Comcast Will Have All the Olympics You Could Possibly Ever Need — And Then Some

The company is promising a record-breaking amount of coverage and has even teamed up with Snapchat and BuzzFeed to cover the games.

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts | Photo courtesy Comcast

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts | Photo courtesy Comcast

Remember the Olympics? The world’s social and political climate may have shadowed this summer’s grand sporting event, but the games are still happening in less than two weeks. About 207 countries and 10,500 athletes are expected to participate, and Comcast says it will capture it all. The company has been working all along to bring fans a viewing experience of the future, they say.

For the Olympic enthusiasts out there, Comcast and NBCUniversal will record every single event and have a projected 6,775 hours of Olympic content available, including live, on demand and online streaming content.

If you sat down to watch that content straight through, you’d be at it for 250 days.

“We looked at the Olympics as a laboratory,” said Comcast chief executive officer Brian Roberts at a Comcast media event on Wednesday. Adding, “We wanted to bring together the incredible legacy brought by NBC with some of the memorable coverage we all know […] and the unlimited ability to personalize the experience you’re interested in.”

Move over, “Internet of Things,” the local media giant’s Olympics coverage is veritable “Comcast of Things.” The “Front Row to Rio” experience will be available on Comcast’s X1 operating system, which works by storing loads of information in a cloud and not the set-top box. With the “Rio Guide,” customers can find live programing airing on 11 networks including, NBC, NBC Sports Network, Bravo, CNBC, Golf Channel, MSNBC, NBC Universo, Telemundo, and USA Network. And over 40 live streams from and the NBC sports app will be available on the TV at any particular moment.

Comcast customers who don’t have X1 or people who don’t even pay for Comcast altogether will have the same access as an X1 user, but they’ll have to reach the content on multiple devices.

“We have never integrated live streams and television quite this way before. I don’t know anybody who has,” Roberts said.

X1’s voice search capability makes it so that you’ll never have to memorize channels again, and maybe it’ll make users smarter too. Curious about how many gold medals the U.S.A. has, Gabby Douglas’ record or Usain Bolt’s age? Speak these questions into your remote, and your TV will most likely give you an answer.

Photo courtesy of Comcast.

Photo courtesy of Comcast.

About seven million voice commands have already been recorded on the X1 platform, and they’re adding 1,500 voice commands unique to the Olympics to help users navigate everything the X1 cloud has to offer.

“To us it’s not about scale, and numbers and systems. It’s how do we allow you to connect with the stars of the Olympics,” said Comcast’s chief product officer Chris Satchell. “Before and during the games our engineers will inject about 34 million pieces of information. Many of them will be in real-time as we are watching the games.”

Viewers who know what events and athletes they want to watch can use the “Favorites” feature to tag their preferred nations, athletes, and teams. Users can also opt for the “Must See Moments” feature, which will notify them of key events they shouldn’t miss.

And in a first, the Rio experience can be navigated entirely in Spanish, said Javier Garcia, Comcast’s general manager of multicultural services. Spanish speaking users and those with an accent will be able to use voice search to find information and view events like the opening and closing ceremonies in Spanish.

Blind or visually impaired customers can use the video description feature watch all episode’s of NBC’s primetime show live and Comcast’s talking guide to independently navigate the Rio Guide.

Comcast says it’s not leaving the young crowd behind and the Olympic games this year is giving the company a chance to build on its relationship with burgeoning media platforms like Buzzfeed, which NBCUniversal invested $200 million in last year.

The company acknowledged that many people will view content on their mobile devices and tablets, so it’s teamed up with Snapchat and Buzzfeed to bring viewers links to additional content. With Buzzfeed sending about a dozen reporters to Brazil, Roberts said their coverage will likely touch on more intimate and quirky subjects like Michael Phelps‘ meals before and after events, information that most likely won’t be available via X1’s data.

Rio is bringing forth a number of other firsts for the company. Comcast plans to set the Olympic programming record with 1,220 hours more than it produced in London in 2012. NBC Olympics will also cater to tech adept crowd, with 4K Ultra HD content and Virtual Reality programming. Golf hasn’t been a part of Olympics programming for over 100 years and the Golf Channel will provide almost 300 hours of it this time around.

We reported in March that Comcast had already sold $1 billion worth of ads for the 2016 summer games, and on Wednesday, Roberts confirmed that they 100 percent sold, ahead of any prior Olympics.

According to Roberts, they’re seeing tremendous demand because, “If you take CBS, Fox, and ABC and combine them and triple it for the 17 days, there will be a bigger audience on [our] platforms.” And seeing live events is the best place to aggregate an audience, and advertisers know that, he added.

Comcast will have about 3,000 workers in Brazil and in centers across the United States routinely making updates to the system.

“We’re expecting bugs since this has never been done before,” said Roberts, “It’ll get better over the 17 days.” And the company, which owns broadcasting rights to the Olympics until 2032, hopes to keep deepen the X1’s learning capabilities.

During and after the games scheduled for August 5th -21st, Comcast hopes to use consumer feedback to glean insights about the product and grow what’s in the cloud.

But for now, Roberts says X1 will give users unlimited capability and connect them to an “ever-changing, ever-learning, ever-improving experience.” And despite concerns over the Zika virus and the flurry of political events, Roberts said he thinks Rio de Janeiro will produce a “spectacular Olympics.”

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