Monday, February 12, 2018

The Olympic Spirit

This last weekend saw the 2018 Winter Olympics kick off in Pyeongchang, South Korea.  And with them, I thought that I'd continue my 'State of Cordcutting' that I started last week with the Super Bowl.  And also because, the Olympics are one of the few sporting events that I actually care about, especially the Winter ones as I'm a skier.

I watch the Olympics because I enjoy watching people do things at their peak.  These are athletes who have trained hard, committed their entire existence to this one skill and are now using that skill at a level that at the edge of human capability.

Add to that the feeling of togetherness and internationalism that pervades much of the event.  Even though these athletes are competing against each other, most of them (not all) recognize that their competitors are more kindred spirits rather than enemies.  They have all worked hard at the same skill.  They understand each other's pain.  Something that we more baseline humans could stand to do better as well.

Despite all of that, I'm unlikely to watch any of it.  And that has to do with another spirit of competition: International Broadcast Rights.

Competition is Good, Right?

Here in the United States of Awesome, NBC holds the rights to televise the Olympics.  That includes broadcast, cable transmission and internet streaming.  In other countries, other networks/broadcasters have purchased that same right for their area.  On the surface, that is all well and fine.  After all, what is capitalism but competition?

Unfortunately for this capitalist ideal, the idea of a localized broadcast is no longer as cut and dried as it used to be.  With on-line streaming, it is possible for anyone anywhere to see any of these broadcasters with a little effort (The Internet of Schmoid does not condone violating any local laws or other legal restrictions around broadcasting or anything else).

This matters because it means that if NBC is focused on the Men's Downhill instead of broadcasting the Pairs Ice Dancing, I can now choose which I want to watch by finding a stream that has the sport I want.  Hopefully, the BBC has the Ice Dancing and I'll just pop on over to them for that instead of watching human cliff divers on snow.

Only if You Watch What We Want You To Watch

Except it is not.  NBC and the IOC are both well aware of this and have regionally bound all of the various broadcasts.  All of the streaming services must have some way of authenticating the location of the viewer.  This is easy with OTA broadcast or cable services because of the range or hard wire.  For streaming this, is more difficult.  I have to do the which-provider-login dance.  A dance that is not always easy to do if the various adblocking and anti-cookie plugins start getting involved.  Suddenly, it is too much hassle.  I'll just wait for the news headline to pop up on Reddit.

To NBC's credit, they have made the attempt to make more sports available through their app and in-browser.  This is good, but there still tends to be a strong American focus on what they do.  While I live in the US of A and generally think good things of the country, this focus seems to fight against the spirit of internationalism that I enjoy getting from the Olympics.

Money Wins the Gold

What's the answer?  I'd say that the IOC should retain the broadcast and streaming rights to the games and be the sole content provider.  However, I'm also realistic enough to know that that will never happen.  There is too much money tied up in broadcast rights.  They will sell them because they can.

And that means that I'll stop watching.  I'll stop being the impression on the advertisement.  I'll use my eyeballs to vote against this mess.  The unfortunate thing about me doing that is that it also means that the athletes that I purport to enjoy may get less in sponsorships.  By not being that impression, I make the ad dollars worth a tiny bit less.  And ads are why they sponsor the athletes in the first place.

Fortunately, I have enough faith in my fellow humans to know that we will always compete.  Even if there is no reason to do it, we will compete.  If the money goes away, people will still work and strive and train.  I just may not be able to see them do it.

Which I'm not doing now anyway.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting, as are all your posts, Stuey! God, planting yourself in front of a white-hot Tivo for several hours a day takes some getting used to. I'm falling behind on Grand Tour!