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TheStreet Open House

How NBC Put the Olympics Everywhere

PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- What channel is the Olympics on? Just about any channel with a peacock in its logo.

The U.S. television viewer is in his or her third Olympics of the "TV Everywhere" era and should be getting used to the fact that this is how the nation and the world wills watch major sporting events from now on. Though Feb. 23, the 2014 Winter Olympics from Sochi, Russia, will be broadcast on local NBC affiliates, NBC Sports Network, MSNBC, CNBC and USA. Meanwhile, for the first time in Winter Olympics history, NBC will stream all events through mobile devices using its NBC Sports Live Extra app.

It makes Fox and the NFL's handling of Super Bowl XLVIII a week ago seem quaint by comparison: One event, one network, token streaming through Fox for desktop devices and Verizon for limited mobile devices. What is this, 2008?

That year, NBC was just getting around to showing all Olympic events in high-definition on its various channels. As recently as the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy, only half the games were shown in HD. Also, NBC was just getting the hang of streaming Olympic events in 2008. In Turin, it streamed a scant two hours of coverage. By 2008, it was up to 2,200 hours -- more than confused potential advertisers knew what to do with. The Olympic Committee had its own YouTube Channel and streaming was generally a mess.

A whole lot changed between then and 2011, when NBC signed its latest Olympic broadcast deal for $4.3 billion. That agreement runs through 2020 and includes $775 million for the rights to the Sochi Games alone. While the network lost $223 million broadcasting the last Winter Games in Vancouver in 2010, it made $88 million on the 2012 Summer Games in London thanks to digital and mobile ad sales and a programming strategy that ran pre-recorded events in prime time despite the fact that fans could stream those events live and had the results hours earlier.

NBC has just kept building its digital options as well, taking a cue from DirectTV's Red Zone channel of NFL scoring drives and hiring Red Zone host Andrew Siciliano to oversee its "Gold Zone" coverage of gold medal events. It's also hired gold-medal-winning figure skater Sarah Hughes to host an online figure skating highlights and analysis show called Olympic Ice.

This isn't over-the-top coverage by any stretch: It's the new status quo. Back in 2010, the NCAA reached a 14-year, $10.8 billion television agreement with CBS and Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting to show every game live on CBS, TBS, TNT and TruTV. Not only were all games broadcast but, as of 2012, the broadcasters' March Madness Live app streamed every game of the tournament over mobile devices. Advertising for the tournament alone brought in $6 billion for its network partners within the last decade.

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