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NBC Again Will Limit Live Olympic Broadband Coverage To Pay TV Subscribers

This story was written by Staci D. Kramer.
While Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) CEO Jeff Bewkes has been talking up TV Everywhere, NBC quietly has been planning once again to limit live broadband viewing of the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver to pay TV subscribersbut with tougher authentication. Live streaming will be offered to cable, satellite and telecom multichannel subscribers whose distributors agree to a deal with NBC Universal; last summer, Cablevision (NYSE: CVC) subs were blocked because the Long Island operator didn't sign on. Sports Business Journal reported the plan and we have confirmed it. NBC had no comment.

Only one-fifth of the broadband video delivered for the Beijing Olympics was live, probably both because of the limitations and a decision to keep high-interest events like swimming and gymnastics for live TV.

NBC Universal's cable networks have played a vital role in the GE unit's Olympic strategy, which spreads live and tape-delayed content across its various networks and At the same time, cable operators have raised concerns about paying for channels when viewers can see the same content online, while programmers have been looking for ways to make content available across platforms without cannibalizing license fees. One batch of solutions includes making more cable programming available online but only to multichannel subscribers. Every solution involves some form of authentication that proves a user is a subscriber of an affiliated distributorComcast (NSDQ: CMCSA), Cox, AT&T (NYSE: T) U-Verse, DirecTV (NYSE: DTV), etc.

As SBJ's John Ourand explains it, NBC's authentication system, scheduled for testing this summer, "is designed to match internet users to their cable company based on the consumers' Internet Protocol (IP) address. If an IP address does not match up with an operator's records (i.e., if you are at work), consumers will be asked to fill out information that would further verify that they actually subscribe." No confirmation yet of which distributors have signed on with NBC for the Vancouver Games.

By Staci D. Kramer

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