In Depth

Digital Offering's Giant Leap

NBCOlympics.com to Provide 2,200 Hours of Coverage

When the Beijing Olympics starts Aug. 8, NBC will begin a two-week period of offering 2,200 hours of live coverage online, up from two hours at the Turin, Italy, Winter Games just two years ago.

That staggering leap in coverage signals the maturation of Web video technology and the business model that supports the medium. Online consumers now watch about 10 billion videos each month on the Web, according to most estimates.

Despite the exponential increase in hours of online video, NBC is not offering live coverage of marquee events like swimming and gymnastics on the Web. Those events will be available on NBCOlympics.com about an hour after they air.

“Our mission is to entertain the audience as effectively as possible,” said Perkins Miller, senior VP for digital media at NBC Sports & Olympics. “Swimming and gymnastics are best seen on a 52-inch flat screen in hi-def in your living room.”

NBC expects to bring in more than $1 billion in ad revenue from the Games across all platforms. Many advertisers have bought across various media, including Coca-Cola and Visa. Some advertisers bought online only. The network declined to break down revenue projections by medium.

The online undertaking is the largest ever for an Olympics, with about 212 hours of video delivered each day across on-air, online and mobile phones, Mr. Miller said. The network will offer live coverage of 25 events at NBCOlympics.com. Video will be available only on that site, not on partner sites like NBC.com and Hulu.com.

Microsoft is providing the technology for the online video effort and is directing MSN.com visitors to NBCOlympics.com.

“For a live event, it’s best to have one central destination because it’s easier to manage,” Mr. Miller said. “To take our live event coverage and put it on multiple video players on multiple sites would be harder to control the quality of that delivery.”

NBC also will offer live TV coverage on some AT&T mobile phones.

NBCOlympics.com will include television schedule information, breaking news, instantaneous results and alerts that users can program to be sent to their e-mail or mobile phones.

NBC also is offering highlights via video-on-demand on cable.

NBC’s decision to run the biggest events live only on TV is a wise one because online streaming of popular events can crash Web sites, said Will Richmond, author of Video Nuze.com. Just last week, Joss Whedon’s Web series “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” crashed servers from traffic overload.

“‘Dr. Horrible’ is one thing. The Summer Olympics is another,” Mr. Richmond said. “Some sports have a far narrower appeal and some have a broader appeal, and NBC is recognizing the appeal of those sports and allocating resources accordingly.”

Besides, most Olympics fans are more inclined to watch the event on TV anyway because it’s a superior viewing experience, according to Greg Sterling, principal with Sterling Market Intelligence. “Online would be used in all likelihood to see events that were missed or to view favorite events and performances again,” he said.