NBC Won’t Live Stream Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony

Sochi Olympics

Execs cite 'pageantry' and family viewing but move seen as bid to boost broadcast ratings

NBCUniversal has raised eyebrows with its decision to transmit every competition in the next month’s Winter Olympics from Sochi, Russia, live via digital means. But at least one part of the grand athletic cavalcade is being reserved for TV alone.

The opening ceremonies will be broadcast on NBC on Friday, Feb. 7, and will not be live-streamed, NBCU executives said Tuesday at a press event. “We want to put context to it, with the full pageantry it deserves,” said Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBC Sports Group.

He said executives believed an unvarnished live stream of the colorful ceremonies would not make sense without description. What’s more, the company feels the opening-ceremony telecast is enjoyed by families who gather together, making it a natural for the boob-tube.

Of course, keeping the opening ceremonies for TV broadcast only is likely to ensure a higher rating for the broadcast, which is slated to last from 7:30 p.m. eastern to 11:30 p.m. Matt Lauer, Meredith Vieira and Bob Costas are slated to host the event, along with New Yorker editor David Remnick, who has been hired as a special correspondent of sorts for the NBCU Olympics broadcasts.

“We are looking to maximize the viewing experience for our audience,” said Lazarus, noting that NBCU was likely to “put snippets of it out throughout the day” for people curious about the proceedings.

NBCU’s decision to air every athletic contest live ends a longstanding company practice of saving much of the best stuff of the Olympics  for broadcast on the company’s flagship network during primetime. The fear, of course, is that giving more people the ability to watch the Games online or via mobile device at times of their own choosing could cannibalize some of the primetime viewership.

But Alan Wurtzel, president of research and media development for NBCU, said in separate remarks that new media seemed to have the opposite effect: The more live video people saw of the games taking place in real-time, the more interested they were in seeing curated primetime telecasts that included more information about the athletes, their background and the stories behind their journey to the event.

NBCU has yet to make a decision about whether or not to live-stream the Olympic closing ceremonies, said Lazarus. The company is “leaning” toward making that event available digitally, he said. The closing event “is much more of a party than a theatrical performance.”

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  1. Wonderful difficulties permanently, you simply been given a different readers. Just what will you highly recommend wedding planner about your put up that you produced few days back? Any kind of positive?

  2. I would even pay money to subscribe to the olympics, its the 21st century we should have online coverage all the time 5 cameras an event, or more, charge $100 for the whole thing , i’d would pay to watch them, but i wont pay my cable provider anymore than i already do for internet

  3. Angie says:

    NBC is becoming archaic. This is so disappointing. I wish other networks were broadcasting so that so many people won’t miss out. NBC is a joke.

  4. Lee Formanek says:

    Sorry to hear that the opening ceremony won’t be shown online. We no longer have TV, so online will be our only way to watch.

  5. Justcallmescout says:

    B. Katz got it right. Just say “bottom line–I get it. How quickly those without a family (to huddle with around the tube with) are relegated to second class citizenry, and ignorant to boot.

  6. David says:

    Here’s what I don’t understand. You have NBC’s research that says that viewing live video online in real-time gets people more interested in watching the primetime broadcasts. Well.. why doesn’t that logic work for the Opening Ceremony? I’ll see it in real-time online and then want to come back for primetime to find out what that song and dance was or to get the back story on the flagbearer from that country and how he got to the Olympics.

    I thought NBC learned their lesson when they changed course on the Closing Ceremony from London. Sad to see I was dead wrong. Lauer and Vieira weren’t exactly the best listening experience last time around. I accept that Comcast and NBCU have more than three quarters of a billion dollars invested in these Olympics and that they want to protect the primetime show, but this is wrong. This is a bad business decision that NBC needs to seriously consider changing course on before February.

  7. Ben Katz says:

    I agree with the sentiment from NBC. I am, frankly, too dumb to understand a bunch of circus-like acts without the proper instruction from NBC hosts as to what on earth is going on. I sometimes get lost when viewing such events, and thank goodness Matt Lauer or someone else, with superior brain functions, can hold my hand and guide me through it.

    Seriously though, if you’re going to come up with excuses, don’t patronize me and tell me I wouldn’t understand it if I didn’t have it all explained to me. It’s insulting.

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