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Olympic Watchers Online Sidestep NBC Restrictions – Tech Thursday

NBC has said that their ratings for the Olympics has been tremendous. They say more people have been watching then before. They attribute that to their online streaming of live events. But NBC’s requirement of having a more expensive cable subscription to have access to them, has excluded people from being able to watch, simply because they don’t pay for a higher level cable package, have a small independent cable carrier or opted to not have cable at all. I’m in that general group of people. So how can I watch online?

Watching The Olympics Opening Ceremonies in a Hotel.
Photo by BIG Rich Lawrence

I can do what many other geeks like me are doing and use a proxy server to watch streaming events from the BBC or Canadian Broadcasting. A proxy is just like it sounds, it’s another computer in a different country, like the UK, that you can connect through to make it look like you’re computer is in that country too. So you could watch all the coverage the BBC is doing even though you live in the United States and not have to deal with NBC’s limitations or tape delays of the more popular events till later on at night and have to avoid spoilers of the results.

In the apartments I live in, cable TV is included, so I don’t pay Time Warner myself. It just comes out of my rent. But that also means, I don’t have an actual cable subscription to Time Warner. So I have no way of accessing the live streams that NBC offers, because you need to have a cable subscription with certain carriers. That means I have no options to watch the live events I like during the day. I have to wait for the primetime tape delay and avoid news sites so I don’t see who actually won anything before I can watch it on TV when I get home at night.

If you live somewhere that is served by a small independent cable company, you’re out of luck. It’s estimated that 3 million people are in similar situations or just cut the cable, and now are not able to watch the games. Proxies are nothing new, they’ve been around for a long time. Mostly used by people who want to use the internet anonymously. People who want to watch the games, and are not being allowed to by NBC, can get access to those online streams and watch. It’s sidestepping NBC’s exclusive license to broadcast the games in the US, and infringes the terms of contract they have with the International Olympic Committee. But it’s like the recording industry with it’s outdated business model. It this new age of online entertainment, it doesn’t work and excludes a group of people. Just because I’m not paying for a more expensive cable package I’m not allowed to watch the Olympics online. Doesn’t seem right to me.


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