Monday, February 15, 2010

Hello Comcast; NBC requires registration for online Olympic video

I like the Olympics. I don't like how NBC presents them and I long for less talk and more action. Talking heads are not my thing and some of their blather makes me cringe. But that is another topic. Instead, I note the article in the Washington Post indicating that NBC requires registration to its site to view the Olympics online. "Users who click on certain videos on the NBC Olympics site are asked to identify their providers and prompted to provide a username and password for their cable or satellite account. If they don't have a password, they must enter their account number. The registration is one-time only. The policy guarantees that no one will be able to bypass cable and satellite systems to watch Olympic events. The risk for NBC Universal is irritating their customers, many of whom probably don't carry their cable account numbers with them."

And this is precisely why the FCC shouldn't grant the merger of Comcast and NBC. Restriction of any form is anti-competitive. Why must a viewer be associated with cable or not. NBC is a free TV experience; it's web programming ought to be equally free; otherwise, it smells like a cable network that requires subscription. And in a less than subtle move, that subscription is to cable itself. Is this what a Comcast - NBC merger has in store for the consumer? "NBC Universal, which has said it expects to lose more than $200 million on the Vancouver Games, said the satellite and cable providers required the registration in return for helping to defray some of the cost of Olympics rights." Trying to hide this move behind a loss leader is not the consumers fault. So what that NBC payed too much for the Olympics. Broadcast has relied on an advertising only model to succeed. If it isn't working then call NBC by its true name - cable network; else, it should remain a no strings network.

Have I watched any Olympics online myself - no. I am loving the HD experience and find it comparatively much harder to watch online on a small screen. Give me a big screen, HD picture anytime. But I root for the little guy who seeks out more variety. If the only way to catch up on Curling is online, then let it be equally open to view.

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