On the temporarily vacated set of NBC's "Saturday Night Live," where John Belushi and Will Ferrell once roamed wild, the Summer Olympics are being called.
The announcers are at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, nearly 7,000 miles from Beijing, sitting inside 14-foot-wide booths that are equipped with 24-inch HD monitors and headsets that pipe in the ambient sounds from the game sites in China. Every bit of 13 sports, and some of basketball, is called in this fashion on MSNBC, USA and CNBC.
The announcers never see anything more than what the viewers see.
There is no deception afoot here. The announcers make it clear that they are in New York, as do the studio hosts Bill Patrick, Melissa Stark and Matt Vasgersian, who is taking a break from the dismal fortunes of his usual employer, the San Diego Padres.
This sportscasting from afar is an odd yet modern spin on the nearly ancient practice of baseball games called by radio announcers who read off ticker tape. Games are supposed to be called from arenas and stadiums, not in booths far from the action.
But NBC's arrangement is not unique. ESPN has shown World Cup games that were being called by announcers at its Bristol, Conn., headquarters, and NBC called some Olympic events in Athens off monitors at the international broadcast center. The New York Times sometimes blogs about live events from its offices.