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NBC to Live-Stream 2018 Winter Olympics in VR to Pay-TV Subscribers

NBC will present more than 50 hours of virtual-reality coverage from the 2018 Winter Olympics next month in South Korea — available live to viewers in the U.S.

It will mark the first time that Olympic programming in VR will be delivered live in the U.S on a wide range of devices and platforms, and the first time that any Winter Olympics has been in VR. For the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio, NBC delivered 85-plus hours of VR content in partnership with Samsung but most of that was available on a next-day delay.

To access the VR content from the games in Pyeongchang, American viewers will need to subscribe to a pay-TV provider and log in using their subscriber credentials.

NBC’s VR coverage of the Winter Games is being powered by Intel True VR technology, which uses multiple camera pods to create interactive 360-degree virtual-reality environments. Also on Monday at CES 2018, Intel announced the opening of an L.A.-based studio space dedicated to the production of VR and augmented reality.

The 50-plus hours of live VR programming, supplied to NBC Olympics by the IOC’s Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS), will include the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, alpine skiing, curling, snowboarding, skeleton, figure skating, short track, ski jumping, ice hockey, big air and more.

In addition, NBC will offer VR replays of all the Winter Olympics events previously live-streamed; one daily 360-degree video of a sport not available in VR the previous day; and packaged highlights from the day before.

“The Olympics have long been an opportunity to showcase emerging media technology,” Gary Zenkel, president of NBC Olympics, said in a statement. “With the help of Intel’s industry-leading virtual reality technology, NBC Olympics will deliver a transformative experience that will bring to Olympic fans an entirely new perspective on the speed, thrills, and excitement of an Olympic Winter Games.”

NBC Olympics will also provide content prior to the start of the Games, with behind-the-scenes content captured with Intel True VR technology including athletes preparing for their events and scenes of the PyeongChang Olympic venues.

The VR programming will span every day of the Winter Games (with the exception of Feb. 18) beginning the day of the Opening Ceremony on Friday, Feb. 9, and concluding with the Closing Ceremony on Sunday, Feb. 25. The virtual-reality content will be available to authenticated users on Samsung, Google, Windows, and Android and iOS devices through the NBC Sports VR app.

Overall, NBC plans to live-stream 1,800 hours of the 2018 Olympic Winter Games — which also will be available only to pay-TV subscribers. This year will mark the first Winter Games to offer live streaming of the NBC broadcast network, including primetime and “primetime plus” programming.

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