NBC is going all-in on their coverage of the 2012 Summer Olympics, offering live coverage for every single event in the games, some on TV and some online (not all for free–only cable subscribers will be able to see some of the live streams). This will add up to more than 5,000 hours of event coverage. 5,000 hours in 17 days–that is stupefying!

Here’s the gamble: despite making all the events available to view live, NBC is still going to show Olympic events during prime time–even though the results will be several hours old, and will already have been available for viewing.

The big question is: will people still tune in to watch the prime time coverage? To a sports fan like me, to ask the question is to answer it: Of course people will still tune in! It’s the Olympics!

Here’s what (IMO) will keep people watching:
1) It’s a great family activity. Kids (who were playing or in camp during the day) can watch and be inspired, and parents can teach their kids the finer points of the various sports they love (in my case dressage, fencing and canoe slalom).
2) The drama! Watching a live stream with no announcers is all well and good, but if you really want to get caught up in the theater of the Olympics, let NBC and its producers do what they do so well–tell back stories, build tension and give analysis.
3) Who cares if you know who won? If I know someone set a world record or won a medal, I want to see it. I want to see it in prime time, I want to see it online (multiple times), and I want to see it eight months (and eight years) from now on YouTube. 

Everyone knows what happened to the Titanic, yet the movie still made $2 billion. Every fan of horse racing knows Secretariat won the Belmont Stakes in ’73, yet more than 4 million people have watched the replay on YouTube. Laettner’s shot to beat Kentucky and Flutie’s Hail Mary pass both have at least 1.2 million views. There’s a hunger for this stuff.

People love to live AND relive great sports moments. The Olympics never fail to provide just that. I think NBC’s prime time gamble will pay off with high ratings. We shall see!