With the 2020 Olympics taking place in Tokyo, American viewers are faced with a familiar question: will they be broadcast live? The answer is yes and no, just as it has been in previous years.
NBC, which owns the broadcast rights in the US, will be combining live and tape-delayed coverage on its networks, as well as using a wide variety of platforms to bring the events to viewers as they happen — and for the first time, social media will be playing a huge role.
Because the partnership with NBC is so significant to the Olympics, the organizing committee has scheduled some of the marquee events during time slots that will allow North American viewers to watch live in prime time. “Even though we’re 13 hours apart from these Asian time zones, we can have a fair amount of coverage, especially in prime time,” NBC Olympics president Gary Zenkel told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Swimming is in the morning in Tokyo, so it’s perfectly primed for a 9, 10 o’clock [p.m. here] start.” The network hasn’t said whether it will broadcast the opening ceremonies live, since those will take place in the early morning on the East Coast; presumably they’ll be played at least once during primetime, but there’s been no word yet on whether the ceremonies will be available to stream. (They were during the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.)
NBC will cover a large number of events live across its various channels and digital platforms. However, as the Inquirer confirmed, those streams will be accessible only if you already have a paid subscription to a partner cable, satellite, or streaming service. There’s another option if you’re not able to access those streams: Twitter! Variety reports that NBC and Twitter have partnered for exclusive Olympics coverage. The content will include daily 20-minute studio shows, and Twitter will give viewers the opportunity each day to vote on which of NBC’s primetime events should be available to live stream on Twitter as well. It’s a new frontier, and we can’t wait to tune in.