How to watch the 2012 Olympics after cutting the cable
January 2, 2012 6:45 PM   Subscribe

I'm paying too much for cable TV that I don't watch, and I am fortunate to have good broadband internet (both from Comcast in the US). There are only a few events my family and I care enough about seeing immediately on TV. The Tour de France and major league baseball are both usually available via internet subscription services. But what about the 2012 Olympics?

I signed up for cable four years ago to watch the Beijing Olympics with my son, and we are really looking forward to this summer's events. There was a thread that year about online viewing from which I learned that NBC's streaming of certain events was blacked out for US audiences. I'm not sure how much success was had using proxies or whether other alternatives were found, but either way four years is a long time and I don't know how much things have changed. Can anybody here offer reassurance, or warn me away from cutting the cord?
posted by Songdog to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
What about getting a digital antenna? You can watch NBC without cable that way.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:53 PM on January 2, 2012

All three of the major cycling tours are carried by Universal Sports, which I get over the air HD. Their announcers aren't the greatest, but whaddya gonna do. Since US is also an NBC thing, who is the US Olympics broadcaster, there will be plenty of opportunity to catch the Olympics without cable.
posted by rhizome at 7:03 PM on January 2, 2012

Best answer: OTA will only give you the mother network and perhaps Universal Sports, not the cable networks that are likely to do much of a lot of heavy lifting in terms of live coverage. (USA, MSNBC, the network formerly known as Versus, etc.) It's not clear right now whether cable subscribers who don't have a TV package will have the same streaming privileges as those who do, though being with Comcast is potentially advantageous here.

It's also unclear how much of Dick Ebersol's trademark "blackout live and show at primetime" production model will survive him, now that NBC Sports is under new management. The primetime broadcast will presumably have to be a highlights package this time round, given that London is five hours ahead of the east coast, but the era of Twitter and real-time results makes the old embargo policy increasingly hard to sustain or justify. Mark Lazarus comes from cable, where there's an assumption that viewers want their broadcasts live.

We really don't know the specifics yet, and won't until later in the year.

Anyway: a VPN account that gives you access to IPs in other countries that stream the Olympics comes with no guarantee that you won't be GeoIP-blocked, and would, of course, violate all sorts of regional rights agreements. But it is an option that has been taken up in the past by people who want coverage of sports that NBC typically marginalises or ignores, and will presumably be an option again.
posted by holgate at 7:12 PM on January 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

FYI: Universal Sports OTA in Philadelphia just went dark on 1/1/12. This probably has something to do with the Comcast merger and them reorganizing NBC Sports/Universal Sports/Versus.
posted by scalespace at 9:05 PM on January 2, 2012

Yeah, they were running spots before New Year's to call a number if that happens.
posted by rhizome at 10:35 PM on January 2, 2012

We also have comcast, for both (basic) cable internet and tv. I looked into dropping cable tv because we wanted to save some money. It turned out that if we were to drop cable but keep internet, we would only save 5$ per month. Again, that is only for basic cable. We decided that we did get 5$ worth of entertainment from tv, so decided to keep it.

I'm sure you can save more dropping cable tv if you have a more expensive plan, but if you're keeping internet with comcast, you might look into keeping basic cable. That'll at least get you a bunch of sports, including lots of olympics. Oh, and *some*times, we even get more channels than just the basic ones.
posted by micah.nonimas at 10:44 PM on January 2, 2012

You could knock your service down to "sub-basic" which for me is the over the air channels and the local government scrolling colored bars channels. I think it's *still* $25 a month, but I can't get OTA reliably. Anyway, you can call them and increase your service for the couple months a year when the Tour and the Olympics are on, and should save money.
posted by gjc at 4:28 AM on January 3, 2012

IIRC, during the Beijing Olympics NBC Sports ran on eleven different channels (Bravo, etc) in addition to their broadcast channel, and cable was the only way I could watch what I wanted (we don't receive broadcast channels here.) They also introduced Silverlight just in time for the Olympics and there was no Ubuntu support for that, so I got to watch absolutely nothing online. I'm still annoyed about that.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 5:50 AM on January 3, 2012

We watched the most recent Olympics without cable, but we aren't very picky about sports so just watched whatever NBC was showing. We have our antenna plugged into a TiVo so we could record the daytime events and fast forward through the sports we didn't care about.

MLB has an app for Apple TV but I haven't tried it. I'm fairly certain that local blackouts apply.

You don't get cable coverage of breaking news stories, but that's been fine with me. In fact, I was out of town when the Fukushima nuclear plant went up visiting people who did have cable and found myself annoyed by the cable news coverage after having done without it for so long. Networks don't linger as long when they don't have new information.
posted by davextreme at 6:40 AM on January 3, 2012

Aaaaand apparently I'm one of those people who no longer have US! I got nothin' now.
posted by rhizome at 12:40 PM on January 3, 2012

Response by poster: I called to cancel cable TV service and was informed that I would save more money by switching to basic cable, because basic+internet is about $10 cheaper after taxes and fees than I'd end up paying for un-discounted internet alone. I went for that, and we'll see how the Olympics, etc. play out in a few more months.
posted by Songdog at 9:21 AM on February 18, 2012

A late update, but NBC has now published its terms for online Olympic coverage: you'll need "a cable/telco/satellite subscription that includes CNBC and MSNBC", and to be signed in via your pay-TV provider. Way to go, NBC.
posted by holgate at 9:06 PM on June 4, 2012

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