TORONTO - Canada's Olympic broadcasters have Olympic-sized ambitions for televising this summer's Games, and are promising to squeeze out every bit of coverage they can in a bid for bigger-than-ever audiences.
Adam Ashton, president of the Olympic broadcast media consortium, boasts of a broad swath of multiplatform offerings that will begin beaming live from London later this month.
That includes more than 5,500 hours of material for TV, smart phones, tablets and computers that he predicts will drive audiences from one device to another, to another.
"Overall, our ratings and impressions are very aggressive and we're very confident that we'll reach new heights for setting Summer Games records," Ashton says in a recent interview, without quantifying expectations.
"We look back to (the 2010 Winter Games in) Vancouver as the benchmark (and) there was just a sizable shift in Canadians' appetite for wanting to consume the Games. We certainly think that that momentum and passion is going to continue and will be reflected in the audiences."
Ashton points to the Summer Games of Athens 2004 as a good reference point because they took place in a comparable time zone. He predicts those ratings "will be shattered."
More than 2,000 hours from this summer's events will be broadcast by a group of media outlets led by CTV and Rogers Media Inc. They include specialty networks Sportsnet, TSN, OLN and ATN, and French-language outlets V and RDS.
CTV is offering near-round-the-clock reports that will pull away only for local supper-hour newscasts and the national evening news, says Ashton.
At the centre of it all is veteran sportscaster Brian Williams, who notches the 14th Games of his career when he anchors CTV's daily four-hour prime time show.
Meanwhile, Dave Randorf and Catriona Le May Doan handle the early morning show and James Duthie and Jennifer Hedger follow events into the afternoon.
This year, the time zone difference means most of the marquee events will likely take place during our mornings and afternoons — Ashton says to look for Canadian medal hopeful Brent Hayden or U.S. star Michael Phelps swimming between 3 and 5 p.m. ET.
It also means our prime time programming — the 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. slot in most parts of the country — will largely consist of best-of-day highlights rather than live sports.
Williams will nevertheless be delivering his reports live, says Ashton, even though he'll be in studio from midnight to 4 a.m. local time.
"We feel it's important to have that kind of live nature of the show because prime time is when a lot of the family viewing happens," says Ashton.
"They want to catch up on the day's events and Brian is just perfect to be able to set that table, if you will, and kind of bring it all together."
A breakdown of where to find which sport is online at CTVOlympics.ca and RDSolympiques.ca.
Overall, the Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium is promising more than 5,500 hours of online and TV content during the 17 days of the Games — more than any other past Olympics and matching goals by U.S. broadcasters, who will feature NBC's star anchor Bob Costas.
More than 200 hours of multilingual coverage will be available on OMNI.1, OMNI.2, and ATN, in tongues including Bangla, Cantonese, Hindi, Italian, Mandarin, Portuguese, Punjabi, Tamil and Urdu.
Another 3,500 hours of digital coverage online and on mobile devices will be available at CTVOlympics.ca and RDSolympiques.ca, including 2,100 hours of live streaming from various Olympic venues.
Contrary to conventional thinking, the multiple digital options are expected to drive TV viewing up rather than cannibalize it, says Ashton, citing research from Winter Games coverage that suggests "more creates more."
"When consumers were consuming or viewing the Games on multiple platforms they were more engaged. They stayed longer, they came back more often... to everything," he says.
"It was this kind of circle that just kept feeding each other."
One thing Canadians will not be getting is a first-ever 3D feed of the Olympics. The special broadcast will be available in the United States but Canuck broadcasters say there simply aren't enough 3D TVs in Canadian homes to warrant the cost involved.
The consortium paid $153 million for the rights to air the Games and CTV says it intends to make the most of it.
The broadcaster says the sports spectacle will be peppered with promos for one of its most high-profile acquisitions — Charlie Sheen's new comedy "Anger Management."
A preview of the fall sitcom will immediately follow live coverage of the closing ceremony Aug. 12, a timeslot that CTV programming boss Mike Cosentino calls "a scheduling dream."
The London 2012 Olympic Games kick off July 27.