U.S. Olympic viewers who have long clamored to view the opening ceremony live when it hasn't been in North America will finally get their wish.
NBC plans to air the opening ceremony from the Tokyo Olympics live on Friday, July 23. With Tokyo 13 hours ahead of New York and 16 ahead of Los Angeles, the opening ceremony will begin at 8 p.m. in Japan, which is 7 a.m. ET and 4 a.m. PT.
Molly Solomon, the executive producer and president of NBC Olympics, said the global significance of gathering in Tokyo during the time of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as changing viewing habits, were the main factors in deciding to air the opening ceremony live in the morning for the first time.
"I think like so many of us, people's lives have changed. And after we had all been locked down for a few months, the postponed Olympics, and its meaning, I think became very clear that it will be an incredibly moving moment in sports and in the world when the world comes together," she said. "We recognized we had to make our production plans be equal to the challenge of these unprecedented challenging times. And that meant a live opening ceremony and an enhanced prime-time broadcast where most of the folks will gather to watch it."
NBC's prime-time show will then reair the ceremony, beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET/4:30 p.m. PT.
NBC livestreamed the opening and closing ceremonies from the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games on its Olympic site before airing delayed coverage of both on the network in the evening.
While COVID-19 protocols have delayed many events, Solomon said she remains confident that key events will still air live in the U.S., even if there are any potential scheduling changes after continued discussions with the International Olympic Committee and Tokyo organizers.
"Once we started to see the architecture of how this is all going to work, I have to say, it's very familiar to us because we've been producing events since the pandemic began. And while all sports are different, they're all very similar," Solomon said.
NBC plans on airing more than 7,000 hours of coverage across its many networks. There will also be live streaming of all sports on its NBCOlympics website.