The 24-HOUR OLYMPICS are so 2004. NBC Universal will offer more than 212 hours a day of Beijing coverage—75% of it live—across seven networks (NBC, USA, MSNBC, CNBC, Oxygen, Telemundo and Universal HD) and NBCOlympics.com. That will result in 1,000 more total hours of Olympics this year than the U.S. has seen from all past televised Summer Games combined. "We realize 200-plus hours a day is daunting for the viewer," says NBC Sports and Olympics executive producer David Neal. "But as [NBC Sports chairman] Dick Ebersol (above) says, it means consumers will really be able to program their own Olympic experience."
Having persuaded the IOC (over some athletes' objections) to hold swimming and gymnastics finals in the morning, Beijing time, NBC will make the best of the 12-hour time difference from the Eastern U.S. Live prime-time coverage will include not just those marquee events but also beach volleyball and both marathons. Neal & Co. might also luck into the most anticipated Olympic tennis match in history: Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are entered in the men's draw, with the final airing Aug. 17 on USA Network between 4 and 10:30 a.m. ET.
Most Olympics offer a breakout television sport, from curling (Salt Lake City) to snowboardcross (Turin). What could that be this time? "I think table tennis will capture people's imagination," says Neal, whose company plans to air China's national pastime on no fewer than three channels.