Riding a wave of consumer adoption of fancy, new TV sets and streaming devices along with advanced video distribution backoffice workflows, NBCUniversal said it will deliver live TV coverage of the Tokyo summer games in the 4K HDR format during primetime in select markets. It will mark the first time the programmer has delivered live Olympics programming in the format.
NBC Olympics, a division of NBC Sports Group, noted that its 4K HDR coverage will also support Atmos, a surround sound technology originally developed by Dolby Laboratories.
NBC Olympics will complement its live coverage on NBC in the advanced formats with additional programming in 4K HDR on NBCU's Golf Channel and the Olympic Channel.
NBCU has yet to announce schedules for its 4K HDR coverage, but noted that it will include select coverage of gymnastics, track and field, diving, beach volleyball, golf, tennis and other sports to be disclosed later.
NBCU's 4K coverage will be pumped out in Ultra HD (3,840 x 2,160 pixels), HDR (which produces brighter, richer pixels) and Atmos immersive sound. NBCU will distribute its 4K HDR coverage to US distribution partners (i.e. cable operators, telcos, satellite TV providers and OTT-TV service providers), but noted that it will be up to those partners to determine how the content is made available to their respective viewers.
Update: Comcast confirmed that it will be offering its eligible X1 customers access to all the live and on-demand 4K programming NBCU is making available for the Tokyo games.
The programmer's decision to go with live 4K HDR coverage enters the picture amid the ongoing rise of 4K- and HDR-capable displays, set-tops and streaming devices.
According to recent data from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), more than half of US homes (52%) have a 4K TV, a 16-point jump from 2020, and the largest rate of growth for any product surveyed by the organization.
The shift to offering select live coverage of the Olympic games will arrive more than seven years after Comcast demonstrated some on-demand clips of Winter Olympic Games coverage from Sochi, Russia, using both QAM- and IP-based technologies. In 2016, NBC Olympics provided select coverage – but on a one-day delay – of the Rio Olympics in 4K to various cable, satellite TV and telco TV distributors. In 2018, NBC Olympics provided distributors with select 4K HDR coverage from the Winter Games from PyeongChang, South Korea, but that coverage was again delivered on a one-day delay.
Following last year's pandemic-induced postponement, the Tokyo summer games are set to take place July 23-August 8, 2021.
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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading