Winter Olympics Get Sharp

If you've been steadfastly waiting for the perfect reason to buy a new HDTV set, here it is: NBC and HDNet announced last week they will broadcast selected events at the upcoming 2002 Olympic Winter Games from Salt Lake City in 1080i high definition video with Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround audio.

NBC says the HDTV broadcasts will be offered as a separate and distinct feed from the company's standard definition broadcasts of the games on NBC, CNBC, and MSNBC, with the HDTV broadcasts airing portions of the previous day's competition on the 32 NBC DTV affiliate stations, which currently cover more than 42% of the country. NBC's HDTV Olympic programming will also be available on HDNet's Channel 199 on DirecTV.

The high definition Olympic broadcasts will air daily from 3–11pm ET and will be replayed from 11pm–7am ET and again from 7am–3pm ET. NBC adds that the broadcasts will feature the opening and closing ceremonies from Rice-Eccles Stadium, figure skating and short track speed skating from the Salt Lake Ice Center, speed skating from the Utah Olympic Oval, ski jumping from Utah Olympic Park, and hockey from the E Center.

HDNet's Mark Cuban explains, "For the first time ever in the United States, NBC and HDNet will provide audiences an Olympics viewing experience that only the incredible picture quality and widescreen capabilities of HDTV can deliver. It's like being there. Anyone who doesn't have an HDTV and HD receiver should add those items to their holiday wish lists, because the homes with HDTVs will be the most popular houses on the block during the Olympics."

The Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association (CEDIA)'s Billilynne Keller adds that her trade organization applauds NBC for bringing HDTV into viewers' homes, stating, "Our members, as the people who serve the early adopters, have been working on this technology for a very long time. We hope that NBC's decision to provide Olympics coverage in HD is another step toward both real-time coverage of important sports and entertainment events, as well as the increased availability of additional HD programming from broadcasters, cable services, and pay networks."

The 2002 Olympic Winter Games from Salt Lake City will be held February 8–24, 22 years after the last games took place in the US at Lake Placid. NBC is the second Olympics broadcast rights holder to provide viewers with high definition coverage. NHK, Japan's Olympic broadcast rights holder, first aired high definition broadcasts from selected venues at the 1992 Barcelona Games.