The Winter Olympics from PeongChang in South Korea will be available in ultra high definition with high dynamic range, at least for some viewers. Some broadcasters will also offer a virtual reality experience.
“This is yet another first at an Olympic Games,” said Yiannis Exarchos, the chief executive of Olympic Broadcasting Services, which is providing the international coverage. “OBS is proud to continually provide and facilitate the very latest technology to its broadcast partners. The performances of the best athletes in the world deserve to be captured with the best broadcast technology available.”
The Opening Ceremony, hockey, figure skating, ski jumping, and snowboarding events will be produced and distributed in 4K HDR.
NBC will provide coverage of selected events in 4K HDR to Comcast Xfinity subscribers in the United States on a one-day delay.
While NBC has previously provided 4K coverage of the Olympics, this will be the first time it will be in HDR.
“The Olympics has always been a platform for the introduction of new broadcast technology,” said NBC Olympics President Gary Zenkel. “The availability of 4K high-dynamic-range coverage of Olympic ceremonies and competitions through our participating multichannel distribution partners will be a great showcase for this emerging advancement in the quality of televised sports coverage in the United States.”
NBC will also offer more than 50 hours of live virtual reality using the Intel True VR system. It will be accessible to authenticated users with Windows Mixed Reality headsets, Samsung Gear VR, and both Google Cardboard and Google Daydream, with compatible iOS or Android devices via the NBC Sports VR app.
The VR experience is provided by OBS using multiple camera pods at each event to create interactive 360-degree virtual reality environments.
Discovery Communications, the owner of Eurosport, had acquired rights to the Olympics from 2018 through 2024 across Europe, other than France and Russia. Discovery will sub-license its broadcast rights to local free-to-air networks by territory. In the United Kingdom, it will sub-license from the BBC, which still holds broadcast rights through 2020, in exchange for sub-licensing free-to-air rights to the 2022 and 2024 Olympics.
In addition to coverage on radio and television, the BBC will live stream highlights of the Winter Olympics to desktops, tablets and mobiles and on-demand video clips will be accessible at any time via the BBC Sport web site.
In South Korea, broadcasters have already begun using the ATSC 3.0 standard, which supports 4K UHD, delivered using intenet protocols and HEVC encoding.
Events like the Olympics and the World Cup are typically used to introduce new technologies, some of which eventually make their way into mainstream broadcasting.
While some innovations, like so-called virtual reality or 360 coverage may go the way of 3D, it looks like 4K is here to stay, supported by high dynamic range displays.
Meanwhile, Japanese broadcaster NHK is already experimenting with 8K coverage, in preparation for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.