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TCA Press Tour: Winter Olympics get tech savvy

January 10, 2010 | 10:38 am

Still watching TV in standard definition? That's so last decade.

If you want to fully enjoy the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada, which commence Feb. 12, it might be time to switch to high definition. It's the first time coverage of the games will be broadcast "100%" in HD, said Olympics executive producer David Neal.

"We have a wonderful setting in Vancouver. It's one of the great cities in North America," said prime-time host Bob Costas, who has covered nine Olympic Games. "It's going to be completely breathtaking, especially in HD."

And the eye candy doesn't stop there.

"It's a great opportunity to showcase technical innovation," Neal said.

That innovation will include the "superski" technique, which superimposes footage from two skiers for a comparative look at their performance.

But the bells and whistles are only part of the attraction, Neal said. Someone needs to be there to put it into perspective.

"That's our greatest advantage: software versus hardware," he said. "We have great storytellers."

There will be about 825 hours, largely live, of competition, said Dick Ebersol, executive producer and chairman of NBC Universal Sports & Olympics.

Coverage will go head-to-head with the prevailing gold medal winner in prime-time TV, Fox's "American Idol," which it will compete with on four nights. Ebersol, who noted that some networks moved their key blocks of programming to avoid competing with the Olympics, said the live nature of the games will help boost viewership.

"Will we beat them?" Ebersol said. "I don't know."

-- Yvonne Villarreal