01/23/2018 07:07 EST | Updated 01/23/2018 07:25 EST

OLYMPIC PREVIEW: CBC to carry 17 hours of live Olympic coverage each day

TORONTO — Set your alarms, sports fans. The Olympics are coming.

Pyeongchang, South Korea, the host of next month's Winter Games, is 14 hours ahead of Eastern Time, which will require Canadian viewers to stay up late or get up early to catch some of their favourite events live on CBC.

The men's gold medal hockey game, for example, will be played at 1 p.m. local time on Feb. 25. That translates to 11 p.m. ET. The men's curling final is set for 3:35 p.m. local time on Feb. 24, or 1:35 a.m. ET.

Figure skating fans, on the other hand, will be pleased to know that all the events start in the morning in Pyeongchang, which is in the prime-time viewing window here at home.

Greg Stremlaw, CBC's head of sports and general manager of the Olympics, says Canadians will be able to see most key moments live with some 17 hours of coverage on the main network every day in three programming blocks — morning, prime time and late night.

West Coasters, in particular, will see plenty of live events at reasonable times, said Stremlaw.

Vancouver viewers tuning in at 7 p.m. PT, for example, will catch events happening at noon in Pyeongchang. Other events taking place at 9 p.m. in South Korea will be when Canadians are heading to work in Toronto.

"They'll be able to watch on their phones and desktops throughout the day," said Stremlaw.

Two traditionally big Olympic draws are not a perfect match. The Feb. 9 opening ceremonies and the closing ceremonies Feb. 25 will both air live in the early morning hours and be repeated in prime time.

Stremlaw expects curling, hockey, figure skating and even bobsled and luge to outdraw the start and finish pageantry.

"Once a Maple Leaf is on the chest or on the back, one thing we've learned, regardless of age or gender, is that people are going to find a way to watch," he said.

CBC caught a break with the Olympic hockey schedule, said Stremlaw. Several key men's and women's games will air in the morning or in the evening live. A game played at the noon hour in South Korea, for example, will air at 10 p.m. in Toronto.

But hockey fans may be torn as the NHL season will be ongoing during the Games for the first time since 1994 after the league decided not to particpate in South Korea.

Stremlaw pointed out, however, that on some nights hockey fans will be able to watch an NHL game starting at 7 p.m. ET and then an Olympic hockey game live at 10 p.m.

Of course, he hopes fans stick with the Games.

Stremlaw said that new Olympic events, such as Big Air snowboarding, mass start speedskating, mixed doubles curling and team skiing, could all boost viewership — especially among millennials on digital streaming platforms — as well as Canada's medal count.

Two years ago at the Summer Games in Rio, where events frequently overlapped, CBC had as many as 23 live streams up at any given time. Stremlaw is determined to make these Winter Games even more available on every existing platform.

CBC will therefore cater to multi-screen live-streamers, or "ex-streamers," said Stremlaw.

"You'll actually be able to watch a hockey game on a tablet and one of the curling draws on the same screen at the same time," he explained.

Digital options aside, Stremlaw said the majority of viewers still want to watch the Games on a big screen. Even when competition stops for the night in South Korea, CBC will continue with additional profiles and other programming. It all adds up to the most in-depth Olympic broadcast coverage CBC has ever delivered, Stremlaw said. 

Beyond CBC, the Olympics will be hard to ignore in Canada. NBC border affiliates plan to offer some 1,800 hours of streamed coverage, up from 1,000 hours four years ago in Sochi.

There will also be more than 200 hours of coverage on both TSN and Sportsnet.

On Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays, Sportsnet's main focus will continue to be the NHL and Olympic coverage will air on Sportsnet One. Some regional NHL games will also swap timeslots with Olympic coverage between Sportsnet's regional channels and Sportsnet One.

Special editions of Coach's Corner will allow Don Cherry and Ron MacLean to weigh in on men's and women's Olympic hockey during some CBC broadcasts.

"We work very closely with Bell as well as with Rogers Media specifically on the Olympic Games," said Stremlaw. The partnership extends through broadcast and specialty platforms as well as on radio and digital.

CBC also announced a new deal with multicultural broadcaster TLN to carry Olympic hockey in both Italian and Spanish.

Scott Russell, covering his 14th Olympics, will be the main CBC host. Andi Petrillo, along with former athletes Alexandre Despatie, Kelly VanderBeek and Craig McMorris are also involved with the coverage.

— Bill Brioux is a freelance TV columnist based in Brampton, Ont.


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