NBC doing Winter Games in HD

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The 2002 Winter Olympic Games will be broadcast in HDTV by NBC's 32 digital affiliates and HDNet, the result of a partnership whereby HDNet will provide the production vehicles and technical support needed to accomplish the 1080i broadcasts.

Mark Cuban, co-founder and chairman of HDNet, says that the HD coverage will be 16 hours a day, although it will include only events from the previous day. "NBC realizes that the demand for HD is growing, and we've partnered with them in the past," says Cuban. "We have a great relationship, and this is hopefully one step that will allow us to partner even more."

Gary Zenkel, NBC Olympics executive vice president, says the move is a great step forward in NBC's efforts in the digital and HD world. And it's a step the network is taking with relative ease.

"The opportunity existed to take the HD program feeds, add a little bit of NBC to it, and offer it to our digital affiliates without a lot of heavy lifting."
Zenkel says the marriage made a lot of sense for NBC because the resources to handle the production side of HD coverage were not available.

"We couldn't pull away from the standard definition side to turn these programming feeds into something that was the quality we wanted," he says. "So HDNet was prepared to step up and help us with this, and they have an enormous depth of experience in the HD world so we took comfort in knowing that."
Cuban says that with 16 hours of programming a day the HD coverage will be able to be shown in consumer electronic outlets during the day, something he sees as a key driver for HD.

"Every consumer electronic store that has half a brain will be showing the Olympics in high definition," he says. "And I think that, as much as anything, provides a lot of the impetus behind what we're doing."

The HDTV broadcasts will air portions of the previous days events from 3-11 p.m. EST and replayed from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. and again from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. EST. NBC will dictate what events get coverage, but the early word is that the opening and closing ceremonies, figure skating, speed skating, ski jumping and hockey are already on the list of events to be covered in HD.

HDNet's two HD production vehicles will be used to handle production. NBC and HDNet will also look to sell advertising and sponsorship for the coverage.
- Ken Kerschbaumer

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