NBC’s internet-like coverage of the Olympics doesn’t let you watch coverage from another part of the world. Apparently they use IP address to segregate viewers into national ghettos. If you try to say you’re in Argentina or Andorra, they bounce you. It’s annoying enough that the NBC coverage for US viewers is mostly US athletes, with human-interest patter drowning out the events. With the Olympics you have no other choice, unlike most other events of international interest, where you can dip into international coverage and get multiple perspectives.
The Olympics are able to constrain the coverage because they have a scarce resource. The Oympics happen once every 4 years. It is feasible to constrain media and presentation. But imagine if the Olympic coverage was handled very differently.
With this year’s online Olympics coverage, you can select from a variety of recorded events, with easily searchable topics. Overall, there is more footage than anyone who’s not on bed rest can watch. Then there are little informative snippets, like a champion weight lifter explaining the Olympic lifts, or a gymnast explaining the judging rules. But it’s all from one perspective. The Olympics are the tip of a large iceberg of sports that are usually obscure. The good news is that the rest of the year these sports are obscure, so college gymnastics can be found on YouTube.
So, imagine if you could watch coverage from any nation. Imagine you could watch coverage from multiple perspectives, including the knowledgeable folk who pay attention to these sports all year long. Imagine people could add links to the YouTube videos of the obscure meets throughout the year. Imagine if people could add links to the coverage of these athletes in their local papers. Imagine if coaches could post tips on running and swimming based on the performance of these world-class athletes. Imagine if there could be ways to find your local clubs for cycling, swimming, volleyball, rowing.
Without a video monopoly, a site that could link together a broader and deeper array of content and conversation would reward more engagement. It would provide more opportunities for sponsors to make money. Broadcast network coverage would probably stay popular because of the production value and brand, even if the monopoly was lifted.
It is not even that large a stretch. Recently, other publishers of popular culture artifacts have started making peace with fan communities, creating hosted, sponsored sites for fans willing to take them up on the offer, and treating independent communities with benign neglect instead of persecution.
The Olympics would benefit from this approach. The producers believe that keeping a monopoly ensures they make money. They are not seeing the large amount of money they are leaving on the table.

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