Updated: NBC Likely To Make Men’s USA-FIN Hockey Semi Open Access Online

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Credit: NBCOlympics.com

U.S. hockey fans needed a pay video subscription to watch the USA-CAN women’s gold medal game online but the men’s victory over Switzerland was barrier-free — and paidContent has learned the Friday men’s semi-final with Finland is likely to follow suit. NBC (NYSE: GE) already has promised to broadcast Friday’s game live across the country, unlike the Wednesday tape delay — a decision that may have pleased some affiliates who got to show soaps and Ellen but left many fans of the icy sport red hot.

No one is giving official reasons for the switch, which so far is only for these two games, but it’s no secret that NBC Sports landed in the penalty box for Sunday’s misguided call to put the highly anticipated mens’ USA-Canada match on MSNBC, which is not quite fully available in all multichannel households or in HD across all distributors.

Another possible reason: Wednesday’s game was during office hours, as is Friday’s with puck drop at 3 p.m. Eastern. As CBS (NYSE: CBS) Sports already has learned with March Madness on Demand, daytime online for the right events is like prime time. Will NBC follow suit Sunday? If the USA men make the gold medal game, it would be a) criminal b) suicidal c) dense to wall it off. As a longtime hockey fan, I well know the knock about hockey as a “niche” sport in the U.S. That’s not the case for the Olympics.

And it won’t hurt the next time a member of Congress asks NBCU’s Jeff Zucker about closing online access to cable viewers; the subject came up during today’s House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Comcast-NBCU deal and this could look mighty nice in the written response.

Update: NBC just released its most current stats for “NBCOlympics.com on MSN” (the official name) and one stat stands out: the site served nearly 500,000 live streams of the USA-SUI match mentioned above, the highest number of any live event so far. Given that live online has been limited to hockey and curling, that’s not surprising.

— Through 13 days, 28.9 million video streams served, more than 2.5 million hours of video. (Omniture)

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Sports Fan

Stop watching all NBC shows until they stop restricting access. If NBC wants to limit their broadcasts to highlights of the day’s events, that’s fine. I want to watch live coverage of the events that interest me. If NBC chooses to use their broadcast rights to prevent me from watching the games, then I choose not to watch ANY NBC. No more Jay Leno, No more Office. ZERO!!!

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