NBC Continues To Do The Exact Wrong Thing When It Comes To The Olympics Online

from the you-can't-be-serious dept

Is it any wonder that NBC Universal keeps having trouble? If you painted them a map that explained how to clearly provide people what they wanted, the company would do the exact opposite. Two years ago, during the summer Olympics, NBC Universal severely limited online offerings. It didn’t let people embed videos. It only made events that people weren’t as interested in available online, and even then, would delay much of the content online. The backwards thinking here was that if they blocked the “good stuff” out and made it only on TV, it would drive people to the TV. Of course, NBC’s own research showed that the more people watched online, the more they watched on TV. But, of course, by limiting access, not that many people watched online through legal channels (a lot more watched elsewhere). And, at NBC, they considered this a success. Seriously.

And to prove it, NBC Universal is apparently going to make things even worse this time around. TorrentFreak points us to a MediaWeek piece that describes NBC Universal’s “plan to fight piracy,” that makes so little sense it makes the whole Jay Leno fiasco look well-organized.

Rather than giving people a choice, NBC is limiting its live streaming even more. There are 300 events at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, and NBC is going to stream a grand total of two of them live online: curling and hockey. And, then its spending a ton of wasted effort getting lots of other sites to try to block live streams of Olympic events. You know what would have stopped those live streams in a way that NBC could have profited from? Providing those live streams directly. What sort of company sees that there’s demand for a product and then purposely decides to not offer it and to actively stop others who are trying to offer it? Wow!

NBC’s explanation for all this is just as bizarre:

“One of the things we learned in Beijing is that people really go to the Web for highlights,” said Perkins Miller, svp, digital media at NBC

Perhaps that’s because you didn’t offer much live streaming last time around, and the only events you did so on were the events no one cared about.

But, of course, the best comes from Rick “oh-those -poor-corn-farmers-decimated-by-piracy” Cotton, NBC’s general counsel, who seems so fixated on “stopping piracy!!!” that he seems oblivious to the concept of providing real value:

“Our aim is to make access to pirated material inconvenient, low quality and hard to find,” said Rick Cotton, NBC’s evp and general counsel. In terms of Web piracy, “you are never going to go to zero. But there has been a sea change in terms of recognition of the problem.”

Again, you solve the problem of people going elsewhere by giving them what they want, not purposely deciding not to give them what they want and then getting upset when they go find it elsewhere.

And you wonder why, for the first time ever, a broadcaster is expected to lose money on the Olympics?

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Companies: nbc, nbc universal

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Comments on “NBC Continues To Do The Exact Wrong Thing When It Comes To The Olympics Online”

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RD says:


“You know what would have stopped those live streams in a way that NBC could have profited from? Providing those live streams directly. What sort of company sees that there’s demand for a product and then purposely decides to not offer it and to actively stop others who are trying to offer it? “

Thats easy! You are the rights holder, you TELL people what they want, when, or even IF, they can have it, and they will be HAPPY with it by gum! It is even EXPECTED that they will pay you EVEN IF YOU DONT PROVIDE THE THING THEY WANT! Withhold items from the market? Too bad! We expect to be paid for the FEW things we DO provide and you can just accept sweet F-All for what we dont! Its under copyright, so we will SUE you if you get it ANY other way (that we dont provide AT ALL!)

This is how these fucking idiots think. TAM and his ilk have perverted the copyright bargain, perverted the law, and now are tying to pervert and destroy the very market they are trying so hard to “protect.”

Stephen says:

summer olympics

I would note that I could have cared less about the last Olympics, but when I found out I could watch archery, lifting and trap shooting on line I absolutely devoured them. Plus you could write in to the online commentators and they would answer your questions! And I watched exactly one event on TV, Phelps’s first race, and then only because I happened to be in the room when it was on.

Alan (profile) says:

Watch the Canadian Coverage

The Canadian network CTV is claiming streaming every second for all events here: http://www.ctvmedia.ca/olympics/releases/release.asp?id=12056&yyyy=2010 – all in English and French – plus 22 other languages. That’s 4,800 hours of live coverage. Don’t know if they block outside viewers.

Considering the amount of commercials I’ve had to endure of the last few months, I think I’ve already sat through that many hours.

Danny (profile) says:


Is the olympics happening again? I hadn’t noticed.

OK, seriously – I know the olympics are happening, but I can’t say I care. I don’t think I’ve watched much of any olympics in 12 or 16 years. It’s not that I’m not a sports fan: I check football, basketball, and hockey scores online most every night – and watch a game or two on TV each week.

But I lost interest in the olympics around the time the US broadcasters went US only in their coverage of it. The absurd trademark police don’t help, but truthfully I’d put up with that absurdity if the sports they broadcast interested me.

I had high hopes a decade ago that cable and internet would open up many channels to allow me to pick and choose sports to watch. Alas, no.

Alan Gerow (profile) says:

Re: Ever get the feeling like Masnick wants to tell everyone how to run their business?

I more often get the feeling the major news outlets are telling me who to vote for. Major television networks are telling me what to buy. And politicians are telling me how to run my own personal life.

Welcome to the world of mass media. People share their ideas in an open forum. You can listen, or you can not. Hope you enjoy your stay, it seems like you’re having a rough transition.

Nick Mc says:

As Alan pointed out above CTV are planning on showing every second of every event streamed live on the website. And they paid big money for the rights too NBC, not just you clowns.

I remember in Beijing CBC, who had the rights last time, had their tv coverage streaming live plus other alternate events streamed as well.

It never fails to amaze me how boneheaded Hollywood is. They seem to have the collective intelligence of bellybutton lint. How many Americans would love to watch while at the office and then turn on the tv when they get home?

Oh Canada, our home and streaming land……

Elaine Normandy (profile) says:

I pretty much quit watching when the US broadcasters decided that the only thing worth watching was areas where the US dominated and that everything had to have a “heartwarming personal story.” The last time I tried to watch the Olympics I gave up because they were spending more time on background pieces and talking heads than they were on showing athletes.

Christian Side Hug says:

Bring Back TVTonic

I used TVTonic to download every event for the 2008 Summer Olympics to my pc and stream them to my XBox 360. I was able to watch every event (some in HD) at my convenience. Other than watching Lenovo commercials that were tacked on, this process worked perfectly. I wish this were available for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

SeanG (profile) says:

I have to take issue with one thing. I’m a person who likes the events no one cares about. Only via the internet was I able to get my fill of fencing in the 08 games. Yes, I like fencing, gotta problem with that? I also found the table tennis to be way more interesting than expected. I personally don’t give a crap about basketball, figure skating, or many of the “big name” olympic events. The online content can serve a niche market. Also, is a delay really bad if being live means being up at 2am?

I would like to be able to see everything online though. I’m one of those freaks that doesn’t even have a tv.

The Anti-Mike (profile) says:

One of the reasons there was not much live streaming last time out was because the olympics were 12 hours out of sync. So the 2 pm track and field events were 2 am east coast time in the US. Those Olympics were pretty much the “highlight” Olympics, because that was pretty much all that ran in prime time.

The winter games are on west coast time, so east coast prime time will be packed with events, hockey games and the like.

Keeping people watching the broadcasts is likely NBC’s best income bet, moving them online is expensive and doesn’t offer the same sort of returns. As it is, NBC is likely to take a major financial hit on this Olympics, I don’t think it is particularly reasonable to expect them to spend millions more for streaming just to make you feel good. It isn’t like anyone here would pay a subscription fee to get it.

RD says:

Re: Re:

“As it is, NBC is likely to take a major financial hit on this Olympics, I don’t think it is particularly reasonable to expect them to spend millions more for streaming just to make you feel good.”

And it is just this sort of arrogant, elitist, entitlement attitude that is the reason so many are turning against Big Media. This is NOT a smart business move, to alienate customers and NOT give them what they want.


SERVICE us, or we will either a) go somewhere else, b) get it another (non legal) way, or c) do without.

Either way, YOU LOSE. If you CANT see this, then you are even more stupid than you appear to be.

Despite the FUD you try to spew here, THE CUSTOMER IS RIGHT. YOUR job is to find a way to give us what we want (or what you offer) in a way WE want (convenience, cost, etc) and do it BETTER than the alternatives (competition and/or piracy and/or convenience). Fail to do so, DONT BLAME YOUR CUSTOMERS FOR YOUR FAILURE TO MEET THE MARKET DEMANDS.

lux (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“…moving [The Olypmics] online is expensive and doesn’t offer the same sort of returns.”

“I don’t think it is particularly reasonable to expect them to spend millions more for streaming…”

When making statements such as these, please provide links to factual evidence which support your argument. Simply claiming that it would be “expensive” and somewhere in the “millions” is an obvious (and pathetic) appeal to your (undeserved) confidence.

Moreover, claiming they would not make a dime off streaming this stuff online is just absurd. If they can find a way to make money putting this on TV, they should have no trouble doing the same for the Web. After all, you are still just watching flickering images on a rectangle box, one just happens to open web pages (not for long).

ECA (profile) says:

Sports and the Olympics have gone from a OPEN (PUBLIC) spectator sport to PRIVATE events.
It has become a MONEY MAKING THING..

IT USED to be that you went to a baseball game, the seats were free, and you bought over priced concessions.. AT LEAST you had money for the food.
NOW, you cant afford to get a seat, and you CANT afford the food, and they wonder why we STASH food and drink BEFORE THE GAME.. BODY/CAVITY search at the gate.

AND the best part..is the contestants GET NOTHING for the sport to participate. MOST had to PAY to get there.(at least thats whats SUPPOSED to happen in the USA) and ALL the money goes to ??? The Olympic committee and NBC.

Danny says:


“One of the things we learned in Beijing is that people really go to the Web for highlights,” said Perkins Miller, svp, digital media at NBC
Seriously. That’s the f’n answer right there. They say they learned that people really go to the web for highlights. If that is the case then why not TAKE THE F’N LEAD and offer them up on NBC’s site that way people like me can actually say, “Oh well I could try to pirate them from…oh what’s this? I can see (insert event) right on the NBC site and not have to worry about searching for some out of the way source to see it? Nice.”

Hell even a small pay wall (like pay $X to get unlimited access to see all events on the site for the duration of the games and say for Y amount of time after they finish) would make more sense than this.

william (profile) says:

not interested already

Basically, I am already not that interested in Olympics.

Now, to limit streaming so I have even less access to stuff? Hello? People have to work around here? It’s not like we all take 2 week vacation at the same time so we can watch TV all day long and do nothing else.

For people with little interest in the games, if they can’t watch something conveniently at the time they want, they are just not going to watch it. That group includes me. This group growing since in recent years, the Olympics are slowly sinking in obscurity. Good job on NBC digger the grave faster.

It really idiotic how they are already losing 300 million dollars on the olympics and still closing down the online revenue they could potentially get.

Tyanna says:

I’m sad to hear this. I was really hoping I’d be able to watch more of the Olympics online this time around. It was really annoying having to go find stuff on youtube and the like before they were taken down during the summer Olympics.

I don’t have a tv, so watching the games on tv is rather difficult. So basically, NBC plans to not make any money off me, and the growing number of people like me. Good job.

But still, the worst part of all about Olympic coverage is how any news report that shows highlights of the games is not legally allowed to show that outside of their own country. I hit this stupid wall when I was trying to watch a Finnish news cast, and all I got was a black screen with the text “Newscast not available in your area”.

*grr* Looks like I’ll be passing the Olympics by again this year…which sucks even more considering I live in Canada. >.>

MBraedley (profile) says:

NBC sure knows how to cater to their customers

Too bad all the customers they’re catering to are in Canada. There are only a handful of places in the US that will pay close attention to the hockey, and most of the US (if not all of it) will not watch any curling, except through 10 second updates.

Maybe this has something to do with the fee for carriage issue going on here in Canada. NBC sucking up to the Canadian broadcasters by essentially saying that they’ll carry content Canadians will enjoy. (This despite the fact that I can’t stand most of the play by play hockey announcers for the American networks, and that they’ve even started hiring Canadians to do it for them.)

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: NBC sure knows how to cater to their customers

“most of the US (if not all of it) will not watch any curling, except through 10 second updates.”

I have no idea why, but every 4 years I become intensely addicted to watching curling. It’s GREAT. Also, the skiing and snowboarding is like porn to me.

I usually enjoy the ice hockey, but this year it’s just annoying me as I’m praying none of my Hawks get hurt…

Nick says:


Tyanna, you live in Canada. So you’ve got the best online coverage available. Everything is live and streaming at http://www.ctvolympics.ca/

For crying out loud don’t go to NBC, they’re useless. Even though CTV have driven us crazy with their ‘do you believe’ crap for over a year now, they’re giving it all up online.

You don’t need a tv in Canada.

Cudos to CTV for this.

BC (profile) says:

Article gets it mostly wrong..

NBCs customers aren’t the viewers, they’re the advertisers. Yes, there is blindness to the advantages of the internet, but this isn’t about screwing the viewers, it’s about screwing the advertisers and forcing them to pay for broadcast commercials.

What’s strange is that no one at NBC seems to have run the numbers on the amount of internet advertising they could run and charge for non-prime time sports. My gut feeling is that if they streamed everything that wasn’t in the primetime and weekend broadcasts, they’d maximize their revenue, since there isn’t that much revenue from non-prime time that they’d be cannibalizing in the first place.

I think what’s going on is that NBC sold its internet advertising as a throw-in to its broadcast ads, so it isn’t making any money off of it. Either that, or they can’t figure out how to geo-locate IP addresses so that they don’t accidentally stream to areas outside the US where they don’t hold the rights.

rec9140 (user link) says:

olympics > /dev/null

Thanks to the total IDIOT and GREED fest these have turned into to ( I am talking about you Canandian OC and ESPECIALLY YOU DOLTS from the VOC!) the point of suing people who have had a diner called the Olympic diner for 30+ years to change the name!


I’ve made a choice not to support the olympics in any fashion any longer… I will actively work to get them held outside the US in the future, and end US involvement totally.

NBC has not got it since the start.. they used crap software which is totally unuseable on Linux to start, and no Linux user would install it any way.

There heavy handed BS with Hulu (partner or not) caused me to no longer use it as well. I’ve since gotten a nice little device to record to SD, uSD etc. to use with a laptop, not HD, but its better that nothing.

So bye bye olympics, bye bye NBC… I can’t tell you the last time I watched an NBC show… its been a while… last one I was interested in was Chuck… but I lost track of it…

House, Bones, Fringe, Big Bang, Criminal Minds, Numbers, NCIS, NCIS LA (only cause theres nothing better and Daniela Ruah is a hottie..if she dies in the epi tonight… I am done! You killed off Sasha Alexander (I don’t care it was her choice)… but I’ve grown to like Cote De Pablo and her character…)

So see ya NBC, see ya olympics… won’t miss you!

JustMe (profile) says:

There doesn't have to be pirated content, NBC!!!

Just make the events available on-line. Fans, family members, and regular viewers could watch what they want to* and you can even get advertising revenue because all of those people are watching on your portal. What is so damn hard about this? Is ya an idjit? Is ya trying to make it to the top of FailBlog two months in a row?

* Totally sick of downhill ski events, yet I bet that you’ll show hours of it on TV. You’ll show even more half pipe, and I’m getting sick of that after just a single Olympics. Want to see things like Nordic Combined, Biathlon, luge etc.

The Anti-Mike (profile) says:

Re: There doesn't have to be pirated content, NBC!!!

As youtube shows, there isn’t enough money to support it online.

NBC is getting their ass handed to them this year, they bid for the Olympics when advertising and the economy was doing well, and now in a down time, they are set to lose a buttload of cash.

I can’t see them spending the large sums required to put all this stuff online in a timely manner, to distribute it, and whatnot just to lose some more money.

Ian Beyer (profile) says:

Color me unsurprised.

I had high hopes that the 2010 olympics would be a beautiful convergence of live TV coverage and effective use of digital media for streaming the less popular events and offering additional realtime data for the events on the broadcast.

NBC proved very quickly that they’re still very much an old-media outfit, and they don’t understand the web.

If the stuff on TV consists pretty much of highlights and non-live events, why on earth would I sit through 60% of the airtime being advertising to watch what I should be able to get on the web on-demand?

It’s not just the Olympics. We’re talking NBC here, the people that managed to take The Biggest Loser, which is fundamentally a one-hour show, and stretch it out to 2 hours by packing it full of long commercial breaks, and then assaulting the viewers with blatant product placement and plugs during the actual content. And then not posting the new episodes online for an entire week (when everyone else is doing it by midnight or the morning after it airs)

The good news is that economic Darwinism will solve this problem for NBC sooner than later. No wonder GE is trying to dump it onto Comcast. They’ve got a dying horse on their hands, and the sooner they can get rid of it, the better off they’ll be.

Ann says:

I pay for cable but can't get olympics coverage online.

It’s not enough under NBC’s authentication scheme to subscribe to pay TV. Your cable provider must have reached an agreement with NBC to enable it’s customers to get online streaming access. The small cable company created from whole cloth that bought markets Time Warner didn’t want from the joint TW/Comcast Adelphia purchase didn’t agree to fork over more money to NBC. So, even though I pay for cable, I can’t get streaming video online. It’s about time regulators step in and stop this greed. That or Congress needs to start imposing windfall profit taxes on the multiple entities that think the American consumer has deep pockets to pay many multiple fees on a monthly basis. Maybe those who want to make obscene profits through asserting and manipulating intellectual property rights need to start paying 85 per cent of their proceeds into the public coffer as taxes so that the average taxpayer can at least get some relief at tax time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Why make stuff up?

There are about 90 events at the winter Olympics (I think there are actually 88). There might be 300 events at the summer Olympics.

The reason NBC is losing money on the winter Olympics has nothing to do with online streaming, and everything to do with the fact that they paid way more for the Olympics than any broadcaster – ever, and by a TON.

None of this has anything to do with online streaming, even though the nbcolympics.com website traffic has done fairly well with respect to sports-related websites in general.

Karl says:

Take action

I urge people to let NBC know directly how they feel about the poor coverage of these Olympic Games. They still want to believe that complaints are coming from a tiny, vocal minority.

Here’s the viewer-response page for NBCOlympics.com: http://www.nbcolympics.com/contactus.html. And here is the e-mail address for NBC Universal in general: feedback@nbcuni.com.

ike says:


CTV did an *awesome* job online.

Even if you watched the event on TV, the site provided instant and *detailed* results.

For example, if you watched the skating events, you had bios, planned programs, choice of music, scores from the previous night and more available beforehand. And as the results were announced, the page would update itself with the executed program, the marks for each little thing, the current standings, etc.

It also provided live chat with other fans, and a great deal of excellent static information.

It kept occurring to me that I had a better experience at home than I would have had at the actual events in some regards.

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