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No Olympics for you: Comcast locks value customers out of Sochi streams

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Remember that internet plus HBO deal that Comcast (S CMCSK) introduced late last year, presumably to give online-savvy folks an incentive to subscribe to cable again? Turns out it doesn’t come with the ability to watch any live streams from Sochi, which is starting to get people in Comcast’s web forums very upset.

For the second time, NBC has been restricting its live online Olympic coverage to viewers that have a pay TV subscription. Viewers who want to tune into the network’s 1,000 hours of live streams need to authenticate themselves, as it’s being called in industry-speak, which means they need to log in with the username and password they use on their TV provider’s website. But a number of Comcast customers now notice that despite paying for cable, they still can’t get access to those Winter Olympics live streams.

That’s because Comcast is limiting Olympic live streaming to customers who have, at the very least, the company’s Digital Starter package. Customers who only subscribe to the company’s basic cable package, or the slightly pricier Digital Economy package, don’t get access to any live streams from Sochi.

And the internet plus HBO package includes HBO Go streaming and access to the company’s Xfinity TV apps, but on the traditional TV front, it’s like basic cable, so Sochi streams aren’t included either. That’s because neither of these packages includes access to CNBC or MSNBC – a prerequisite for Sochi streaming that’s enforced by other TV providers as well.

Some of these restrictions may hit low-income viewers who simply can’t afford a more expensive cable package. But it looks as if Comcast may also be punishing some of the very viewers it was trying to attract with the internet plus HBO deal: Heavy online users who want access to HBO Go, and were on the fence about cord cutting. Here’s what one of them had to say on Comcast’s forums:

“I was mildly interested in the Olympics – but I don’t care THAT much. If I have to jump through hoops to ‘fix’ problems introduced by Comcast and/or NBC, I’m not going to bother. I’ve been holding onto a TV subscription on top of my cable internet, but more and more I find myself wondering exactly why.”

This post was updated at 12:45pm with additional information about the required TV channels needed to watch the Olympics online.

22 Responses to “No Olympics for you: Comcast locks value customers out of Sochi streams”

  1. I wish I knew about it earlier. I used to use Comcast Internet only and recently upgrade it to have Digital Economy since the Comcast agent said I could watch Sochi olympics through online streaming (NBC LiveExtra). So, I upgraded it but the streaming complaint that I should contact the provider. Confused, I called Comcast customer service “many many” times almost wasting more than two hours on the phone. They transferred me to Internet department and back to TV department and to here and there…. etc.
    To make the long story short, every agent I talked to told me that I am “supposed” to be able to watch the olympics online streaming. Well, they all LIED.
    I am going to return the cable box and cancel the upgrade. HORRIBLE HORRIBLE comcast.
    I was really concerned when I heard about Comcast merging Time Warner cable. Comcast is having too much power to control the market, and that’s REALLY REALLY a bad sign for customers.

  2. So if it is enforced by other TV providers as well, it is a policy of the rights holder (NBCU) not Comcast Cable…different companies, same ownership. That said, hard to have sympathy for the people who gloat about not needing pay TV…right up until they can’t access content available only to paying subscribers.

  3. In Portland Oregon, the cheapest $10/month package with only broadcast channels (no CNBC or MSNBC) is enough to let me see the streams. It took me half an hour to get it working — I needed to enable third-party cookies — and the throughput was so poor that it wasn’t worth watching for more than a few minutes.

  4. One of the best investments I made was purchasing a digital antenna. I can’t fathom spending the kind of money people tell me; upwards of $200 month for Comcast. I don’t miss cable or the horrible customer service and having to fight them to lower the bill after they continue to raise prices.

    PS. I am not affiliated with Winegard. I believe there is an Amazon brand just like this, too.

  5. John Goodwin

    I actually signed up for cable with Comcast to watch Sochi online. I confirmed with them on the phone that I was going to be able to stream the olympics immediately (with my basic cable package). When that didn’t happen I spent 2 hours talking to 5 different people (getting hung up on twice in transit) before someone told me that basic cable didn’t include the olympics online.

    Oh, and then they told me that I wouldn’t even be able to watch the regular olympics on my basic cable’s NY NBC affiliate, and that I would have to buy Digital Starter + a sports package to see ANY OLYMPICS WHATSOEVER.

  6. I’m pretty sure you will find the exact same scenario on Time Warner Cable. They began offering a $30 package that included HBO and Starter Cable. However, it specifically says that TV Everywhere apps are not supported. The only way to view the Starter channels is to rent a $10 cable box.

    It makes me curious who the package is supposed to be for. It doesn’t seem to be designed for cord cutters, since it requires a cable box and cuts you off from TV channel apps. I think it’s mostly a psychology move, where a company offers good-better-best and almost no one chooses “good.” I don’t think there are that many people out there willing to pay $30 for HBO but not pony up $15 more for standard cable and HBO.

  7. Screw NBC and Comcast. We get the CBC here and they’re live all the time. I actually saw the opening ceremonies live mid-day. NBC’s coverage has been awful every Olympics. All they’ve done is add layer of stupidity. Nothing to see here, move along . . .

    • Jay Bee, I was checking out CBC’s coverage of the opening ceremonies. I noticed when US came out, they cut over back to Canada’s team taking pics of each other in the stands after the Canadian team seated. The reporter kind of glossed over the US team like we didn’t even exist. Is that normal of CBC broadcasting? They really don’t like American’s either? Did you catch that?

      • Louis St-Amour

        Don’t read too much into it. Just as the US covers only the US (I’ve watched the Olympics from both countries), the same happens on Canada. However, online in the past you’ve been able to view other events live. At least that was the case when the Olympics were last in Canada.

  8. The rationale is profit seeking. Comcast believes some lower tier customers will upgrade to more expensive bundles.

    I hope they discover instead that their greed triggers a larger number of subscribers to drop the service.