Countless sports fans will look for video coverage of the Olympic games online while trapped in their cubicles this week, and chances are at least some of them won’t head to NBC’s official web site but will try their luck elsewhere. In fact, NBC’s decision to delay the online video coverage of popular events for three hours is almost an invitation to waste a few hours of time on pirate sites and P2P TV forums.
The IOC is aware of this problem and is trying to address it by posting authorized videos on YouTube. Too bad these clips won’t be accessible to folks in the United States. So where will U.S. Olympians go? Hard to say, to be honest. There’s a plethora of options out there, ranging from Chinese P2P services to torrent sites. However, previous sports events, ranging from the recent Euro Cup soccer contest to your regular NBA game, can give us a first idea of what kind of pirate platforms might get the Beijing bump.
Here are five ways people will use to get their Olympics fix:
P2P Streaming. China is the motherland of P2P streaming, with almost a dozen vendors offering live TV transmissions. The leading Chinese P2P TV platform PPLive is officially licensed to show the games — but only to an audience within China. PPLive told us it will restrict the transmissions to IP addresses from within the country. Hardcore fans might want to try to access the transmissions through a Chinese proxy server, but the chances this will work for a bigger audience are rather slim. After all, people usually tend to use proxy servers to access web sites outside of the PRC. Of course, there are other companies that seem to care less about filters and licenses. Both soccer and NBA fans have previously reported success with PPStream, PPMate, Sopcast, TVUPlayer and TVKoo.
Live video sites. Move over, Chris Pirillo: Streaming video hosters like Ustream, Stickam and Justin.tv will see a bunch of people trying to relay TV coverage of the games. The sites will probably try to shut down some of these efforts, but there’s a good chance that some will fall through the cracks. Who knows, maybe we’ll even see new kinds of spot coverage coming right out of someone’s living room, Mystery Science Theater-style?
YouTube. Granted, the official Olympics coverage will not be available to visitors with States-based IP addresses. But that won’t stop users that access YouTube through a proxy server based in India or any of the other 76 countries that have access to the IOC channel. Users will also upload excerpts and highlights from the competitions on their own. Google will try to filter these submissions, but, as Liz already noted, those filters won’t catch everything.
Torrent sites. BitTorrent has long been a good option for time-shifting TV, with some shows even finding their way online between the East Coast and the West Coast premiere, so we’ll likely see quite a few Olympic TV moments on torrent sites as well. Torrents should pop up on major sites like Mininova and The Pirate Bay as well as specialized, invite-only communities like Sportbit.org within hours of the major competitions. Just don’t expect a cheerful Pirate Bay doodle. Site admin Peter Sunde aka Brokep has announced on his blog that he doesn’t want to help out the Chinese government by drawing attention to the games: “In my opinion the Olympics should never be held in a country like that.”
Foreign TV. The BBC is broadcasting the Olympics online — with up to seven live streams, no less — and broadcasters in other countries will offer their own coverage on the web as well, oftentimes using fewer technical hurdles than NBC. Granted, most of these streams will be protected by IP filters, but once again, proxy servers should be able to solve this problem. And I wouldn’t be too surprised if someone figures out a way to access a stream of some obscure Russian TV station without any proxy.
We’ll follow up on this list once the games get going.
Related content on NewTeeVee: Pirating the 2010 Winter Olympics