CBC Sochi 2014 Olympics Coverage Attracts Frustrated NBC Viewers

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NBC's Natalie Morales anchors a segment from Sochi, Russia. The American broadcaster's decision air their coverage with a broadcast delay has infuriated many fans, prompting at least one household to purchase a Canadian IP address to watch live coverage from the CBC.
NBC's Natalie Morales anchors a segment from Sochi, Russia. The American broadcaster's decision air their coverage with a broadcast delay has infuriated many fans, prompting at least one household to purchase a Canadian IP address to watch live coverage from the CBC.

TORONTO - Bashing Olympics coverage in the United States seems to have become a sport in itself for fans seeking live coverage south of the border, with a groundswell of NBC-targeted rage emerging in the Winter Games' opening weekend.

Just days into Sochi, thousands have revived the Twitter hashtag #NBCfail from previous Games with fresh complaints, while an online petition to wrest broadcast rights away from the peacock network has popped up online, and at least one desperate household has purchased a Canadian IP address to stream CBC coverage instead.

L.A.-based Olympics fan Morgan Linton said Monday that he and his Canadian-born wife were so disappointed in NBC's delayed coverage they turned to a foreign IP provider for live CBC and BBC feeds.

"It's terrible," Linton said of NBC's Internet stream in particular.

"They pretty much show two athletes and then 10 minutes of commercials and then another two athletes and then 10 minutes of commercials and they are still not covering all the athletes around the world. ... I'd say 90 per cent of what we're watching is CBC streaming."

Linton was so incensed with NBC's coverage he posted an open letter to the broadcaster online.

"By not providing live coverage of the Olympics, NBC has made it impossible to enjoy something that we look forward to so much," he wrote on medium.com and morganlinton.com.

"So today we made the decision to say goodbye to NBC, pony up the $12/month fee, and buy a Canadian IP address so we can watch CBC's live coverage."

A spokesperson for NBC Sports pointed out that NBC Universal is presenting more than 1,500 hours of Olympics coverage, more than 1,200 of which are live.

"NBCSN is televising live every performance in the figure skating competition — the first time that has ever been offered in an Olympics — and the channels of NBCUniversal are offering live coverage of men's and women's hockey, bobsled, Nordic combined, cross-country skiing, speed skating, and ski jumping," the spokesperson said in an emailed statement, adding that NBCOlympics.com offers live streaming of every event.

Still, NBC's coverage is dwarfed by that of CBC and its broadcast partners, which offer more than 1,500 hours of TV and another 1,500 hours of online streaming.

Nevertheless, the nine-hour time difference between Sochi and North America's Eastern Time zone has been brutal for Olympics fans looking for live coverage on either side of the border.

CBC offers live material but only after midnight and into the late morning.

As with NBC, CBC's prime-time coverage consists of packaged highlights well after events have taken place. But Linton said it's still more comprehensive — and international in scope — than what he could find in his homeland.

And Linton points out CBC's online stream is available to anyone in Canada while NBC's "Live Extra" online service requires an account with an existing cable/satellite provider and a specific cable package.

He said he upgraded his basic package on Saturday to access those feeds, and admitted he had yet to fully explore his new TV options. But he complained about having to pay for something that CBC appeared to provide for free.

CBC declined to comment on U.S. residents accessing Canadian-only streaming, with a representative saying only that the public broadcaster is complying with its International Olympic Committee contract.

The complaints are reminiscent of those that emerged during the 2012 Olympics in London, when a massive social media backlash emerged from viewers annoyed they couldn't watch programming live and online for free. They rallied around the hashtag #NBCFail, and that Twitter phrase seems to have made a strong comeback with the Sochi Games.

According to the social-analytics site Topsy, #NBCFail was used more than 14,000 times in the week leading up to Monday afternoon.

"I hate you @NBCOlympics," tweeted someone with the handle @KiraAynDavis. "w/ the burning heat of a thousand suns #NBCFail I hate you."

"Dear @NBCOlympics, Fix your website. It sucks Thanks, The world #Sochi2014 #SochiProblems #NBCFail," added a poster with the handle @The_Matas.

If that wasn't enough, a petition dated Monday demanded the U.S. government "rescind NBC's monopoly on the broadcast and distribution of the Olympics Games."

"American citizens should have the ability to watch, share, and enjoy athletes from all nations, in all disciplines as they compete on a world stage," states the petition, which had only garnered eight signatures at petitions.whitehouse.gov as of Monday afternoon.

Since posting his letter, Linton says he's received lots of echoed comments from other U.S. Olympics fans who have set up their own Canadian IP addresses. Meanwhile, those who are less tech-savvy are eager to get in on the action too.

"It's had a ton of reads ... and I had a lot of people reach out to me last night asking for instructions on how to set up VPN (virtual private network)," he said, while urging NBC to change its online course.

"They should do it like CBC is doing it and make it so that it's live and anybody in the U.S. can watch it."

Follow @cszklarski on Twitter.

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