The Whole Olympics Are Live For the First Time, But There’s a Catch
During the Vancouver Olympics, NBC hid action from American eyes until it had been prepped and packaged for prime-time consumption. Just two years later, NBC’s blackouts are over. “If cameras are on it, we’ll stream it,” NBC’s head of digital media told the New York Times.
The events will still be prepped and packaged for primetime, but NBC’s hope is that the sports influencers who watch events live will help build buzz for that evening’s primetime viewing, through postings on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you, social media!
I watched the opening event of the Games yesterday on my phone while I scarfed down a breakfast burrito. I thrilled to the images, and that was for a preliminary women’s soccer game. How exciting will it be next Tuesday at 11:48 a.m., when Michael Phelps swims in the 200 fly final? No waiting eight hours for NBC to show the match in their primetime coverage…by which time your breakfast burrito is cold, and you’ve probably seen the result on Twitter anyway. Now, you may watch all the major events–and many, many minor ones–live.
That’s may watch it live, because NBC is only extending the privilege to people who subscribe to the network’s premium cable channels, MSNBC and CNBC. If you aren’t a cable TV customer, the only Olympics you’ll be able to see are the ones on free TV. Most of that action will be delayed.
Looking at it from a business perspective, NBC is making the sound decision. The network is 51% owned by Comcast, which has a pretty strong interest in maintaining cable as the must-have product for live sports viewing. Also, the fees NBC gets from other cable operators for carrying those premium channels is based on the fact that those channels will be carrying the Games. The network paid $1.18 billion to televise the London games, and…well, if you paid $1.18 billion for something, you probably wouldn’t want to be give it away either.
Still–BUMMER! So many people who don’t have cable would love to watch these Games live on their iPads or laptops, and won’t have the chance. I guess you could go through the trouble of getting cable set up and then cancel after two weeks, but that seems like a lot of work. What you’d love is if NBC would give Olympics junkies an option to buy access to the live streaming. Not gonna happen.
If you are a cable subscriber, you get access to the livestream by logging in with your cable username and password here. Note: If you don’t know your username and password, call Comcast, but I warn you that the process can be a pain in the ass. For me, it involved getting something mailed to me. Still, I’m so jazzed about this, I created a website that tells you when–in Pacific time–all the most important Olympic events are happening. The Seattle Times did something similar (and much better) for local athletes.