The next best thing to being in Barcelona this summer might be NBC's "Triplecast," a programming package that offers cable customers three channels of non-stop sports for the entire 15 days of the Summer Olympics.
According to NBC, which has U.S. distribution rights for the games, more than 90 percent of the nation's major cable operators -- including those in Maryland -- have already signed up to offer the programming package. The Olympics pay-per-view Triplecast, a joint venture of NBC and Cablevision Systems Corp., marks a first for the Olympics and a first for a major broadcaster.
"This was created for the person with the remote control in hand, because you'll be able to jump back and forth. It'll be like a three-ring circus," said Ellen Cooper, public relations director for NBC in New York.
Triplecast will offer 540 hours of live programming during the Olympics, which runs from July 26 to Aug. 9. Each program will be repeated once, doubling the number of programming hours the network will transmit to 1,080. NBC, by comparison, will broadcast 161 hours of the games, including the opening ceremonies.
Triplecast is being sold to cable customers in most markets, including Maryland, in three packages. The "gold" package, which sells for $170, will offer three channels of 24-hour-a-day programming for all 15 days, along with Olympic merchandise, including a book on the history of the Olympics, a videotape of highlights and a pin set.
The "silver" package, which is expected to be the most popular, is basically the gold package without the merchandise. The silver package will cost $125.
A "bronze" package, selling for $95, will offer a week's worth of 24- hour-a-day viewing. "Bronze I" will offer the first seven days of 24-hour programming. "Bronze II" will offer 24-hour viewing for both weekends of the Summer Games, July 30-Aug. 1 and Aug. 6-8.
A special daily rate of $29.95 -- good for any 24-hour period -- will be offered in some markets, NBC said.
Cable systems across Maryland, including those in Baltimore and Baltimore, Harford and Anne Arundel counties, plan to offer the pay-per-view packages. However, not all of packages will be offered in all markets.
NBC promises to deliver non-stop coverage of 17 sports on three channels -- known as the red, white and blue channels -- during the telecast. Volleyball, swimming and gymnastics are among the sports that have been selected for intensive Triplecast treatment.
Highlights of the remaining eight sporting events will run periodically.
Although the extent of the cable coverage of the Summer Games will be unprecedented, some sports fans will still be disappointed.
NBC's Ms. Cooper said she has already heard complaints from lovers of judo, riflery and archery, summer events that won't receive non-stop coverage.
"Technically, you can't have everything," she said. "You just can't do it all."
Olympics on TV
NBC is offering the Olympics as a pay-per-view event. The games will be shown on three cable channels, and NBC is offering three subscription packages.
BRONZE PACKAGE $95
Either the first seven days or only weekend days (two Fridays, two Saturdays, three Sundays).
SILVER PACKAGE $125
All 1,080 hours of programming; 50% discount on NBC Olympic items.
GOLD PACKAGE $170
Same as silver package, plus a commemorative book, pin and videotape of highlights of the Olympics.
RED CHANNEL: Swimming, boxing, track and field, baseball, synchronized swimming, cycling.
WHITE CHANNEL: Gymnastics, platform diving, equestrian, diving, tennis, rhythmic gymnastics, soccer.
BLUE CHANNEL: Basketball, volleyball, wrestling, water polo.