BY JEREMY SCHILLING
Do you authenticate? Does the term authenticate even ring a bell? If someone asked you right now to go authenticate yourself, would you know what they are talking about?
We are just outside of a month away from the 2012 London Summer Olympics. In the past, the five-hour time difference between the East Coast and England would mean no chance to watch the biggest events live on NBC. You’d have to wait until prime time, when Dick Ebersol and his crew would weave the biggest events into a larger narrative and set the tone for the evening. That’s right, good old tape delay.
However this year, under new leadership from Mark Lazarus, NBC is changing the game.
Every single moment of every single event will be available online, live and for free at NBCOlympics.com. That means that if you want to watch Usain Bolt run the men's 100M final, you can watch it live at 4:50 p.m. ET on Aug. 5. instead of having to wait around for seven hours until NBC airs it in prime time. Sounds cool, right?
But there’s a huge caveat here. You need to authenticate yourself.
That means providing proof that you get your television service through a cable, satellite or phone company, usually through a username and password. Umm, what?
Television providers pay a boatload for the rights to carry every channel in their system and as a result they want value in return for that product. So instead of just letting anyone watch live Olympic events for free on NBCOlympics.com—bypassing the TV providers altogether—authentication allows them to just allow paid subscribers that privilege, giving those high money-deals instant value.
Think about it this way: if you belong to L.A. Fitness, you can’t just bring your membership card to New York Sports Clubs and think you’ll get in. It’s the same deal here.
So what does this mean to the average person? Have your login information ready.
If you pay your bill online, run your DVR through the provider’s website or mobile app, or use websites like ESPN3.com or HBO Go, you’re in good shape. The log-in that you use for those services will be your gateway to live Olympic action on NBCOlympics.com or via the accompanying app, much like it was with March Madness live during this past year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
However, if you don’t use any of those services, then you need to use this next month to do some searching. You need to get a username and password from your television provider. Call them or go onto their websites and create one. Have your account number handy. You won’t get anywhere without it. As a bonus, you might find out you’re paying for features you’d enjoy but didn’t know were even offered.
Speaking of account numbers, why is authentication so hard? Well you’ve got a friend in the head of ESPN, John Skipper. He recently told Broadcasting and Cable, “It's not as easy as we wish it was to authenticate. It's got to be easy. ... We can't ask people to take out the cable bill and figure out your number.”
But unfortunately nothing is going to happen in the next month that’s going to make it easier.
So you’ve been warned. If you are a fan of the Olympics, and want to see Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Nastia Lukin and all the other big name athletes from track, swimming, diving, gymnastics and beach volleyball (most other sports aren’t affected by this) live, as their events are happening from London and don’t want to have to wait until primetime to see what happened, then use the next month to get yourself organized.
Because let’s face it, you’d rather be a part of the Twitter buzz about a new world record being set on the track then having to wait seven hours to watch it later, right?