NBC, the Olympics, and the Disappointment of a Sick Little Girl

Yesterday, Evie had surgery to install a 4th set of ear tubes. At this point, that’s all very routine for that poor girl, and not what I’m here to talk about. I would like to talk about the Winter Olympics and NBC’s right to broadcast them.

After the surgery, Evie wanted to lay around on the couch a bit and watch the Olympics. Specifically figure skating, but anything would do. Knowing that NBC had the broadcast rights, I set her up on the couch with a blanket, and turned on the tv. I honestly thought that NBC was basically broadcasting Olympic coverage day and night, but instead they chose to show Days of our Lives or whatever their normal soap opera is.

Fair enough, no problem. I don’t give up easy: let’s turn to the Internet.

Our first stop was olympic.org, which contains videos from past Olympic games, but nothing from 2014. No video on sochi2014.com¬†either. Okay, how about NBC? They have all the rights, surely they’re streaming video, even if they’re not playing on their broadcast. Oh, I have to download an app first? Le sigh, okay fine.

Now here’s where it starts to get truly frustrating. The app was large and took quite a long time to download. So by the time we’re booting up the app, we’ve been looking for video for about 30 minutes. But okay, we’re on the path now. We’re golden, right?


In order to watch the Olympics on NBC’s streaming app, you have to specify your cable carrier. We don’t have cable. You don’t need cable to watch NBC, and you *shouldn’t* need NBC to enjoy the Olympics. But you do…if you live¬†in the United States*.

We were eventually able to sign up for a limited viewing time (30 minutes only) and get something up, but at this point 1) we had spent so long on this that Evie really didn’t care anymore, and 2) the app was so crappy that we kept freezing and losing video to the point that it was unwatchable anyway.

*The part we couldn’t figure out was why wouldn’t the Olympics themselves be broadcasting? I mean, sure, NBC has the rights in the U.S. so they would prefer nobody else step on that, but what about the rest of the world? They wouldn’t be beholden to NBC, right? Isn’t the Olympics bigger than NBC?

I’ve recently discovered that there are other websites which stream the Olympics, such as the BBC and CBC, but you are blocked from them if your ip address comes from the U.S. You can get around that by tricking them into thinking your ip address is originating from somewhere else in the world, at which point you can stream all the glorious Olympic action your heart can handle. But that’s a little much, isn’t it? (And possibly illegal).

I understand all of this is big business and totally allowable. NBC and the Olympics can sign whatever deal they want. NBC can broadcast whatever they want. I have no inherent right to see the Olympics, so I can want what I want, but that doesn’t mean I can have it. NBC is a private institution; we don’t have a government-sponsored channel.

On the other hand, there was a little girl recovering from surgery and wanting to watch some figure skating. Wanting to root for her country. Wanting to learn about the world.

Well, welcome to the world, sweetheart. Big business wins out every time.