NBC Tears Down Its Pay Wall for Olympic Hockey Matchup


In a decision that might surprise some viewers who have become frustrated by NBC Universal’s (s GE) handling of online video content, it streamed the entirety of the quarterfinal Men’s Hockey matchup between the USA and Switzerland live at 3:00 pm EST, the same time that it was broadcasting the match on NBC. And it did so without requiring users to log in to the site, making the video open to anyone who tried to access it.

NBC has spent the last two weeks being lambasted by critics for the way it has handled live events from the 2010 Winter Olympics, both in its TV scheduling and its online coverage. The broadcaster has consistently held back live coverage of some 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 subscribers.

That approach to the Olympics has not only frustrated fans, but it could have driven some potential viewers to look for coverage elsewhere. Despite being the go-to outlet for the 2010 Winter Games, NBCOlympics.com was ranked third among sports sites featuring Olympics coverage during the first week of the games. With 6.5 million unique visitors during the week of Feb. 8-14, NBCOlympics.com lagged Yahoo (9.3 million unique visitors) and ESPN (8.4 million uniques), neither of which has rights to Olympics video content.

But today, not only was the match between the US and Switzerland available online at the same time as NBC’s broadcast, but it was also available to all users — not just those that had authenticated with the site. So why, after spending much of this year’s Olympics trying to keep users from being able to access its video live, did the broadcaster make today’s hockey game so easy to watch? Could it be that NBC is having a change of heart? Or maybe it’s learned that being too restrictive is actually hurting its overall audience numbers?

Our guess is that NBC realized that the match could actually garner more eyeballs if it were made available online in the US, due to the large number of people at work who wouldn’t be able to tune in otherwise. The decision might not make its affiliates happy, but at the same time, but those viewers who tuned in for the game from their desk jobs probably weren’t going to be watching the matchup from a big screen anyway.

NBC has yet to respond to a request for comment, but we’ll let you know if we get any answers — and whether today’s streaming of the games was a one-time event, or if the broadcaster plans on making more of its video available through the front page of NBCOlympics.com.



They must have had a change of heart – tried to watch the Finland/Slovakia game, and it is asking to authenticate. NBS sucks.


This guy is an idiot. It was tape delayed for the pacific and mountain time zones. The game started at noon pacific time but did not air on NBC until 3pm PST. People on the east coast got to see it live. Im guessing that the writer is on the east coast.


NBC and it’s entire approach to show Olympics is just ridiculous. They sensorship it and add sometimes more than 50% of advertisement time. By sensorship I mean that they arbitrarily cut off sportsmen who they think are not interesting to watch. Sometimes they cut out portion of the competition just to show historic events or some commentary and then some more ads. It is completely different from other countries where you could see several live events without much interruption just by flipping channels. So it seems to me that their goal is to promote only US sportsmen (for the money) and air as many ads as possible (money again) and real sport gets minutes that kind of leftovers from their money making scheme. I’d say get rid of this NBC monopoly on Olympics. I’m going to ignore this network from now on. Commentary on figure skating is just unprofessional, especially that of politically motivated woman-commentator.


Are you sure they were broadcasting the match on NBC? As soon as I saw that the match was online I switched to my local NBC station which in Los Angeles is NBC 4 and they were showing The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Ryan Lawler

Unfortunately you probably got hit by tape lag for being on the west coast. In New York they were broadcasting the game live on the local NBC affiliate.


@asfdasd asdfsd that’s a sub of CTV, which has geographic IP restrictions and can’t push Olympic coverage outside of Canada (and, yes, I’ve tried all kinds of mirrors to tap into it, since NBC bites).

Andy Sternberg

I thought I was a paying cable customer as I subscribe to Time/Warner Cable Internet. But according to NBCU, it didn’t matter (except for this game), because I did not have a cable TV package.

Of course, if I did, I wouldn’t have bothered trying to watch online.

They should keep streaming live Olympics no matter the time of day. Or else I’m going to have to keep making fun of them.

asfdasd asdfsd

guys, just go on tsn.ca, these canadian sites stream just about any hockey game you want that is on their network


Better late than never?

I’ve got to say, finding that NBC wasn’t carrying the Canada-US Hockey game on Sunday (bumped it to MSNBC, which I didn’t have access to) – so, I go online — only to find that there’s some log-in/verification through a Cable Account procedure (that I didn’t have access to the log-in info) — and, no direct pay method (and, Ustream accounts had been cut off; CTV was geo-IP blocked etc.) my frustration with NBC was extremely high.

Their broadcast coverage is a snooze and gives you about 10% of the feel for the Olympics you should have (if you lived in Europe or Canada, you’d have a very different experience; plus health care)…

Then, to find that NBC/interactive was blocking content they weren’t broadcasting on their primary channel? Or, was trying to glom onto cable dollars while still pushing ads through?

Let’s face it — NBC needs to be ousted from carrying the Olympics. It’s time for some competition and even break-up of the monopoly they have. They pretty much suck at what they do. But, so do most of their Advertisers who are fixated on one-big commercial endlessly repeated it makes us want to vomit (fast food chains and pharmaceuticals take note).

NBC=Fail = Please take the Olympics away from them and let a dozen independent online, mobile and cable companies into the mix next go round.

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