Windowless bunker brings NBC's marathon Rio Games operation to life

Tue Aug 16, 2016 7:31am EDT
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By Liana B. Baker

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - The epicenter for one of the biggest media operations at the Rio Olympics is a 75,000 sq feet (6,970 sq meters) maze of windowless rooms lit by thousands of monitors that serves as the backbone of NBC's exhaustive Olympics coverage.

    Just one product of it is Michael Phelps' death stare that dominated social media the first week of the Games. NBC, a unit of Comcast Corp, was able to beam online athletes preparing in "ready rooms" at some of the Games' biggest events with newly installed cameras.

Rio is the ninth consecutive Games for NBC, which has the U.S. Olympic rights for the next 16 years.

Viewers' habits keep changing, with more searching for Olympics news online or through social media, fragmenting the traditional prime time audience that advertisers still pay a premium for.

The company has honed its own game plan with thousands of workers returning every Olympics. Its challenge is to meet new needs without unraveling a trusted system that has worked for so long.

"The sheer quantity of clips on mobile and tablets and the live streams add a lot of complexity," said David Mazza, NBC Sports and Olympics chief technical officer, pointing to a rack of equipment making it possible for editors in NBC's broadcast center in Stamford, Connecticut, to cut clips to be shared online.

He called the Rio operation 25 percent more complex than the broadcast from London in 2012.

  A wall diagram near him shows 132 feeds being sent back to the States, including all of the streaming video, signals for Telemundo routing back to Miami and a Golf Channel feed headed for Orlando.   Continued...

2016 Rio Olympics - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 15/08/2016. An undated handout photo shows the NBC operation headquarters for their Rio 2016 Olympics coverage. Paul Drinkwater-NBC/Handout via REUTERS