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NBC Plans Remote Production Strategy to Give Tokyo Olympic Viewers an ‘Immersive Experience’

Aubrey Meister

With the Tokyo Olympics right around the corner, David Mazza, SVP and chief technical officer, NBC Sports Group and NBC Olympics is discussing production plans. NBCUniversal has already promised to give viewers access to 7,000 hours of programming.

Mazza recently revealed what’s going on behind the scenes as the Olympics are quickly approaching.

It’s not like we all work together every day. Our team is largely a collection of freelancers who come together for two weeks every four years,” he said.

About 1,600 members of the team are in Tokyo, while 1,700 are remaining in the U.S. Originally, about 2,000 members were meant to be in Tokyo, but 400 had to stay back.

While these Olympic Games certainly look different due to COVID-19, it’s not uncommon for production to go through several failed plans. Mazza said, “We have a plan A, plan B, C and D — and despite all the careful planning it’s plan B or C by the time we get on air.”

NBC plans to go all out with the Olympics this year.

“We’re very big on scenario planning and resilience but this comes at the cost of complexity,” Mazza said.

The network wants to move from an SDI to an IP routing core so content can be produced in HDR. This process uses HD 1080P HDR feeds from Tokyo that are then produced in remote hubs in the U.S. Then the content must be upconverted to UHD. NBC’s HQ is in Stamford, Connecticut, but the company set up several other remote hubs in Miami, New York, and New Jersey to accommodate the workload and production equipment.

Peacock

Peacock is a subscription video streaming service from NBCUniversal that gives access to up to 15,000 hours of content including original shows, blockbuster movies, and classic television series.

It will include news, entertainment, sports, late-night, and reality from various NBCU properties including NBC, Bravo, and E!.

Just like other streaming services, Peacock will have their own original series including reboots of Save By The Bell, Punky Brewster, and Battlestar Galactica. They also have shows like Rutherford Falls (Ed Helms), Dr. Death (Alec Baldwin), and a behind-the-scenes docs-series about Saturday Night Live.

The company has acquired the rights to many classic shows like the entire Dick Wolf library including Law & Order and Chicago Fire, Parks and Recreation, and The Office.

The service will also feature blockbusters and critically-acclaimed films from Universal Pictures, Focus Features, DreamWorks Animation, Illumination and content acquired from Hollywood’s biggest studios.

“We have aggressive plans to make this the most immersive experience for fans, especially since so many can’t come to the games,” Mazza said. “My main job is trying to predict when the train is going to go off the track and bump it back on before there’s an actual wreck. You’ve got to be ready to minimise the damage.”

“My biggest fear is not having the right expert in the right place at the right time,” he said. “There are a handful of people who understand how IP works. We have to get them to the right place where the problem is. That is daunting with all the Covid regulations in place.”

Peacock is predicting big numbers from the event as well. Matt Strauss, Peacock’s chairman, deemed the Olympics a “meaningful driver” of growth for the streamer. NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell believes this will be “the most profitable Olympics” for the company.

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