It will require the dexterity of a gymnast and the stamina of a marathon runner to get more than a taste of NBCUniversal's total coverage of the 2012 Olympics.
More than 5,500 hours of activities will be spread across nine networks, a 65 percent increase from the Beijing Games four years ago. As NBC Sports chief Mark Lazarus points out, if you stretched that much time out across one 24-hour television network, you would have enough content to stay on the air for over seven months.
"The challenge is going to be keeping it all straight, which I guess is a good thing," said Dave Nyberg, the Twin Cities senior corporate affairs manager for Comcast, which owns NBC. "It's going to be a dizzying array of coverage."
Those relying solely on the NBC network for their Olympics fix will get over 272 hours -- a 50-hour boost from 2008 -- but because of the time difference across the pond, prime time will consist largely of special-interest stories and taped events of Americans' favorite events: swimming, diving, track, gymnastics and beach volleyball.
"We believe firmly that the best stories from the most high-profile events should be saved, from a television point of view, for when the most people are available to watch it, which is in prime time," Lazarus said during a recent news conference.
Basic cable and satellite subscribers who insist on catching the action live might end up in some unfamiliar territory.
Want to take in 73 hours of boxing? Welcome to CNBC, a channel usually more fascinated with finances than the sweet science. Tennis anyone? Say hello to Bravo, where the closest thing to a racket has been some scheme cooked up by an Orange County housewife. Jonesing for basketball? NBCUniversal has created a new, temporary channel just to cover those games. One speciality channel is dedicated to soccer and another for those 1 percenters who have a 3-D TV and want to watch the competition through wacky glasses.
Just as broad: the TV personalities.
It makes perfect sense to see Bob Costas returning as prime-time host for the ninth time, while Al Michaels and Dan Patrick handle similar duties. But Ryan Seacrest? Shaun White? Jimmy Fallon? Hey, someone's got to help fill all those hours.
Coverage will be significantly more straightforward for those going digital.
NBCUniversal is offering 3,500 hours of live streaming. They will cover every frame of the Games, from the first stroke of the rowing competition to the last bounce on the trampoline. Live video will be available at both nbcolympics.com and through an app called NBC Olympics Live Extra. An additional app, NBC Olympics, will offer short-form highlights and TV schedules.
NBC officials estimate that 52 million unique streamers took advantage of live streaming during the Beijing games. They expect that number will be significantly higher this time around.
No matter how you choose to take in the action, the broadcasters will still be judged less on digital advancements and more on how they tell the tale.
"There are a lot of things that technology has brought us. Some of those tubes of communication are wondrous," but a lot of them aren't, Costas said. "The essence of good storytelling and the essence of good broadcasting remain the same."
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