NBC is converting the marathon traditionally an outdoor Summer Olympic event into a living room winter sport.
Starting Friday, the network, with an assist from cable siblings CNBC and MSNBC, offers up 375.5 hours of coverage over 17 days from the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.
That's down from the triumvirate's 2000 Summer Games coverage of 437.5 hours but it's more than double the record for a Winter Olympics. The 1998 games in Nagano, Japan, had 179 hours of coverage, shared between CBS (129 hours) and TNT (50).
When the United States last hosted a Winter Olympics in 1980, ABC devoted 53.5 hours to the Lake Placid Games. In 1960, CBS gave 14 hours to the Squaw Valley Games.
Of course, CBS paid only $50,000 for Squaw Valley, and Lake Placid cost ABC a relatively inexpensive $15.5 million.
NBC is paying $545 million for the Salt Lake Games.
Figure skating, the Winter Games' ratings grabber, will be the centerpiece of NBC's over-the-air coverage. All figure skating will be broadcast live during the 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. prime-time shows.
Versatile Tom Hammond hosts figure skating coverage with analysts Scott Hamilton, Sandra Bezic and Tracy Wilson.
'World as one'
About 60 percent of NBC's events will be carried live, says Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Sports. Videotape is the only way to go in prime time for outdoor snow sports held in daylight.
MSNBC coverage will be about 80 percent live. CNBC, which could be renamed CPUCK, will carry only live hockey on its Olympic shift, which will be exclusively in the evenings.
NBC's 3.5-hour prime-time presentations will be 90 minutes shorter than the five-hour nightly extravaganzas the network offered up from the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics, which had a wider variety of sports from which to choose.
The network will not shy away from the events of Sept. 11 and the U.S. response.
"The Olympics are always unique among sporting events, but these Games take on additional meaning as the world gathers in the U.S. for the first time since the tragic and painful events," Ebersol said in press materials. "There is incredibly heightened interest in these Games, first as a domestic Olympics, but also because the Olympics offer the possibility of all the world coming together as one."
Once again, Bob Costas serves as NBC's prime-time host. This will be his fourth tour in such a high-profile capacity, but his first from a Winter Olympics.
NBC has been out of the Winter Olympics business since the 1972 Games in Sapporo, Japan.
Costas and "Today's" Katie Couric anchor Opening Ceremony coverage, which begins at 6 p.m. Friday.
Jim McKay, on loan from ABC, serves as special correspondent. After Salt Lake, his resume will include a dozen Olympics. McKay, 80, has been out of the Olympic loop since the 1988 Calgary Winter Games, ABC's last Olympics.
"My job is not going to be an exercise in nostalgia," McKay said. "I'm going to try and contribute to what I think will be the most important Games of our time.
"When NBC got the rights (through 2008), I said to my wife, Margaret, 'That's it for us, no more Olympics.'
"It just goes to show, you should never say never."
The husband-and-wife team of Dan Hicks and Hannah Storm joins Costas as NBC's hosts.
Hicks, working his fourth Olympics, anchors late-night coverage from 11:05 p.m. -12:35 a.m. weekdays and 10 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. on weekends. Storm, also working her fourth Olympics, hosts daytime coverage from 3 to 4 p.m. weekdays, as well as longer daytime shifts on weekends
Jim Lampley, on duty for his 11th Olympics, will host both MSNBC and CNBC coverage.
MSNBC has the Olympics from noon to 5 p.m. on weekdays as well as 8 to 10 a.m. on weekends. CNBC does 6 p.m. to midnight duty.
Content on cable
It is MSNBC's mission to provide 55 hours of long-form coverage of Olympic sports that U.S. audiences rarely see.
The network will be the home of the likes of cross-country skiing, curling and biathlon.
Meanwhile, CNBC has 76 hours of hockey spread over 14 days. CNBC, MSNBC and NBC combined will broadcast 30 of the 35 men's hockey games through the gold medal game on Feb. 24.