast to late-night news shows on the West Coast that will be pushed back to midnight.

Individual stations and broadcast groups joining News Channel in Sydney will have access to a huge satellite operation, Horner promises. "They'll have long, extended satellite windows back to the United States. In some cases, some groups have satellite capability 24 hours a day. I don't even know how to estimate the amount of live shots and pieces of tape they will feed over that 19 days.''

"The vast majority of NBC affiliates will have some kind of enhanced live local coverage on their local newscasts. Which we think will be quite an accomplishment on a story like this,'' adds Horner.

And while News Channel will have a lock on Olympic coverage for local broadcasters, when it comes to the sporting events, Associated Press Television News (APTN) plans on offering non-rightsholders a taste of the games, even if it's on the periphery.

"We will have crews following news stories outside the main arena,'' says Nigel Baker, head of news for APTN. APTN is a major player in providing U.S. broadcasters with customized international news coverage. APTN and its Sports News Television (SNTV), which is a joint venture between APTN and TWI, will offer non-NBC affiliates live-shot facilities and reactive news to the day's events as well as the footage made available to non-rightsholders by the game's organizers.-K.M.