— Published 8 June 2021

NBC wants to break all records for the Tokyo Games

NBC Tokyo 2020

The organisers of the Tokyo Games can rub their hands together: the spectre of a cancellation is now out of the picture. All signals are green. In Japan and just about everywhere else.

With 45 days to go before the opening of the Games, on Tuesday, June 8th, Japanese public opinion is finally showing itself to be in favour of holding the event. Nothing very spectacular, with the supporters of the event (50%) leading the opponents (48%) by a very narrow margin in the latest opinion poll. But the tide has turned.

At the same time, American broadcasting group NBCUniversal unveiled its Olympic package on Monday, June 7th. It promises to be massive. Even historic. A media deployment never seen in the yet already rich history of the Summer Games.

The directors of the American group are betting that the sanitary crisis and the absence of foreign spectators will not reduce public interest in the Tokyo Games. They even believe that the special context of the event could lead to increased curiosity.

The figures posted by NBCUniversal are startling. As the exclusive owner of the broadcasting rights for the event in the United States until 2032, thanks to a 7.65 billion dollars cheque, the broadcasting group intends to make profit on its investment without waiting for the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

For Tokyo’s Olympics, it has announced that 7,000 hours of programmes were planned. According to the group’s press release, this unprecedented coverage will make the Japanese event “the biggest media event of all time”. No less. And all this despite the unfavourable time difference of 13 hours between the two capitals, Tokyo and Washington DC.

The launch of the operation will precede the opening of the Games, since it will begin on Tuesday, July 20th, with six hours of live coverage of the softball tournament on NBCSN. The Americans are among the favourites for the Olympic title, but the set-up for this additional sport says a lot about the group’s ambition.

The Americans have made no secret of the fact that they do not intend to neglect additional sports and new disciplines, including skateboarding, surfing and karate, which, according to their studies, are likely to attract an audience that has hitherto shown little interest in the Olympic spectacle.

What comes next will be even bigger. On Friday, July 23rd, NBC will broadcast the opening ceremony live for the first time in the morning, followed by a full day of Olympic content.

The programmes will be broadcast in English and Spanish on two unencrypted channels, six cable networks and several digital platforms. NBC alone will offer 250 hours of programming, with 17 consecutive nights of prime time. Five cable networks – USA Network, CNBC, NBCSN, Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and GOLF Channel – will round out the offering with more than 1,300 hours between July 20th and the closing ceremony on Sunday, August 8th.

For the first time, viewers will be able to watch the entire event on NBC Sports Digital, with all 41 sports and 339 medals from the Olympic program, plus all ceremonies, available on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app. All of this represents 5,500 hours of streaming.

NBC first broadcast the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 1964. Since then, the American channel, owned by the Comcast group, has been holding on to the Olympic rings without letting the competition come close. The Tokyo 2020 Games will be its 11th consecutive Games as exclusive broadcaster, a record for an American broadcast medium.