NBC Faces Criticism, Scrutiny on Olympic Pay Coverage
By David Sims
March 01, 2010
Bashed on all sides already for its coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, NBC has now received a letter from the top senator on antitrust matters, Reuters (News - Alert) has reported, expressing concern that 'some of its Internet coverage of the Winter Olympics is limited to pay television subscribers.'
'NBC's Olympics coverage is vile,' our angry Facebook (News - Alert) friend wrote.'The women's downhill is on NOW, but there is apparently no way to watch it. No TV coverage, no live coverage on the NBC Web site. Disgusting.'
Wisconsin Senator Herb Kohl's letter said to see some of the Olympic coverage on the site NBCOlympics.com, users 'must first register with the site after validating a subscription with 'your cable, satellite or IPTV (News - Alert) provider'.'
'I fear that this practice of locking up certain content only for pay-TV subscribers may be a preview of what is to come with respect to TV programming shown on the Internet,' Reuters reports Kohl writing to NBC President Jeff Zucker, 'particularly in the context of the proposed Comcast/NBC Universal (News - Alert) merger.'
The implied threat here is hard to miss: I might see what I can do about that merger if I really feel like it, Mr. Zucker.
'The Vancouver Olympics has established that NBC has no interest in maximizing viewer interest in the games, or in minimizing the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars it says it will suffer from covering the event,' wrote industry observer Scott Bradner.
NBC paid a record $2.2 billion for U.S. broadcast rights to the Beijing and Vancouver Olympics, Reuters said. Network officials confirm that yes, they'll lose money on the Winter Games, which isn't terribly surprising, seeing as how criticism of the coverage is the most shrill we've heard of any Olympics coverage.
Hey when you don't show the marquee events such as downhill skiing live, you deserve to lose your shirt. And your shorts. And your job.
NBC Universal e-mailed a statement saying hey, we're spending a billion dollars to cover these Olympics on broadcast television, cable and the Internet: 'This three-part offering has been structured to provide the financial support to help justify that investment, and bring U.S. fans the high-quality, professionally produced content they demand,' Reuters quoted from the statement.
Kohl's letter asked NBC 'why it opted to require a pay-television subscription rather than charging consumers directly, and whether any pay television companies had contributed financially to NBCOlympics.com,' Reuters said.
David Sims is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of David’s articles, please visit his columnist page. He also blogs for TMCnet here.
Edited by Amy Tierney