Sports networks are yearning for content in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and, while much has been made of programming decisions like ESPN’s shifting broadcast window for The Last Dance documentary, those choices represent only a small piece of the pie at this time. For NBC and its empire, the absence of the 2020 Olympics will leave a gaping hole in the broadcast calendar this summer but, while there is at least some hope that other sports will be rolling by then, NBC Sports is making a big-time content play for April.
On Thursday, NBC announced the decision to present “nearly 100 hours of historical Olympic Games moments from the past 30+ years,” beginning on April 13. The first week will include nightly primetime programming from the last two summer games, with April 13-15 focusing on a “Return to Rio” from 2016 and April 16-18 centering on a “Return to London” and the 2012 games.
From Monday, April 13, through Saturday, April 18, NBCSN will present nightly primetime programming from the 2016 Rio Games and the 2012 London Games, highlighting memorable Olympic moments and athletes, including Michael Phelps, Simone Biles, Usain Bolt, Katie Ledecky, Allyson Felix, Kerri Walsh Jennings, and many others. On Sunday night, NBCSN will feature two Olympic Films at 10:30 p.m. ET. From there, NBCSN will air a pair of documentary films on April 19.
When the first week is over, the content will continue, first with two nights of a “Return to Beijing” that will highlight the 2008 games. Then, the broadcast will shift to what NBC describes as “dynasties” with one night dedicated to USA men’s basketball, one night for USA women’s basketball, and two nights of programming focused on USA women’s gymnastics.
As one might guess, some of the biggest names in the sports world will be prominently featured, ranging from Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky in the pool to Simone Biles, Usain Bolt and countless others. It would be fair to say that there is nothing that can quite replace the feel of live Olympic action and individuals from around the globe paying close attention in unison but, in short, it makes a ton of sense for NBC Sports to put this kind of content on the air and it seems like a safe bet to project a ratings uptick as a result of the decision.