All 32 sports at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London will be streamed live at nbcolympics.com. “The hot topic is always, ‘Why don’t you show all your sports live?’” said Rick Cordella, vice president and general manager of NBC Sports Digital Media. “We wanted to take care of that.” But in reversing a previous policy that did not fully embrace live streaming — the formal announcement will be made Wednesday — there will be a wrinkle to provide a measure of protection for the segment of NBC’s Olympic coverage that is still its most critical: the prime-time broadcast. An important event like a gold-medal race involving Michael Phelps will be streamed live on nbcolympics.com, but will not be archived on the Web site until sometime after the prime-time show. Other staples of NBC’s prime-time coverage — including swimming, diving, gymnastics, track and field, and beach volleyball — will be treated the same way. Even so, Mr. Cordella said, “The vast majority of events will be archived immediately.”
The live streaming of every event is a major shift at the NBC Sports Group, which was formed after Comcast acquired control of NBC Universal. Under General Electric, its former owner, NBC Sports did not stream live events that would be featured in prime time, lest they diminish ratings. Two years ago, at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, only hockey and curling were streamed live in order to protect prime time. At the 2008 Beijing Summer Games, 25 sports were streamed live but none of them were important to the evening broadcast, which is usually at least four hours long.
“The way consumers consume video has changed over the years,” Mr. Cordella said. “We can’t go back with hindsight and say we were wrong.”
He said that NBC had data to show that live streaming could increase viewership of a event shown hours later on delay. “We’re not scared of cannibalization,” Mr. Cordella said, adding, “Anytime you have a great event that happens before it shows on the air, it increases ratings and generates buzz.”