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Summary:

A year and a half ago, I found myself on vacation during the middle of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. And since I was on vacation, I wasn’t content to sit by the TV and watch hours of prime time coverage to catch Michael Phelps […]

A year and a half ago, I found myself on vacation during the middle of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. And since I was on vacation, I wasn’t content to sit by the TV and watch hours of prime time coverage to catch Michael Phelps breaking all sorts of records. But I happened to have my laptop with me, so I just tuned in to NBCOlympics.com to catch up on all that I had missed.

Apparently I wasn’t alone, as millions logged on to NBC’s online coverage of the games that summer. During the two weeks of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, NBCOlympics.com served a total of 75.5 million streams and 9.9 million hours of online video coverage.

But in 2008 I wasn’t a cable subscriber, so I was effectively getting access to video that others had “paid for” through their cable subscriptions — a practice that NBC will crack down on during the 2010 Winter Games. In 2010, NBC would restrict my access to that content because I hadn’t paid its cable partners for content that will be shown on CNBC or MSNBC.

Making matters worse is the fact that there’s an authentication process, in which those who actually do pay for cable must prove that they are subscribers through various methods (which differ by cable provider). When you log onto NBCOlympics.com and attempt to watch “exclusive video” on the site, you’re led to a page that looks like this: (Oh look! I could win a free trip to the Olympic Training Center!)

Now that I’m a Verizon FiOS subscriber, I should be able to access content on NBCOlympics.com. There’s just one problem — the site is asking for my Verizon FiOS log-in information, which frankly, I don’t remember.

While the log-in is apparently one-time only, and not nearly as onerous as installing the Comcast Access software for its TV Everywhere authentication, I don’t foresee myself looking for my FiOS password (or possibly resetting it) just so I can watch an on-demand stream of last night’s curling finals. And I suspect I’m not alone. For me and probably many others, online video viewing of the Olympics will be limited to what we can find on third-party news sites. For everything else, we’ll just set our DVRs, or maybe tune in to ESPN’s SportsCenter.

No doubt NBC will tout online video viewing as “record breaking” for the 2010 Winter Olympics, but it will do so only in the sense that the programmer didn’t really stream any video from the last Winter Games. Even so, you can expect more frustration and less actual viewers than you should for an event of this size.

Related NewTeeVee content: Where to Watch the 2010 Winter Olympics Online

Related GigaOm Pro content: Live Event Coverage: Video Rights Roundtable (subscription required)

  1. [...] Get Ready for Some Olympic-Sized Authentication Frustration [...]

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  2. Just like with everything, they will get less (viewers in this case) when the cost rises. Just like taxes.

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  3. [...] all: News Sure it’s 2010 and you can now get your Olympics fix online (albeit with some headaches), but if you’re home in front of the big living-room screen, why not take advantage of the all-HD [...]

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  4. Maybe it isn’t such a good way to promote this event.
    They should think more practically.

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  5. [...] I finally found a “Watch Now” link on the Curling home page around 9:05 AM — whereupon I was then asked to go through NBC’s cable verification process. [...]

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  6. I am a Mediacom cable subscriber. Turns out that isn’t enough to see the nbcolympics “special” videos. With Mediacom, you also have to be a broadband internet subscriber. Gee, what a racket!

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  7. I have Comcast cable and internet, and I still can’t see the premium content. Their authentication software doesn’t work. I go through their one-time sign up screens and login to my account, but it just says that I’m not a subscriber.

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  8. [...] while figure skating and hockey games are on TV. Even current cable customers able to jump through the authentication hoops of NBC’s Olympics may be looking for alternatives. After all, NBC is only streaming some 400 [...]

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  9. [...] marquee events, using tape delays to aggregate larger audiences during primetime hours. And it has restricted access online to only those fans who prove that they are paying cable [...]

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  10. [...] NBC’s Olympics coverage, CBS is committed to making the NCAA tournament live, open, and available to anyone who wants to [...]

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