NBCUniversal released its ambitious plans for the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, which will finally kick off on July 23. The company plans to have over 7,000 hours of programming available over the two-week event, spread across two broadcast networks, six cable networks, and several digital platforms available in English and Spanish. The Tokyo Olympic games were originally scheduled for 2020 but will be the first Olympics held in an odd-numbered year due to the coronavirus pandemic forcing the delay last year.
The main NBC broadcast network will feature 17 consecutive nights of primetime coverage, making up 250 hours of programming focusing on the major stories of the games each night. NBC will follow a standard set during the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics when it broadcast live primetime programming. There will also be special primetime programming for the West Coast. In addition, NBC will hope to avoid complaints about delayed coverage of the Opening Ceremony by dedicating the entirety of Friday, July 23 to the event. There will even be the first-ever live morning broadcast of an Opening Ceremony, with a special edition of the Today Show and an Olympic Daytime show following. It helps that it is 8 p.m. in Tokyo when the Today Show regularly begins at 7 a.m. on the East Coast.
"After a devastating year, the world comes together again, finally, in Tokyo this summer," Molly Solomon, Executive Producer and President, NBC Olympics Production, said in a statement. "We are going to deliver the most comprehensive — and accessible — coverage for any sports event in history. The depth and breadth of our broadcasts will be unprecedented, showcasing once-in-a-generation athletes and storylines that will capture the incredible uniqueness of these Games and our times."
The NBCUniversal cable channels USA Network, CNBC, NBCSN, Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA, and GOLF Channel will carry over 1,300 hours of programming in English. Telemundo and Universo will carry over 300 hours of content in Spanish. For those who want even more sports coverage, there will be studio programming on the Peacock streaming platform. The NBC Sports app will have over 5,500 hours of Olympics programming available.
USA Network's coverage will even start before the Opening Ceremony. On Wednesday, July 21, the network will air the women's soccer match between Team USA and Sweden, starting at 4 a.m. ET. Team USA is the defending World Cup Champion, but Sweden eliminated the team during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
While NBC puts its television plans to work, the Japanese government is still working hard to make sure the games go off without a hitch during the pandemic. The government there is now ramping up its vaccination efforts. Only about 8.7% of its 126 million residents have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine as of Thursday, according to Our World in Data, reports USA Today. Only about 3% of the entire Japanese population is fully vaccinated. The government's goal is to have all medical workers and those older than 65 vaccinated by the start of the Olympics.