SEARCH 2000 Games

May 13, 2000
Sydney will be a Memorex Olympics

 HOUSTON (AP) -- NBC promises its coverage of the Sydney Olympics will have something for every viewer -- except the ones who want to see it live.

 NBC will offer a staggering 437.5 hours of Olympic coverage on three different channels, but none of it will be televised live to the American viewing public.

 The network's top Olympic producer made no apologies for that Saturday, saying the 15-hour time difference between Sydney and the East Coast made the decision to show the Olympics on videotape an easy one.

 "We're not pretending anything is live," coordinating producer David Neal said. "We're being very upfront. We won't even say 'Turn your head if you don't want to know the results."'

 NBC, which paid $705 million for the television rights, made no attempt to get Sydney organizers to change the times of any events, unlike the 1988 games in Seoul when some track finals were run at 10 a.m. local time so they could be televised live in prime time in the United States.

 Although the network could conceivably show live coverage of some preliminary events in the morning hours, Neal said it will tape everything so that viewers aren't confused about what they are watching.

 "We're confident, based on an enormous amount of audience research, that that is what the American viewing public wants," Neal said during a preview of NBC coverage at an Olympic media summit.

 NBC is splitting its Olympic coverage into three parts -- a main nightly network show and daily shows on its cable outlets, MSNBC and CNBC.

 The nightly network show will be aimed at families and females and feature the familiar storytelling that hardcore sports fans criticized NBC for using in its coverage of the 1996 games in Atlanta.

 Those fans, Neal said, should be satisfied by the coverage on the cable channels, which plan to televise entire games and competitions. CNBC will also have a two-hour daily show devoted to Olympic boxing.

 "We'll show things in chronological order like that happened that day in Sydney," Neal said. "But most American viewers are attracted to the Olympics because of the human drama. It doesn't matter if they don't know the difference between a hurdle and a sawhorse."

 Neal said the music-laden features -- which usually focus on athlete dreams, or a variation thereof -- will be shorter than those used in Atlanta because the events are being shown on videotape. He said NBC announcers will weave more storylines in their actual coverage.

 Sydney itself will be the focus of much network attention, with Neal predicting the spectacular views around the city that NBC has been gathering videotape on for months will be widely played.

 NBC's coverage begins two days before the Sept. 15 opening ceremonies, with a preliminary men's soccer game.

 NBC itself will broadcast 164.5 hours of nightly coverage, while MSNBC will air coverage from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST during the week and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the weekend. CNBC will air Olympic programming from 5-9 p.m. during the week and 4-9 p.m. on weekends.

 NBC is hoping to get an early boost in ratings with the swimming competition in a country that is swimming-mad. The swimming will be held in a 17,500-seat venue.

 "Their swimming stars are almost like rock stars," said 1984 gold medalist Rowdy Gaines, who will be one of the announcers. "It will leave a legacy as the greatest Olympics in history for swimming."

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