NBC offered streams of several events from the 2008 Beijing Games, but would not present any of the showcase competitions that it was taping for later broadcast in prime time. The concern was that fans who saw the events live online wouldn't bother watching NBC that night, depressing ratings for the broadcast that mattered most.
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In Beijing, however, some marquee events such as swimming were held in the morning in China so they could be televised live in prime time in the United States. In London, the time difference won't allow for that option.
Lazarus believes that many people who watch an event online will be interested in seeing how NBC handles it later. Fans watching live streams are also expected to use social media, building anticipation for the broadcast.
Any people who don't want to watch on NBC what they've seen online will be more than offset by extra viewers drawn in by the excitement, Lazarus said.
Fans who want to see the streams on NBCOlympics.com will have to verify that they are paying cable or satellite subscribers. NBC says that's necessary to protect these businesses since they pay a premium to air the NBC cable stations because of the Olympics. While most live streams will be archived, reruns of high-profile events that are going to be shown on the network will not be available until after the West Coast broadcast.
There will be times that NBC's Olympics website is showing as many as 40 separate competitions at the same time, said Gary Zenkel, president of NBC Olympics.