Al Michaels generated by AI to provide highlights of the Paris Olympics

The Olympics have ancient origins. Now they will also have a dose of the latest technologies.

This year, the highlights of the Summer Olympics will be told by artificial intelligence and, more specifically, by Al Michaels' AI-generated narration.

Executives at NBCUniversal and the Peacock streaming service said Wednesday that a daily highlight reel customized for the Olympics would be available to streaming subscribers. The reel will feature the voice of Mr. Michaels, the 79-year-old American television host who first covered the Olympics decades ago.

Mr. Michaels, however, will not be holed up in a television booth every night to briefly summarize the dozens of Olympic events that have taken place. Instead, the Peacock program has been trained by NBC clips of Mr. Michaels — he joined the network in 2006 and was its longtime announcer on “Sunday Night Football” — to formulate coherent, lifelike sentences that “will provide his signature skill and elocution,” the company said.

Mr. Michaels granted approval for the use of his voice.

“When they approached me about this, I was skeptical but obviously curious,” Mr. Michaels said in a statement released by the company. “Then I saw a demo that explained in detail what they had in mind. I said, ‘I’m in.’”

It raises a fundamental question, reminiscent of Mr. Michaels' most famous Olympic phone call: Do NBCUniversal executives believe in miracles?

Since 1996, NBC has exclusively broadcast the Olympics in the United States, and the network has often found itself under intense public scrutiny for its coverage of the Games.

Handing the keys to AI adds a new risk to the mix: AI-generated Al Michaels is almost certain to spark interest given its novelty. And there's been no shortage of tales of embarrassing mistakes, face falls and mildly alarming hallucinations as AI has exploded into widespread use over the past 18 months.

Subscribers who want to see daily Peacock highlights will be able to choose the Olympic events that interest them most and the type of highlights they want to see, such as viral clips, gold medals or knockout competitions.

From there, Peacock’s AI machines will go to work each night churning out the most notable moments and putting them together in a neat custom package. Mr. Michaels’ recreated voice will be broadcast across the reels. (Humans will do quality checks on the AI ​​highlight reels.)

NBCUniversal officials said they anticipate seven million different variations of personalized highlights during games. The highlights will appear in the Peacock app for users who sign up.

Brian Roberts, chairman of Comcast, parent company of NBCUniversal, introduced the new Al Michaels clip during an event to introduce AI-Al (officially called “Your Daily Olympic Recap on Peacock”).

The germ of the idea, Mr. Roberts said, came from a meeting months ago, when executives from Comcast and NBCUniversal said: “What could we do with AI? How can we leverage AI purely for fun and for good?”

After Mr. Roberts showed a demonstration, he added: “We pushed ourselves to invent, innovate and develop something better again and again.”

The Olympics come at a crucial time for NBCUniversal. Peacock lost nearly $3 billion last year and lags far behind rivals like Netflix or Disney+ in total subscribers. But the streaming service has seen strong subscriber growth over the past year and has leaned on sports to help it. In January, Peacock showed the first-ever National Football League playoff game as a streaming-only service.

The Olympics, which begin July 26, will provide an entirely different test. In addition to its daytime and primetime broadcasts on NBC and a number of cable networks, Peacock will play a prominent role in the company’s Olympic coverage and will livestream every Olympic event.

Kelly Campbell, president of Peacock, called the new AI tool a “breakthrough” in an interview and said that if it worked, it could soon populate the streaming platform in other ways, perhaps with Andy's AI recaps Cohen for Bravo shows, he said.

“This version, for me, I want to do it for every sporting event and show that we have on Peacock,” he said. “This is something that really differentiates. We're in a sea of ​​identities and having something that really sets you apart is pretty awesome.

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