CORRECTION: In a previous version of this post, we mistakenly identified the cable provider whose users NBC is blocking from accessing its full online content. The correct provider, now accurately identified below, is Cablevision. We apologize to Comcast for the error: Comcast's Olympic coverage can be accessed online here.
Surprise, surprise -- if you want to stream live coverage of the Olympics from NBCOlympics.com, there's a catch or three.
Step one: download a Microsoft video-streaming plugin (the one they're hoping will compete with Flash). Step two: enter your zip code and confirm your local NBC affiliate station (supposedly so that they can provide "targeted TV listings" -- a patently disingenuous claim, unless they've decided NOT to use that information for ad targeting).
Step three: enter your cable provider? Why does NBC want to know your cable provider? The site claims it's because they've worked out deals with many local cable providers to provide "exclusive" coverage -- which strikes us as a very odd strategy. Weird that a broadast television network would presume you've got cable, first of all; and also odd that thye'd prioritize its online offerings this way, since the internet is potentially the networks' biggest hedge against the encroachment of cable in decades.
IN any case, it turns out there's only one wrong answer to the provider question: Cablevision.
Even if you're willing to download software and give away your location, you still can't stream live coverage if you tell NBC you've got Cablevision. Which, as Mediaweek points out, screws a bunch of the Northeast -- unless, of course, you just lie and say you live somewhere else and report you've some other brand of cable.
And in our opinion, unless you've got relatives in the games or something, it may not be worth all the hassle to watch this stuff on the internet. Video quality's not great -- try watching badminton and see if you can make out the shuttlecock -- and the scheduling can be hard to follow once you get past the homepage, and while NBC does provide an archive of its broadcast events for time-shifting purposes (which in some cases have been time-shifted already to get 'em into prime-time), their real-time coverage streams without audio commentary.