Monday, August 23, 2004

HD- Highly Disappointing from NBC

This year’s summer Olympics are generating a mixed bag of opinion among US industry analysts and U.S. viewers.

As the first true HDTV Olympics, critics have not been kind. NBC’s HDTV feed is actually a day behind. And, in some cases, it’s two years behind, as the network broadcasts HD footage from the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games to fill time while the NTSC channel began showing this year’s opening ceremony at 8 p.m.

The HD feed started with an approximate 30-minute delay from NBC’s network NTSC telecast and then slowly lagged to a 24-hour delay. The coverage, running in eight-hour loops, was taped delayed, but HD viewers weren’t told in advance it would be a day behind.

The Seattle Times said that even Comcast, the only cable outlet carrying HDTV in Seattle, was surprised, thinking the delays were to be an hour.

Even with the delays, NBC Universal has limited HD coverage to swimming, diving, gymnastics, track and field, and the medal rounds of soccer and basketball.

Although the network is promoting a 24-hour channel with 399 hours of HD programming, it’s actually about 135 hours of original programming from six venues shown most days on an eight-hour loop.

The Olympic Games are being used to stimulate viewers to buy HDTV sets.

"The problem is, the sets are selling but (buyers aren’t) necessarily getting HD," said video industry analyst Bruce Leichtman. "Service providers have to swoop in and use this as a precipitous moment to get HD in the home."

John Mancini told Wired that he expected the Olympics HD channel to spark high-definition sales at his Mid-America Satellite DIRECTV dealership in St. Louis. But as the Olympics were starting, he hadn’t even seen a blip, despite constant promotion by the local NBC affiliate and late advertising from DIRECTV.

Mancini said after reviewing the sales for HD sets two days ago — they sell about 15 to 20 new subscriptions a day — his business is averaging one out of every 100 taking an HD feed.

No one, including NBC, is satisfied with the amount of programming or the way it’s being produced, Wired reported. NBC spokeswoman Cameron Blanchard said the host committee’s last-minute decision to provide high definition was the main factor.

“We would like to do much more but can’t this time around,” she explained, adding that NBC plans to provide the main feed without delay in high definition for the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.

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