Sochi 2014: To Stream RedZone-Style Whip-Around Channel, Original Studio Programming

NBC pulled back the curtain on its comprehensive streaming coverage of the Sochi Olympics this week, highlighted by an NFL RedZone-style, whip-around offering dubbed Gold Zone. In all, and the NBC Sports Live Extra App will deliver more than 1,000 hours of live streaming coverage to authenticated cable, satellite, and telco subscribers. Every minute of live competition — that does not include the Opening Ceremony, which will be presented solely in primetime on NBC — will be streamed live to online and mobile viewers.

In addition, NBC will present a record amount of digital-only original programming, including a daily figure-skating news and highlights show titled Olympic Ice and regular news updates throughout each day of competition from the Olympic News Desk.

It is a far cry from the most recent Winter Games — Vancouver in 2010 — in which NBC streamed only two sports live (curling and hockey) for a total of about 400 hours. Of course, the way video is consumed has changed dramatically since Vancouver, and NBC will look to build on the monumental multiscreen success it had in London two years ago.

“It’s hard to fathom, but the tablet computer had not hit the market in February of 2010 [for the Vancouver Games],” said NBC Olympics President Gary Zenkel at an NBC press event in New York on Tuesday. “It is now [owned by] roughly one-third of the adults in the United States. And, as we saw in London, the consumption on a tablet is two times the video consumed on a smartphone.”

From RedZone to Gold Zone
NBC will take a page from the NFL’s book for Sochi coverage with the creation of Gold Zone. The streaming channel on and the NBC Sports Live Extra app, which launches Feb. 8, will offer more than 100 hours of hosted whip-around coverage of the most popular live action from the Sochi Games. The channel, which will stream 7 a.m.-3 p.m. ET on most days, will allow verified viewers to experience multiple events as they happen.

“[NFL RedZone] is probably the best product that sports media has come out with in a long, long time,” said Rick Cordella, SVP/GM, digital media, NBC Sports Group. “We are stealing a little bit of what the RedZone is for the NFL here. We will whip around and bring you from event to event with live look-ins and analysis. It tells the fan what is important going on right now.”

NBC offered a similar, more scaled-down service during its London coverage, but that channel was not hosted. In Sochi, however, Gold Zone hosts Andrew Siciliano (host of DIRECTV’s RedZone channel) and Ryan Burr will provide context to what’s being streamed and will keep fans up-to-date as the action switches from event to event.

“Our goal is to maximize the circulation of our content and drive up consumption,” said Zenkel. “We have seen that more consumption of Olympics during the day ultimately drives primetime viewing. We think that Gold Zone is simply another way in which that Olympics content can be consumed.”

Live From Stamford: Olympic Ice and News Desk Updates
With significantly less live competition available compared with the 2012 Summer Games in London, NBC is ramping up its original studio and news programming to keep its streaming-content factory churning on and NBC Sports Live Extra. Olympic Ice, a 30-minute figure-skating news and highlights program, and Olympic News Desk updates will be produced out of NBC Sports’ digital studio at its Stamford, CT, broadcast center.

“All of this is happening back in Stamford,” said Cordella. “We will use the digital set we have at our IBC in Stamford, and the news desk will give periodic updates throughout the day on what’s going on in Sochi.”

Olympic Ice will be made available at 5:30 p.m. ET on all 15 days of figure-skating competition. The 30-minute news and highlights program will feature host Russ Thaler and 2002 Olympic gold-medal-winning figure skater Sarah Hughes as analyst.

Meanwhile, Olympic News Desk updates will stream periodically throughout the day, unauthenticated on Hosted by Julie Donaldson, they will feature up-to-date news, competition, and highlights from the day’s events in Sochi.

Extreme Olympic Makeover: Website, Apps Get Refresh
In addition to a cavalcade of streaming video content, the Website itself has undergone a significant renovation that puts the focus on how users can most easily access video content. In addition to a slider bar at the top that will reflect the top live events available at that moment, a “Must-See” video bar will be implemented on the right, listing the most popular viral videos from the Games (for example, a gold-medal trick in snowboard half-pipe or a crash during the Men’s Downhill).

“We did a site refresh this time around, and we thought about what a Website like this should look like in 2014,” said Cordella. “We want to scream from the mountaintops exactly what we have. We want to get you to the content you want as quickly as possible.”

The NBC Sports Live Extra App will receive a facelift of its own in advance of the Sochi Games. The complete redesign aims to cater to Apple iOS7 users (released in June 2013), according to Cordella, and features a chronological timeline of all long-form news and highlights video content made available each day. In addition, users can set reminders, e-mail alerts, and even set their DVRs at home to record specific events (depending on their MVPD provider).

NBC will also launch its NBC Olympics Highlights and Results app, which does not require authentication and will provide competition highlights, athlete interviews, features, and more. The Primetime Companion sync feature in this app — which debuted for NBC’s London coverage — allows users to consume related content on their laptop, tablet, and smartphone while watching the primetime telecast on NBC.

“The primetime companion was one of the big successes we had in London,” said Cordella. “During primetime, there is no content being streamed; everything goes dark from Sochi. So you are able to serve up all the content we have produced in the past at the right time. This is all produced by our team back in Stamford.”

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