Watching the 2010 Winter Games online could be an Olympic feat in and of itself, as NBC (s GE) plans to require viewers to prove that they subscribe to a pay TV service before they can watch any of the live streaming coverage over broadband. Additionally, live coverage will only be granted if that subscriber’s cable, satellite or telecom TV service provider agrees to a deal with NBC (Cablevision subscribers were blocked from last year’s coverage because it didn’t have one).
According to The Sports Business Journal, which broke the story, those that don’t subscribe to a pay TV service will be able to watch some archived video, but no live streams. The details of exactly how a viewer would prove they’re a subscriber are still being worked out, but could involve their IP address when at home and getting them to fill out a more complicated form if they want to watch while at work.
Proving that you subscribe to a cable or satellite service in order to access premium content video is shaping up to be the big trend of 2009; Time Warner (s TWX), Viacom (s VIA) and Comcast (s CMCSA) are already working on their own authentication systems. As for NBC, the network was particularly stingy with its online coverage of last summer’s games in Beijing, time-delaying the most popular events so they’d run after appearing on oldteevee.
We get that it’s not cheap for NBC to carry the Olympics, and it’s not like we think everything has to be free all the time. But this isn’t the Super Bowl. The Olympics are supposed to be special, a opportunity for the country to unite and rally behind our best athletes as we face the world in competition. Putting up barriers is hardly in keeping with the spirit of the games. If the Canadians can run every single moment of next year’s games live online, why can’t we?
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