Bonus HD Baffles Some

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Some NBC HD viewers who tuned in at 8 p.m. for the Athens Summer Olympic Games opening ceremonies last Friday were surprised to find themselves in another place and in an entirely different season, watching the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City two years ago.

While the regular analog coverage of the ceremonies did begin at 8 on NBC, the HD coverage that went to the 124 HD-capable affiliates wasn't scheduled to begin until nine due to a pre-planned hour delay. Instead, between 8 and 9, NBC put together some bonus coverage in the form of an HDTV highlight reel of the Salt Lake City opening. But with no crawl to explain the old footage, some viewers were left collectively scratching their heads.

The HD coverage was always listed as beginning at 9, said NBC Sports spokeswoman Cameron Blanchard, "but some people tuned in early and stumbled on to [the Salt Lake footage]. We got a few calls from viewers asking, 'What's going on?'"

Under the heading of "no good deed goes unpunished," the confusion even prompted one viewer to call the NBC station in Washington, then corporate in New York, then a Washington radio station talk show to vent. On the up side, it at least demonstrates that there are people out there receiving an HDTV signal.

After Friday night, it was all Athens, all the time, with the HD coverage delivered 24/7 in an eight-hour loop repeated thrice daily.

All the HD coverage was on a delayed basis (the opening ceremonies by an hour, the rest of the coverage by a day) due to restrictions from the host broadcaster, whose feed NBC was required to use for HD, according to Blanchard.

Not so the 2006 winter games in Italy says Blanchard, where NBC plans to use the same feed and announcers for standard and HD broadcasts.

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