NBC has a good start at ruining the Olympic Games

NBC has decided that it is still 1950 and it is still in control. Back then there was very little competition for eyeballs and radio was the only real alternative to quickly get news.

So, as a result, NBC forced most US viewers to sit through more than 12 hours of news reports, photos, and video clips from the opening ceremony before they could actually watch it. While the rest of the world (and US locales, like Detroit, that also get Canadian CBC stations) watched it live, as it happened, most of the US was subject to a poorly executed ruse to make us think nothing had happened. No matter how much demand there was in the marketplace, NBC resisted and ignored the resentment it engendered with such a move.

But this is 2008, during the beginnings of the Internet Age. There are already several ways around blackouts and more will come. The New York Times wrote an article about some primitive attempts to get around NBC’s attempts at blacking out the US market but ignored a couple of other key technologies that will play a greater role in the future.

Tape Delay by NBC Faces End Run by Online Fans – NYTimes.com
NBCâ??s decision to delay broadcasting the opening ceremonies by 12 hours sent people across the country to their computers to poke holes in NBCâ??s technological wall â?? by finding newsfeeds on foreign broadcastersâ?? Web sites and by watching clips of the ceremonies on YouTube and other sites.

The NY Times article missed out on two very important technologies that worked effectively: proxies and torrents.

Proxies are computers set up to relay internet traffic through. By routing your Internet traffic through a proxy, the web site you’re visiting thinks you are the proxy. I was able to use a proxy based in the UK to watch some BBC coverage of the Olympics intended solely for a UK audience.

Torrent is a peer-to-peer (p2p) file sharing protocol. It is even more decentralized than other, previous p2p networks such as Napster. And, unlike Napster, the torrent technology is likely to not violate copyright laws. It has legitimate purposes and its use for copyright infringement is incidental to the technology.

A quick search with Y! Search found a few different torrents of the opening ceremony, including :

If the television industry does not change soon it will be hurting as much as the big music labels. Like the music labels, the television industry is no longer in control of the distribution. The Internet and other new technologies have disrupted that part of its business model. To survive, it must deliver on what people demand. Otherwise it will lose even more people to other media and distribution methods.

In four years, Olympic events will need to be broadcast in nearly real time. Otherwise, viewers will look elsewhere to satisfy their demands. Those who were foiled at watching on YouTube and other online video sites will prepare ahead of time and arrange for torrents from those viewing the events live. Technology will improve between now and then. I predict that an open source p2p streaming service will debut before then, intended to serve as an alternative broadcast outlet, but it will used to also share events with a friend in a blacked out area.

BTW: Beyond making viewers wait for old-news, NBC blew its actual coverage of the opening ceremonies in many ways, including its intense focus on getting close-ups of performers during a show meant for viewing from a distance, its badly executed cuts for commercials, its ridiculous and irrelevant color commentary throughout the show, and its lazy choice to paraphrase a speech at the end by the head of the Chinese Olympic committee instead of providing a translation (they had enough time and money to find an hire a real translator).