updated 7/8/2008 6:48:11 PM ET 2008-07-08T22:48:11

Start stockpiling eye drops.

NBC Universal released an Olympics television schedule Tuesday that with broadcast, cable and broadband offers more coverage of competition from Beijing than all the previous summer Olympics combined. (Msnbc.com is a joint venture between Microsoft and NBC Universal.)

The company will beam out an average of 212 hours of Olympics fare each day through 12 separate sources — the equivalent of eight days each day — and even briefly considered licensing the Beatles song “Eight Days a Week” as a gimmick to promote it.

The audacious schedule of coverage will allow viewers the chance to create their own Olympic experiences at home, in the office or even on mobile phones where they can find results or on-demand video, according to Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Universal Sports and Olympics.

“The enormity of what we’re doing just blows me away,” Ebersol said.

It’s a total of 3,600 hours of coverage. Between the 1960 Olympics in Rome through Athens four years ago, the 12 summer Olympics have totaled 2,565 hours on TV, NBC said.

The danger of flooding the Olympics zone is that attention will be drawn away from the main NBC network’s prime-time coverage, still the most important for advertisers. But NBC is betting the blanket coverage will drive up interest in the event, scheduled for Aug. 8-24.

‘The biggest story’
Despite a 12-hour time difference with the eastern United States, NBC and Olympics officials arranged to have several important events scheduled early in China so they can be broadcast in prime-time in the United States. NBC is betting heavily on American swimmer Michael Phelps’ quest for a record haul of eight gold medals: Phelps will race live in prime-time in each of the first eight nights of NBC’s prime-time broadcasts.

“He is inarguably the biggest story heading into these games,” said NBC Sports spokesman Brian Walker.

Gymnastics, a traditional prime-time sport, will feature several live gold medal competitions during that choice TV time. The men’s and women’s marathon and beach volleyball events also will be televised live in prime-time.

The preponderance of pre-taped competition increases on NBC prime-time heading into the second week. No track, other than the marathons, will be shown live on TV or streamed live.

Most coverage will be live
The importance of live competition increases in the instant media world. NBC has been criticized in the past for presenting long-ended events as if they were live.

With all its different platforms, NBC says three-quarters of its Olympics coverage, nearly 2,900 hours, will be presented live to viewers.

NBC’s cable networks have an extensive schedule, with the company trying to give each network its own identity. The USA network will concentrate on team sports, particularly the U.S. basketball and soccer teams. MSNBC will stretch out with long-form coverage of several sports, including volleyball, wrestling, weightlifting and soccer.

CNBC will focus on boxing, while Telemundo’s Spanish-language coverage will be geared toward events popular with that networks’ viewers, such as soccer games involving Latin American countries.

Newly acquired Oxygen will have a daily show on gymnastics.

Between NBC and its standard cable channels, competition will be available most days for 23 and a half hours. The only Olympics-free time will be between 4:30 and 5 a.m. EDT.

NBC is also running competition on six different high-definition networks, including 24 hours a day on Universal HD. It will operate special NBC Olympic soccer and basketball channels available in about 80 million homes.

The company previously announced it would stream 2,200 hours of competition on the Internet on NBCOlympics.com, featuring 25 sports from archery to wrestling. It will simulcast some events also available on live television, but NBCOlympics.com won’t show live events that are later being presented via tape delay on TV.

Although the Olympics opening ceremony isn’t until Aug. 8, NBC will begin its coverage Aug. 6 with a live women’s soccer match between the United States and Norway at 7:30 a.m. EDT.

Network-by-network coverage

NBC

  • 17 days of coverage beginning with Opening Ceremony on Aug. 8 at 8 p.m. ET
  • live 32 swimming gold medal finals
  • 4 key nights of men's and women's gymnastics, team and individual gold medal finals
  • beach volleyball
  • men's and women's marathons

USA Network

  • coverage begins Aug. 9
  • live coverage of Team USA basketball and soccer teams
  • live coverage of tennis, volleyball or water polo every day until Aug. 24

MSNBC

  • 19 days of coverage
  • opening soccer matches on Aug. 6 and 7
  • live weekday, long-form coverage of a range of sports, including softball, soccer, wrestling, weightlifting and others

CNBC

  • 16 days of coverage, beginning Aug. 9
  • long-form coverage of Olympic boxing from 5 p.m. - 8 p.m. ET
  • expanded long-form coverage of various sports, including softball and badminton, from midnight to 4:30 a.m. EST on most nights

Oxygen

  • 20 hours of coverage, beginning Aug. 11
  • daily look at gymnastics, recapping most exciting moments
  • coverage of equestrian and tennis

Telemundo

  • 19 days of coverage, exclusively in Spanish
  • coverage begins Aug. 7 with two men's soccer matches
  • will feature live men's and women's soccer, basketball, gymnastics, diving, track and field, swimming, baseball and volleyball
  • special programs focusing on participating Latin American countries and Hispanic athletes

Universal HD

  • 24-hour HD simulcasts and re-airs of coverage on CNBC and MSNBC

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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