NBC’s Online Olympics Blackout Highlights Web's Threat to Cable Operators

By February 19, 2010

Image via Wikipedia Here's a riddle for all the sports fans who agree that watching sports other than live is just not worth it: what would you do if you wanted to watch Olympic freestyle skiing but you're stuck at work because it's Wednesday afternoon? You watch it on NBCOlympics.com? Wrong. NBCOlympics.com provides about 400 hours of live streaming from Vancouver. But its new authentication system won't let you watch this unless you can prove that you subscribe to a cable, satellite or IPTV service provider in partnership with


The reason for this change is very simple. Multi System Operators (MSOs) like Cablevision, Comcast and Time Warner Cable feel threatened by online video. If Comcast or Cablevision subscribers can watch their favorite TV shows online for free - weather on premium channels' website catch-ups or on Hulu-like services - then what's the point of paying for cable?

MSOs have therefore developed authentication systems in order to keep pace with the development of online video without losing subscribers - the "TV Everywhere" initiative. NBCOlympics.com restricted access to live streams to stay on good terms with its MSOs.

So NBC is out. Some of you may tell me to watch the Olympics live on the official YouTube channel.

Wrong again. The International Olympics Committee has indeed made a lot of official videos accessible to 77 countries on the Olympics YouTube channel ... but as NBC holds the rights to the Olympics, YouTube had to geo-block the channel for the US.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, Canada's Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium has chosen to deliver each and every second of the Olympics live from Vancouver, through more than 4,800 hours of coverage in 22 languages on 12 television channels, 20 radio stations and two dedicated websites.

So, for US Olympic fans, the official channels are out. But if you really need to watch freestyle skiing on Wednesday afternoon, there are a lot of websites you check to find lists of alternative ways to watch the 2010 Winter Olympics live.

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