‘Today’ brings a touch of China to 30 Rock for remote Olympics coverage

NBC News‘ “Today” has created an Asian inspired outdoor studio — complete with a fire pit — outside of Studio 1A as an alternate way to cover the 2022 Winter Olympics without having its primary anchors on the ground.

“Today” typically spends at least a week in the host city (down from about two weeks in the past) each year, but the network canceled those plans this year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

This will mark the first time the show hasn’t had at least one primary anchor on the ground in at least a decade, though de facto third co-anchor Craig Melvin is anchoring live from Beijing and the network has a fleet of reporters and crew on the ground as well.

These photos, provided by set fabricator Blackwalnut, show the structure being installed in Rockefeller Plaza.

NBC opted to try to bring a bit of Beijing to NYC, building a large, blocky freestanding wall on the roadway that connects 48th and 49th streets outside its studio that appears to be an interpretation of a variety of elements from Chinese architecture, art and craftsmanship. 

HD Studio, who created the network’s Beijing studio sets, also designed the outdoor setup in Rockefeller Plaza.

It’s somewhat suggestive of a tradition Chinese gates called paifang or pailou, at least in the basic shape and structure. 

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It features thick wood toned stacked “logs” with red ends with a large seamless 4.8mm pixel pitch LED video array from Neoti in the middle. In some ways, it has similarities to the Chidori structure NBC installed on the rooftop studio in Tokyo in 2021 for delayed coverage of the 2022 Olympics.

NBC Nightly News” also used this space for select blocks Friday, Nov. 4, 2022, though with anchor Lester Holt strategically blocking the “Today” logo on the camera left side of the structure. 

On Friday, Feb. 4, 2022,’s show, Hoda Kotb and Craig Melvin anchored from in front of the 40-foot video wall in Studio 1A with a simulated background of Beijing behind them.

Primary co-anchor Savannah Guthrie was in Connecticut at NBC Sports headquarters, having co-hosted coverage of the open ceremony remotely along with Mike Tirico from China immediately before.

It’s not immediately clear why the outdoor studio wasn’t used Friday, but there was also significant foggy weather in the region at the time, which could have made outdoor production challenging.

Once it did shift to the set Monday, “Today” set up its temporary home based in from the video wall and wood structure, bringing out the same traveling desk it’s used for Olympics coverage in the past with its dinstictive angled based supports.

Other elements include large wood toned “tiles” with the “Today” and Peacock logo on them. The two logos are also installed on either side of the video wall. The show also brought in some faux greenery on the far side of the area.

Camera left of the outdoor setup the outward facing LED walls of Studio 1A are visible with Beijing 2022 branding visible, while the anchor desk has been decked out is a similar look.

In addition, there’s a semi-circular sofa area behind the anchor desk, closer to the video wall, that also features a fire pit.

Given the cold weather, on Jan. 7, 2022, the “Today” team was bundled up with Team USA gear, which was designed and sponsored by Ralph Lauren.

The gold railings under construction at Blackwalnut’s facility. 

The space has been cordoned off from the public areas of Rockefeller Plaza using custom built gold railings featuring Chinese-inspired lattice patterns built by Blackwalnut, who also fabricated the other parts of the outdoor space.

Prior to the delayed 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, “Today” had typically shipped a semi-circular studio with sliding glass windows to the Olympics, often setting it up in a plaza or public area so crowds could gather around, just like at home.

In Sochi in 2014, the network even had a recerated of its now defunct Orange Room in Sochi (temporary dubbed “Oранжевый Komahata,” which is Russian for “Orange Room”).

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For the delayed 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo in 2021, “Today” shared a rooftop studio — sans waving crowds — with primetime anchor Mike Tirico and others.

Unlike, “Nightly,” “Today” did create a special open for the Games.

Tokyo 2020 open

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