Peacock, whose 2020 rollout initially was predicated on the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, had to switch gears when COVID-19 forced the postponement of the Games to 2021.
On Wednesday, the NBCUniversal streaming service launched a dedicated pop-up channel with one year to go before the rescheduled start of the Tokyo Games. The 24/7 “Road to Tokyo” channel, a collaboration with NBC Olympics, is dedicated to Olympic and Paralympic history, documentaries and studio programming.
As the news of the channel went out, the atmosphere was notably less ebullient in Japan, according to press reports. A small group of organizers gathered without fans for a ceremony marking the one-year mark from the new start of the Games, but participants acknowledged a high degree of uncertainty remains. The president of the Olympic organizing committee, Yoshiro Mori, told local broadcaster NHK that the 2021 plan would not be feasible if current rates of infection persist around the world.
Japan has largely subdued the coronavirus, sustaining a low death rate and reopening its economy, but many major nations, including the U.S., are seeing a rise in infections. If those trends persist, the Games could again succumb to the travel and social gathering headaches that forced the 2020 postponement.
Peacock, which debuted nationally on July 15 after an earlier run on Comcast platforms, is moving full steam ahead as far as the Games, which have had a decades-long home on NBCU. The new channel will feature 10 documentaries produced by NBC Olympics. Two are Peacock originals: In Deep with Ryan Lochte, about the swimmer’s attempt at a comeback and image rehabilitation, and Kamome, abouta fishing boat with links to two deadly Japanese tsunamis.
The live channel offerings have been singled out by executives as one of the calling cards of Peacock, whose focus on advertising sets it apart in the crowded marketplace. Viewership of the streaming service on Comcast Xfinity broadband and pay-TV systems in the spring showed positive response to the 30-plus live channels, though the company hasn’t revealed numbers. Sports across the board will be a key part of Peacock’s appeal, with Premier League soccer, NFL football and other sports on the docket.
Other “Road to Tokyo” programming includes Olympic Classics, a series revisiting signature moments involving U.S. athletes like Simone Biles, Carli Lloyd and men’s basketball teams in 1992 and 2008.
Three new and exclusive specials will attempt to “prepare fans for what could be the most meaningful Olympics ever,” in NBCU’s immodest description. Dreams Live On: Countdown to Tokyo examines the journey of star athletes, such as Simone Biles and Allyson Felix, preparing for Tokyo. Lighting the Olympic Flame: Iconic Ceremony Moments looks back at past Opening Ceremonies with interviews with participants like Michael Phelps and composer John Williams. The Olympics & Paralympics: Inspirational Moments presents moments of courage and sportsmanship from recent past Olympics.
Here is a more detailed look at programming on “Road to Tokyo,” with descriptions provided by Peacock:
Featured Peacock Originals
In Deep with Ryan Lochte – At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Ryan Lochte was at the center of a scandal that has since overshadowed a decorated swimming career that includes 12 Olympic medals. Now a 35-year-old husband and father of two young children, Lochte is hoping for one more chance to make Team USA and prove he’s not the same man he was four years ago.
Kamome – Brought together under unfortunate circumstances, the towns of Rikuzentakata, Japan and Crescent City, California now have a special bond made possible by a fishing boat named Kamome. The vessel washed up in Crescent City after the deadly 2011 tsunami that struck Japan and devastated Rikuzentakata. To the people of Crescent City, it brought back memories of the 1964 tsunami that devastated their own hometown. Now, the two communities have built a close connection that provides a welcome reminder of the best of humanity.
1968 – Narrated by four-time Olympic gold medalist and 23-time Grand Slam singles champion Serena Williams, 1968 tells the story of a defining year in American history. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated, and 1968 would prove to be the deadliest year of the Vietnam War. Against that backdrop, the Mexico City Olympics became a stage for the collision of sport and politics, immortalized by the Black Power salute of Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos.
Calgary ‘88 – Voiced by iconic actor and acclaimed author Rob Lowe, the men’s and ladies figure skating competition at the 1988 Winter Olympics are in the spotlight, featuring Americans Debi Thomas and Brian Boitano as they faced their rivals Katarina Witt and Brian Orser on the highest stage of competition.
Jessica Long – The remarkable story of 13-time Paralympic gold medal swimmer Jessica Long details how she discovered her birth family and embarked on a journey through a past she never knew, all the way from her adopted parents’ home in Baltimore, Md. to Bratsk, Russia. In the end, it leads Long to a profound personally discovery; how her two halves have helped make her the whole individual that she is.
More Than Gold: Jesse Owens and the 1936 Berlin Olympics – This hour-long documentary, narrated by Academy Award winner Morgan Freeman, chronicles Jesse Owens’ historic four-gold-medal performance at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany, and explores the context and historical impact of those Games.
Dream Team – Featuring footage and interviews from arguably the greatest basketball team ever assembled, this documentary looks at the formation and success of Team USA at the 1992 Summer Olympics, including interviews with Hall of Fame players Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Charles Barkley.
Miracle on Ice: 40th Anniversary – NBC Sports’ Mike Tirico and Al Michaels, who called men’s hockey at the 1980 Winter Olympics, engage in a wide-ranging conversation about the U.S. Olympic men’s ice hockey team’s gold-medal run at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y., highlighted by the Americans’ improbable semifinal victory against the Soviet Union.
Mikaela’s Masterpiece – The special gives viewers an all-access look at Mikaela Shiffrin and her team during the 2018-19 campaign and highlights one of the greatest years in the history of alpine ski racing, when Shiffrin won 17 World Cup races, four crystal globes, and her third straight overall globe.
Lokomotiv – A documentary, narrated by Liev Schreiber, that examines the 2011 plane crash that killed every member of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavol hockey team of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), and how the team was rebuilt in the wake of tragedy.