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US Cord Cutters Getting Snubbed From NBC's Olympic Coverage Online 578

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-about-the-benjamins dept.
Monoman writes "The Washington Post reports, 'The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics start tonight. But if you're among the 9 percent of U.S. households who have broadband but don't subscribe to paid television, it will be nearly impossible to (legally) watch the games online this year. ... That's because while NBC is streaming all of the events live online, full access to the livestream will only be available to paying cable subscribers. And thanks to a $4.38 billion exclusive deal NBC struck with the International Olympics Committee (IOC) in 2011 for the privilege of broadcasting the Olympic games in the U.S. through 2020, cord-cutters don't have a lot of options.' Is this a money play by Comcast/NBC to get some subscribers back? Should the FCC step in and require NBC to at least provide a stream of their OTA content?"
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US Cord Cutters Getting Snubbed From NBC's Olympic Coverage Online

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  • Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jtara (133429) on Friday February 07, 2014 @06:07PM (#46190241)

    And why is it that you are owed free content?

    • Re:Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by silviuc (676999) on Friday February 07, 2014 @06:09PM (#46190279) Homepage
      Do they still display/run ads? If they do, then content is paid for and they get even more eyeballs to watch the ads.
      • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by reebmmm (939463) on Friday February 07, 2014 @06:15PM (#46190375)

        As far as I'm aware, you can still get it by antenna. So, there you have your ad supported NBC version for free.

        I don't know what that has to do with making the same content available online.

        • Re:Why? (Score:4, Informative)

          by Hamsterdan (815291) on Friday February 07, 2014 @06:54PM (#46190847)

          Some people can't receive OTA because of obstacles or because they're too far from the station. But they're being greedy, pure & simple.

          • Re:Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by TsuruchiBrian (2731979) on Friday February 07, 2014 @08:09PM (#46191385)
            For profit corporations are greedy?!
          • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Ralph Wiggam (22354) on Friday February 07, 2014 @08:59PM (#46191733) Homepage

            NBC paid the IOC over a billion dollars for the rights to show these games. They're spending millions and millions of dollars to produce and broadcast events on the other side of the world.

            You're demanding to watch them on the device of your choosing for free.

            And NBC is "being greedy, pure and simple"?

            • by fatphil (181876)
              If you can find a way of viewing them that does not involve NBC, then *you are saving NBC money* as they don't need to get as many bits to as many terminal devices. You're also not violating NBC's IP rights, as they are simply middlemen. However, most importantly, you are demonstrating that NBC is *not fucking necessary*. Data distributes itself remarkably easily, and doesn't need *blockages* like NBC to restrict its flow.

              Every "distributor" should go bust - you are redundant, and have been for over a decad
              • I suspect that NBC doesn't stream it because their contracts with cable and with the local TV stations prevents it, since streaming breaks both of those models.

                • by fatphil (181876)
                  You're of course right, but IMNSHO everyone in the chain is culpable of being a blockage.
            • I think the question is, will the advertising on an internet stream cover the cost with similar profitability as over the air (or cable) broadcast? If so, they might as well stream the OTA content as well. Since they don't do that, there are a few possibilities: they aren't getting as much for the streamed ads as they do over broadcast and cable; or their deal with the cable companies demands that they not stream. I expect the latter. Cable doesn't make nearly as much money from packets as they do from

          • Re:Why? (Score:5, Interesting)

            by mcrbids (148650) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @01:42AM (#46193357) Journal

            But they're being greedy, pure & simple.

            Oh, I get being greedy. Greedy is when you do something unpleasant in exchange for making more money, right? But what about when you do something unpleasant in order to make *less* money? Is that greedy?

            NBC sells eyeballs to advertisers. Cord cutters have eyeballs, and are willing to consume the advertising supported content. Ironically, cord cutters generally can't skip commercials, unlike the cable customers with DVRs. NBC is therefore cutting the number of viewers by about 10% for no particularly understandable reason.

            That's not greed, that's stupid.

        • by Quirkz (1206400)

          I can't. I'm only 5 miles outside a town of 20,000, but there's a mountain in the way. Somehow Fox and CBS come through, but no NBC.

      • Kind of. Advertisers pay less for on-line views then OTA viewers.

        And I don’t think it is NBC being greedy, it is International Olympics Committee which is being greedy. They have been able to extract a huge amount of money from NBC so they would have exclusive video rights in the USA. (which may be splitting hairs – they are both greedy, I just think the IOC is more greedy.)

      • That still doesn't mean you're owed access to the content.

    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Stormy Dragon (800799) on Friday February 07, 2014 @06:11PM (#46190313) Homepage

      Because I'm required to pay taxes to cover the millions of dollars of public funding being spent on security for the games.

      • by mythosaz (572040)

        Russian citizen checking in, I guess.

        • Re:Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by bob_super (3391281) on Friday February 07, 2014 @06:18PM (#46190441)

          Do you genuinely believe that the US ships that happen to be nearby, and all the Delegation's land security, as well as the assistance provided by the US agencies warning of toothpaste terrorists, are free?

          • Re:Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by mythosaz (572040) on Friday February 07, 2014 @06:21PM (#46190477)

            You object to paying to protect our citizens as they travel the world, or you object to not getting free television content as a result of it?

            • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

              by bob_super (3391281) on Friday February 07, 2014 @06:26PM (#46190555)

              I'm not objecting to anything. I'm pointing out that my tax dollars are used to support a dictator putting on a big corporate show.
              Since they are not supposed to be doing this for the glory of Coca-Cola, it must be about the sports.
              Under that false assumption, I'm sponsoring a big sports event by paying for its security. As a sponsor, I should probably have the right to see a stream of dreadful US-centric self-congratulatory selective coverage riddled with ads... for free.

              • Re:Why? (Score:5, Interesting)

                by mythosaz (572040) on Friday February 07, 2014 @06:31PM (#46190611)

                What you get out of paying taxes that go toward protecting our "amateur" athletes as they travel the world is that when you get real good at speed skating they'll protect you too, free of charge. In return, those athletes pay their taxes, and it goes to things that sometimes benefit you more directly than it benefits them.

                Neither of you get free TV content out of the deal.

            • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Stormy Dragon (800799) on Friday February 07, 2014 @06:43PM (#46190751) Homepage

              I like how the games are a private enterprise when it comes to NBC's monopoly rents on access to coverage of the games, but part of the world community when it comes to the costs of putting them on. Privatizing the benefits while collectivizing the costs is not capitalism.

          • Do you genuinely believe that the US ships that happen to be nearby, and all the Delegation's land security, as well as the assistance provided by the US agencies warning of toothpaste terrorists, are free?

            It's prepaid, you pay for those ships, their crews, and supplies, not to mention the agents, regardless of where they are in the world. It might even be saving money to have them in Russia since the price for per diem might even be cheaper there than for travel in the US for the agents, and I don't believe Russia is counted as a war zone for incentive pay.

      • by hubie (108345)
        Millions of US tax dollars are being spent on security in Sochi?
        • Millions of US tax dollars are being spent on security in Sochi?

          I wouldn't be a bit surprised.

        • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Stormy Dragon (800799) on Friday February 07, 2014 @06:26PM (#46190543) Homepage

          Yup:

          U.S. Navy warships enter Black Sea ahead of Sochi Games [pbs.org]

          Two U.S. Navy ships entered the Black Sea Wednesday as part of a Pentagon security plan ahead of the Sochi Olympics. The ships will be on standby to assist in the evacuation of American athletes and spectators in the event that threats are made to the 2014 Games.

        • by silviuc (676999)
          Now, this may be news to some people but... not everybody who comments on /. lives in 'murica bud.
      • Wait – I am confused. How are you watching the Olympics in the US but pay Russian taxes? I can think of a select few cases where that can be true but not many.

      • by Teun (17872)
        The value might be billions of Dollars but the public funding is certainly in Rubles...
    • Re:Why? (Score:4, Informative)

      by glavenoid (636808) on Friday February 07, 2014 @06:15PM (#46190363) Journal

      It's silly since it's still available over-the-air for free anyway. Do these "cord cutter" people not have antennas?

      • I use to live in a town that was 70 miles away from the nearest NBC station. You can't easily pick up content from that far away.

    • by khasim (1285)

      And why is it that you are owed free content?

      You aren't.

      But this isn't about free content.

      This is about an agreement to restrict who can broadcast the material and how they're using that restriction to deny that material to people.

      So the first question should be "why aren't more media companies able to broadcast an event such as the Olympics".

      • Re:Why? (Score:4, Informative)

        by mythosaz (572040) on Friday February 07, 2014 @06:24PM (#46190517)

        They're not restricting their broadcast - since they're still broadcasting it from the top of the hills their antennas are on.

        Plug in your antenna and watch it for free.

        The Olympics are a big business run by a big company, and they sold the rights to NBC.

    • by lgw (121541)

      Does NBC give you a way to pay to stream all their coverage from their web site? Watching broadcast television is what we did in the 20th century - in this century we stream stuff on the internet.

      I don't think it's the government's job to require NBC to sell products. If NBC doesn't want to get money by selling streaming options, that's not the government's business.

      I do think it's the Olympic committee's business. They're the ones who should be requiring NBC to provide live internet coverage (for a fee)

    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by girlintraining (1395911) on Friday February 07, 2014 @06:21PM (#46190487)

      And why is it that you are owed free content?

      I suppose a 4000 year old tradition of having an open and international series of games to bring about peace and cultural tolerance/friendship might confuse some people into thinking that as a global event, the ability to view and participate in them would be something not controlled by a single group of greedy profit-oriented people who don't care to hear the clamours of said participants. Sorta like Slashdot beta....

      • Re:Why? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by MtHuurne (602934) on Friday February 07, 2014 @07:21PM (#46191075) Homepage

        If NBC buys television rights for billions of dollars, of course they're going to use those to make money in any way they can. In my opinion the IOC is the main party to blame here, for selling exclusive television rights in the first place. They're the ones who are supposed to uphold the Olympic tradition.

      • Re:Why? (Score:5, Informative)

        by TsuruchiBrian (2731979) on Friday February 07, 2014 @08:43PM (#46191619)

        It's a 118 year old tradition that happens to have copied the name from a 2790 year old tradition that ceased to exist about 1600 years ago. The ancient olympics have been gone 16 times longer than the modern olympics have been going.

        It's a tradition. It's just a bit of a stretch to say it's a 4000 year old tradition.

    • Re:Why? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Hackysack (21649) on Friday February 07, 2014 @06:50PM (#46190823)

      No one is owed "free" content. When you've laced your content in ads however, it's no longer technically free. I have to pay a toll of time.

      Sure NBC can buy the rights and then restrict the delivery any way they deem fit.

      However, the bigger point is, why is it easier to acquire the content surreptitiously than it is to gain lawful access to it? I'm a cord cutter, I don't pay for cable because I don't ever watch it, and I don't want to subsidize the constant creation of crap programming it carries. I shouldn't have to subscribe to basic cable to be an additional set of eyeballs for the one piece of easily streamable content I want in a month.

      That said, I don't have to. I'm in Canada, and all the olympic coverage is available online. I'd suggest the submitter find a proxy and go from there.

    • by boorack (1345877)
      Because each Olympic event is funded by hosting country taxpayers ? Either everyone can film and publish taxpayer-funded Olympics coverage or Olympics Comittee acquires private sponsors and tightly controls who can and who cannot cover Olympic Games. Currently we have the worst of worlds which drives me to a conclusion that Olympic Games is a giant racket (which - by the way - helped bankrupting several countries already).
    • by vux984 (928602)

      And why is it that you are owed free content?

      I think the issue is that in 2014 we should have an option to get the content LEGALLY that doesn't entail paying for a complete cable package that we don't otherwise want simply for some coverage of a single sporting event.

      Does NBC let you subscribe to the stream? No?

      That's the problem. It's not that its not free.

  • by emmagsachs (1024119) on Friday February 07, 2014 @06:08PM (#46190257)
    Not with a bang, but with a beta.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...and all online. There's just the minor issue of geolocation to circumvent.
    • by japhering (564929)

      ...and all online. There's just the minor issue of geolocation to circumvent.

      Everyone's coverage is better than NBC's .. NBC spends more time doing profiles, interviews and commercials than the spend showing sports..

    • by rueger (210566)
      Although - and I wish I was making this up - several CBC Radio news podcasts are not available for two weeks because the newscasts would have Sochi content, and presumably someone else has Sochi content podcast rights ....

      I can't for the life of me see why anyone would consider two weeks of McDonalds and Pepsi sponsored multinational corporate sporty entertainment should be a basic human right. Sochi has nothing to do with sport, or the sort of high ideals that we claim that sports represents.

      It's st
  • Dont watch it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by muphin (842524) on Friday February 07, 2014 @06:11PM (#46190297) Homepage
    i dont watch it, dont care.
    the Athletes are awesome... buts its too political and commercial now.
    and now the Olympics are being limited to certain media outlets....
  • Use an antenna. (Score:5, Informative)

    by GerbilSoft (761537) on Friday February 07, 2014 @06:11PM (#46190315)
    Pretty much all HDTVs support receiving over-the-air TV stations using an antenna, and considering NBC is one of the largest broadcast networks in the US, it shouldn't be that hard to get NBC if you don't have cable.
    • by Taelron (1046946)
      Exactly, for those that care... The cable industry has gone out of their way to make people forget about OTA. I've gone camping and been places where the OTA regular 4 (Fox, NBC, CBS, ABC) digital HD channels came in just as clear if not better than they did over Cable. So why should I pay them $100 a month for channels I dont want? Now full disclosure, I have no intenet on watching the Olympics anyways, they have gotten stale over the years to the point of outright boring. The only entertainment i've
    • Re:Use an antenna. (Score:5, Informative)

      by OzPeter (195038) on Friday February 07, 2014 @06:17PM (#46190415)

      Pretty much all HDTVs support receiving over-the-air TV stations using an antenna, and considering NBC is one of the largest broadcast networks in the US, it shouldn't be that hard to get NBC if you don't have cable.

      Do you really think that all the content is on the OTA NBC station? In my case NBC is broadcasting on 5 different channels in my Comcast region. Only one of these is OTA.

  • Nothing new (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Wuhao (471511) on Friday February 07, 2014 @06:13PM (#46190343)

    That 9% is pretty used to having reduced access to licensed, live television content as a direct consequence of not paying a subscription for licensed, live television content.

  • Money Games (Score:5, Insightful)

    by s.petry (762400) on Friday February 07, 2014 @06:13PM (#46190347)

    For a while not, the Olympics has been nothing but a money making and redistribution system. When I was a kid, we had amateur athletes that worked hard for their few minutes of fame. The money for them came after their competitions, so it was a bit less corrupt. Sure, we had steroids back then and people were getting busted. At least they tried to give a sense of fair play back then.

    Today's Olympics is like watching any other televised sport (NBA/NFL/Baseball). It's a sham to make money. Most participants do have some natural talent, but anything that makes TV is well.. treated differently. Athletes are "trained", "fed", given exceptional medical care, and pampered for the spotlight. Their sponsors abuse them to make money, media outlets do the same, and Governments use them for clout (see how much money we spent on _our_ athletes!).

    I'm sure part of my bias is becoming older and more cynical. Not that much though, because we have an internet that lets us compare today to the 70s and see the difference. Pro Hockey players are what make the Olympic teams today, and Pro basket ball players, and Professional skaters are what's on the ice. The US claims to have done this because others do, which may or may not be true. Two wrongs won't bring back the original spirit of the games however.

    • Re:Money Games (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) on Friday February 07, 2014 @06:43PM (#46190735) Journal

      It is extremely commercial nowadays, but keeping out pros was always an idiotic farce. It harkened back to the days of pros vs. athlettes who had patrons, the latter being amateurs.

      Over the last century, many nations became the patron, including communist ones that, idiotically, legally had no pros at all. Yet their job was to develop and make the motherland look good on the international stage.

      If they could do well, they got rewarded in a perverse aping of capitalism -- they got upgraded apartments and things for their family. Judges likewise had similar additional pressure to slant things -- pressures well above the West, because lack of freedom disallowed all alternatives.

      So I'm fine with pros being allowed -- in many countries except the West, they've been there all along, and the anti-pro rule got started as a snooty wishback to days of kings and lords being patrons, with modern governments taking over that snooty role, touting it as a virue to their populace, as opposed to those crass pros doing it for money.

  • Legality is overrated. Then again, so are the Olympics.

  • Move to Canada! (Score:5, Informative)

    by tom229 (1640685) on Friday February 07, 2014 @06:15PM (#46190377)
    Canada, despite having a population of only 30 million, has the second most athletes competing, and by far the best coverage [imgur.com] of any developed nation.

    If you're Usian or from the UK i'd recommend getting an unblock [unblock-us.com] subscription and setting your country to Canada.
  • by gnasher719 (869701) on Friday February 07, 2014 @06:17PM (#46190399)
    NBC paid $4.38 billion.
    There are 2,850 athletes.
    That's about $1.5 million for every single athlete competing.
  • Isn't this sort of thing its reason for being?
  • We're still stick in the old world, even with all the nice shiny technology around us. NBC is in a world where they wish everyone watched Johnny Carson every night. Where politicians can't go on stage without flashing their wedding rings. Where they can, with impunity broadcast laughable stories from the Olympics. They're still stuck in that world. And if you love the Olympics, so are we too.
  • by PingXao (153057) on Friday February 07, 2014 @06:18PM (#46190429)

    Just like slash BETA the world wouldn't really be affected one way or the other if the Olympics just up and went away. The worst effects would be felt by the corporate sponsors who would be deprived of a way to market their garbage to teh sheeple consumers.

    Let the Olympics die. The International Olympic Committee and a large percentage of the national committees are some of the most corrupt organizations in the world. Fuck 'em.

    And if someone who doesn't subscribe to cable television can't see online video of the games then I consider that a GOOD thing. It leaves more bandwidth for the rest of us.

  • by Guppy06 (410832) on Friday February 07, 2014 @06:20PM (#46190465)

    Considering that real-time programming, particularly sports, is why many people hold onto their CATV subscriptions to begin with, I'm not expecting a whole lot of overlap between those who cut their cord and whose who are particularly interested in live Olympic coverage.

  • by vanyel (28049) on Friday February 07, 2014 @06:21PM (#46190473) Journal

    1. Ignore the whole fiasco to start with

    2. If it hurts their ratings because people can't get to the content, they'll learn...eventually

  • by djupedal (584558)
    From what I saw last night, the US isn't doing much worth watching so far, so...
  • I don't care about the olympics but I wish there was a way for cord-cutters in the US to still watch Formula 1 at home.

  • They should be forced to stream their OTA content.
    In fact, they should put WAPs all over the country streaming it wirelessly. To do this efficiently, they should use multicast packets Better yet, use broadcast packets.

    It could be called "broadcast television".

  • by HycoWhit (833923) on Friday February 07, 2014 @06:34PM (#46190643)
    #1--why watch NBC? CBC, BBC, and if you don't care about perfect English--the list gets a heck of a lot longer. But why even bother with streaming from a website--why not grab one of the usenet or torrent postings?

    Winter.Olympics.2014.Team.Figure.Skating.Pairs.Short.Program.720p.HDTV .x264-2HD
    Winter.Olympics.2014.Ladies.Moguls.Qualification.1.720p.HDTV.x264-2HD
    Winter.Olympics.2014.Mens.Slopestyle.Qualification.HDTV.x264-2HD

    You get the point--if you are going to cut the cord--I'd hope you know how to get content before you made the move...

    One last link: Instructions on watching live: http://deadspin.com/how-to-wat... [deadspin.com]
  • by protest_boy (305632) on Friday February 07, 2014 @06:52PM (#46190833)

    I'm basing this post off of my previous experience watching the summer olympics online. I don't expect it will be any different this time around, but perhaps NBC will surprise me.

    Two years ago, as I am now, I'm "borrowing" my sister's login and password for her paid TV subscription. Why doesn't NBC allow non-subscribers to buy online streaming access? I would pay some amount of money (maybe $30?) to get access to the online coverage and they aren't letting me. I can't think of a reason why they don't make this an option...

    That is, I would pay for it if the online coverage wasn't terrible in several different ways. First, spoilers are EVERYWHERE on the website and cannot be avoided. Unless I stay up until 3am to watch an event live there's no way I can watch the event the following day without inadvertently seeing the results on the website while trying to get to the recorded stream. Sometimes the spoiler is even part of the video itself ("Watch Bode Miller win gold!")!

    Second, many or most of the broadcasts online are commentator free. Even IF you know all the ins and outs of curling rules, commentators are very helpful in conveying exactly what it is that you're watching (e.g. who is the player or team being shown? What is the significance of this match in the tournament? Who are they playing next? etc.). The prime-time TV broadcasts that are heavily edited to show the most interesting bits are completely unavailable online.

    Third, high profile medal events cannot be watched until the DAY AFTER the prime-time TV broadcast has occurred unless you stay up until 3am to watch it live. Not only do you then have to impossibly dodge the spoilers on the website, but also radio, TV, co-worker conversations, etc. the following day.

  • by snadrus (930168) on Friday February 07, 2014 @08:30PM (#46191529) Homepage Journal

    The fools are shooting themselves in the foot:
    Here's an idea: Lets get the entire next generation disinterested in the Olympics by making it impossible to see it over their preferred method unless they bug their parents for cable bill info! Lets remind those kids who is in-charge.
    This will also exclude some Americans and totally exclude all those fit country people so they won't join the games out of spite. Now the US won't participate as well or be interested as much. And we know how well America watches international sports they do poorly in. Soccer anyone?

    This media event is unrelated to the ancient games except by name. It's about 20 years before irrelevance.

  • by Cid Highwind (9258) on Friday February 07, 2014 @08:44PM (#46191629) Homepage

    Is this a money play by Comcast/NBC to get some subscribers back?

    Obviously.

    Should the FCC step in and require NBC to at least provide a stream of their OTA content?

    No, but the IOC should, if they want the games to be a thing Americans still watch in 15-20 years. The FCC already failed when they allowed the anti-competitive Comcast/NBC merger in the first place.

  • by mattack2 (1165421) on Friday February 07, 2014 @09:37PM (#46192083)

    Should the FCC step in and require NBC to at least provide a stream of their OTA content?

    NO. You are already being "given" (in exchange for advertising that you can easily, and legally, skip with a DVR) the broadcasts OTA. (and you can already easily use a Tivo & iPad app, or Slingbox, etc., to get your own recordings to your phone/tablet)

    Why should someone run expensive servers for stuff they paid for, if they think they won't make money from it?

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