x

NBC Walls Off Olympics

10:25 AM -- In an apparent attempt to minimize its losses from the Winter 2010 Olympics, NBC Universal has locked up some of its coverage behind a subscription wall, much to the disgruntlement of some Olympics fans.

According to the Associated Press, cable and satellite providers required the subscription wall "in return for helping to defray some of the cost of Olympics rights." NBCU has said it expects to lose $200 million on the Olympics this year.

Users who try to watch the locked-up content, which includes live streaming and replays of events and competitions, will be required to provide proof, such as an account number or user name and password, that they are in fact cable or satellite subscribers (the exact information required varies by provider).

Since many people may not exactly keep this information handy, this has the potential to discourage many online viewers. However, president of NBC Olympics Gary Zenkel says he's not worried, though he will "monitor" the situation.

"We have spent nearly two years working with the cable operators to streamline this," he said.

NBC has also attracted ire for its tape-delay of many Olympics events, which caused Silicon Alley Insider's Henry Blodget to have a near meltdown on his day off yesterday.

— Erin Barker, Digital Content Reporter, Cable Digital News

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 4:42:28 PM
re: NBC Walls Off Olympics

About the Olympics not being live .... I can sympathize with Blodgett (never thought I'd type that phrase).  Vancouver seemed like a great chance for NBC to present more events live.


However -- I wonder if a truly live event would be too slow for most viewers. 


When you watch something like skiing or figure skating, they do have pauses or even commercials between the competitors ... but I've always suspected that the real gaps are even longer.  Does anybody know for sure if they edit down those gaps?


There's also the fact that TV edits out nearly all of the noncontenders. You have to wait through a whole lot of people before seeing a Bode Miller or Lindsey Vonn.  That's less of a problem in the finals, of course.

erinbarker 12/5/2012 | 4:42:24 PM
re: NBC Walls Off Olympics

That's a good point. It'd probably be better to slap the raw live content on the Web, so the true Olympics nerds, like poor suffering Blodgett, can seek it out there, and the rest of us normal people can watch the edited version on television. Maybe NBC feels that live streams online would detract from its TV audience, but I doubt it, especially with the subcription wall up.

Stevery 12/5/2012 | 4:42:23 PM
re: NBC Walls Off Olympics

NBC has also attracted ire for its tape-delay of many Olympics events, which caused Silicon Alley Insider's Henry Blodget to have a near meltdown on his day off yesterday.



Blodget bilked how many zillions? out of retirees, widows and orphans by hawking stocks that he was privately calling POSs, was stupid enough to get caught, and now why exactly do we care about his opinion of the broadcast industry?

fusionboy 12/5/2012 | 4:42:22 PM
re: NBC Walls Off Olympics

Skiiing is run straight through unless there's a major injury. Today's Womens Super-G was over in 2 hours and the actual action (i.e competitive skiers) was in the first hour. The crappy commercials NBC airs probably drive more people away than the bad skiers would.



NBC really dropped the ball by not having more live coverage and more internet streaming available. Completely reinforces the perception of the "old media" being out of touch.

rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 4:42:22 PM
re: NBC Walls Off Olympics

A friend of mine works for NBC and is involved with producing the Olympics.  When I spoke with him in 2000 about access to the olympic feeds he said the issue with putting the live feeds online had to do with the geographic nature of video broadcasting rights, i.e. somebody in Germany might access nbc.com and NBC didn't have the rights to show him that feed.

tguch 12/5/2012 | 4:42:21 PM
re: NBC Walls Off Olympics

What irks me is that there is no one online site for people from all countries to view the Olympics. I live in France -- this past weekend I wanted to watch Shaun White's final two half-pipe rides. I got taken to a Mashable article pushing me to the NBC.com site (http://mashable.com/2010/02/18... which I cannot view from overseas. It took me some time before I could find 2 clips on YouTube with decent quality... Now I understand that the traditional media channels need to make money from airing the Olympics, but this objective could still be hit with an integrated, global online presence.

rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 4:42:20 PM
re: NBC Walls Off Olympics

re: "There's no network buildout; they're just using AT&T."


AT&T is like GM in that the company has not been competitive (nor efficient) for decades and the company has been captured by parochial interests, even to its own ultimate demise.   On top of that there are the "graft" expenses they pay out to the many politicians in order to keep the regulatory capture in their favor.  So I wouldn't expect any competitive pricing from them when it comes to NBC buying bandwidth sufficient for online unicast video feeds needed for comprehensive Olympic feeds.


To make profits here the ad model needs to to be supplemented by consumer payments and I suggest the consumer payments will need to be more than most who grew up with "free media" are willing to pay.  Price signals can work but people will have to somehow be broken from our "free rider" beliefs and habits.  If we just paid a few cents for things I believe the whole media industry would be much better and much less dysfunctional on all fronts.

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 4:42:20 PM
re: NBC Walls Off Olympics

I agree -- you'd think it was time for the Olympics to do get beyond the rights issues and provide some kind of global access.


RJ's point about NBC's expenses is well taken, but I don't think it's the online side that represents the bulk of the costs.  Most of the people involved weren't sent to Vancouver, for instance.  There's no network buildout; they're just using AT&T.


What you do need is an army of editors.  You'd also need directors -- someone to switch camera angles.  Also graphics; posting scores, speeds, times, etc. as you normally would on TV.  Screw the announcers -- I'd be happy to watch a no-commentator online stream (just as I'm often content turning off the volume on the TV broadcast, especially for the surfer-dude announcers that do the snowboarding events.)


There's certainly a cost factor that adds up, then -- but I would assume the real obstacles are the legalities and territorlialism of the broadcast world.

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 4:42:20 PM
re: NBC Walls Off Olympics

Thanks fusionboy... over the weekend I noticed curling also seemed to be broadcast live.  (Without irony, I would add: curling is freaking awesome. Did they show it last time, and if so, why wasn't I watching?)

When I interviewed Cisco and NBC at CES, and they talked about the massive video-transporting capabilities they were setting up, I had high hopes for live streaming of non-televised events.  Turns out not to be the case, probably because of the rights issues mentioned in posts below.  That's too bad.


On the plus side, we didn't have to watch all of ice dancing live and in real-time.


(NBC does offer highlights of every event live, or so I recall them telling me.  Haven't checked online to see how in-depth those highlights are.)

rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 4:42:20 PM
re: NBC Walls Off Olympics

I believe NBC paid $2B for U.S. broadcasting rights and is going to lose money.  I don't see how putting this online helps them (or anyone) financially.  Consider that GOOG's gross revenues are aoubt $500M a week with no production costs and that the Olympics last less than 3 weeks, the numbers really don't add up.  The Olympics really aren't viable on the financial side of things and online access only makes them less so.

HOME
Sign In
SEARCH
CLOSE
MORE
CLOSE