I'm sure it was written about numerous times from 30 Rock, but I'll say it just the same: it is very strange to watch the Olympics produced live from Connecticut.
NBC's International Broadcast Center in Stamford is a fairly well known building to a certain segment of sports fans (i.e. hockey fans) but the complex is getting its biggest workout to its widest audience ever during the Sochi Winter Olympics. Of course, the task will be even greater two years from now in Rio, but it was quite a sight to see both the live and taped footage that made it to your televisions and mobile devices all put together (well, mostly) from this place down the block from WWE headquarters.
Every time I take a field trip to the NBC IBC, it is more complete. They have a cafeteria now, with a Dunkin Donuts running 24 hours a day (at least during the Games) and there have been additional sets built. I have been there on a hockey night, and I was there on the network's first afternoon running the Barclays Premier League, and now I have watched the Olympics, with the guidance of VP of engineering Tim Canary. There's always one thing that's so remarkable about how they (and a machine like ESPN, too) do things: it's all so calm and compartmentalized.
There's never been quite any of that "STOP THE PRESSES" moment that you see in the movies where people are storming into offices and demanding things make it to air right now. It may sadden you to learn, but most of the people working at your favorite sports channels are professional and seem to know what they're doing. While I have certain quips with how the streaming has gone (I'm shaking my fist at you, commercial placement) it is clear that NBC is producing mostly decent content in 2014.
Approximately 2,300 people are working for NBC at the Sochi Olympics. Over 400 people are dedicated to producing the Games out of Stamford. Mostly, they include writers, production staff, a dedicated control room for the network's Gold Zone channel and the space affectionately dubbed "The Highlights Room" which takes in pretty much every Olympic moment and prepares it for tape delayed use on TV, the web, and anywhere it's needed. Oh, and also curling.
Ah yes, curling. It captivates us once every four years, and NBC is fully utilizing its IBC to bring it to the cult following that makes it one of the shining oddities of the Winter Olympics. While NBC has a crew in Sochi for curling, much of the legwork is done from Stamford. KNBC's Fred Roggin hosts the show with Pete Fenson providing analysis from the network's typical NHL studio.
Fenson, along with play-by-play man Jason Knapp, call various matches that Andrew Catalon and John Benton don't from the same booth where NBC does their non-American Formula One broadcasts. They also have a curling expert in the booth who communicates between the broadcasters and the production team.
NBC has a bunch of other things going on in the building at the same time: Andrew Siciliano hosting NBC Olympics' version of the Red Zone Channel is one of the great crazy ideas that actually happened for these Games. Russ Thaler and Sarah Hughes do an internet-exclusive show on the figure skating competition, and also there are updates produced throughout the day. The network is also helping feed content into and out of Sochi for NHL Network's NHL Tonight show from Bolshoy Ice Dome.
Canary and co. clearly have this down to a science. He noted that it was much easier than when this was set up over multiple floors at 30 Rock for past Olympics. Though it will likely be even more chaotic for Rio just because of the greater volume of programming, I'd be shocked if it wasn't the same controlled chaos I witnessed in Stamford this week.
Pic via @NBCOlympics