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I'm an American and I want to watch the Olympics. What do I do? (iamnotaprogrammer.com)
371 points by sudonim on July 28, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 182 comments

This exact same thing happened to me today!

I'm in Germany, so I put the Olympics on TV. But I don't yet speak German, so after an hour I wanted to watch them in English.

I went to the NBC web site, but they geolocate your IP and only stream to US people. Fine, I'm used to this crap (lots of Youtube videos are blocked in Germany too) so I just fired up my proxy and tried again. This time I got through, only to find that they're asking me to log in to a cable provider first! What the hell!

After scouring the internet I found a huge list of Olympics streaming broadcasters. Turns out the BBC is broadcasting online too. So I try them--same thing, blocked outside of the UK! But this time I don't have a proxy in the UK, so I gave up and watched the damn thing in German.

I get the theory of having to go through a cable provider login to get the US Olympics. But what if you're a taxpaying UK citizen abroad for a while? You've paid your tax--but you still can't access the stream!

Wasn't the internet supposed to break through barriers like space and location? In the year 2012 am I seriously being denied an English-language broadcast of a global event just because my laptop is currently in Germany?

Sure I can jump through even more hoops and figure out a UK-based VPN or some crap. But the point is I shouldn't have to do this! We're in 2012 people! Why even have the internet if we're just going to lock up information according to where you live?

> Wasn't the internet supposed to break through barriers like space and location?

The Internet philosophy eschews these things, but the implementation simply ignores them. Of course the incumbents desire to reimplement their archaic business models on top of TCP/IP. It's up to us to carry the philosophy and create higher level protocols that are resistant to such things; fiefdom-based HTTP certainly isn't.

It not only ignores them but people purposely place these restrictions on them for greedy reasons.

Frankly, in my experience it doesn't take a lot to enable multicast and doing it internet wide _shouldn't_ be that big of a deal so we can handle all the streaming of live events with little worry - but the "powers that be" want to restrict everything online and it's frustrating, angering and downright dangerous attitude to have as a defacto "standard".

100% agree.

This time the "powers that be" are playing against the US consumer. I hope that this event sparks some empathy between the US and rest of the World. What many of the US consumers are suffering with the Olympics (broadcasting delay and accessibility), is what the RoW suffers when trying to consume US media (film and TV).

Monetising today's content with an old distribution model is a dead business, and will only help support the consumption of "pirated" content.

I guess you just explained why sites like ThePirateBay are so extremely popular.

Having read through this whole discussion a couple of times now, I find myself wondering why either NBC or the Olympics can't do the "smart" thing - sell me access directly. Sure if they want to do a partner offer for "free" they can do so. But why not let me buy a $30 pass for the games? I think there are a lot of us who don't want a cable package who wouldn't mind paying for the content we do want.

> We're in 2012 people!

Exactly, everyone is now able to find a quick and easy to use VPN. Wasn't that easy few years ago.

My mother doesn't even know what a VPN is. Even if she did, she wouldn't know how to use one to watch the bbc coverage abroad as a license fee paying UK-citizen.

Yep, we are in 2012, yet just because some things are possible (like access to TV from every source across the globe), doesn't mean to say those things are permissible.

Sign up for www.unblock-us.com or www.unotelly.com and watch the amazing BBC coverage on iPlayer. Super super simple setup.

Personally, I prefer www.unblock-us.com

Just use http://tunlr.net/ 's DNS servers instead - it's the same type of service, just completely free and with no signup required.

Primary DNS: Secondary DNS:

how did you use this to watch iPlayer? It seems like it is for giving a US based DNS for people outside the US.

The DNS resolves supported websites to their hosts, which proxy through the US. (n.b, not verified but that's a sane implementation of this)

is tunlr using PAC files and WPAP?

Proxies like unotelly may send more of your traffic through their service than you would like. You can protect your traffic but still use the tunnel if you only send bbc.co.uk DNS lookups to unotelly.

Here's how to do this in Ubuntu 12.04. The DNS has changed in 12.04 to use NetworkManager, which makes the process more convoluted than it should be. The below instructions could be improved but it'll get you some BBC Olympics coverage.

# https://gist.github.com/3202101

Ubuntu 12.04

$ nslookup bbc.co.uk # you should see a UK IP e.g.

$ vi /etc/NetworkManager/NetworkManager.conf # comment out dnsmasq #dns=dnsmasq

# save+quit

$ vi /etc/dhcp/dhclient.conf

prepend domain-name-servers;

$ service network-manager restart

# create a new dnsmasq.conf with unotelly California DNS # note that server= is my router (which handles my upstream DNS) and you'll need to change that IP. $ vi /etc/dnsmasq.conf

server=/bbc.co.uk/ server=/co.uk/ server=/bbchdsodsecure-f.akamaihd.net/ server=/bbchdsodsecure-a.akamaihd.net/ server=/bbchdsodsecure-b.akamaihd.net/ server=/bbchdsodsecure-c.akamaihd.net/ server=/bbchdsodsecure-d.akamaihd.net/ server=/bbchdsodsecure-e.akamaihd.net/ server=/bbc.co.uk.edgesuite.net/ server=/bbcfmhds.vo.llnwd.net/ server=

# save+quit

$ nohup /usr/sbin/dnsmasq --no-resolv --keep-in-foreground --no-hosts --bind-interfaces --pid-file=/var/run/sendsigs.omit.d/network-manager.dnsmasq.pid --listen-address= --conf-file=/etc/dnsmasq.conf --cache-size=0 --proxy-dnssec &

$ tail -f /var/log/syslog

$ nslookup bbc.co.uk # you should see unotelly proxy servers e.g. uk-cluster.unostructure.com

Not sure why others downvoted you. I just tried unblock-us.com and it works... basically by changing your DNS servers. I added it to the article as another option.

I'm confused because I thought that geo-restrictions were handled by IP address, so I'm not sure how this gets around that.

It's still based on proxy servers, but their DNS server returns the address of their proxy server instead of the real IP address.

As with any DNS provider they can presumably spoof any site they wish too; so I'd be pretty cautious about using them for all DNS calls.

On Mac OS X, you can use them just for specific domains. For example, create:

with the contents:

And now you'll be using unblock-us's name servers for just bbc.co.uk and its subdomains. You could do something similar for your entire network with dnsmasq.

Unfortunately, this tip doesn't seem to be working for the Olympics replays on the BBC's site (they all have a "try again later" every time I try to watch one).

Thanks for the tip, though, and kudos to Unblock-Us for being one of a VERY few sites that let you trial their service without giving them payment details.

It appears some items are being served from player.bbchdsodsecure-f.akamaihd.net -- but even when I redirect that to unblock's DNS servers I still can't watch those videos.

edit: using unotelly.com's DNS for co.uk and bbchdsodsecure-f.akamaihd.net works for me.

Does anyone know how to do this on a router running dd-wrt with dnsmasq?

Have not reset to test that it rewrites the change, but enter the below in the Additional DNSMasq box of services tab, and it should work as intended.


ip would be for the alternate nameserver

Nice feature.

Our VPN at https://www.privateinternetaccess.com also has multiple gigabits of bandwidth available through our two UK gateways. We have an app that provides one click setup on both windows and osx.

How does this work?

Are you saying technically under the hood, or just how does a person use the service?

Using the service is trivial for anybody on HN. Just a matter of setting your DNS settings to specific servers. That's it.

Technically... I'm still trying to figure that one out. I think what they do is handle the IP check from the service, and then pass off the stream to your computer. This would make sense since the stream server would be different than the IP check server. This is great because then only a very limited subset of traffic is flowing through their servers so you get "native" speeds.

You've got the right idea. I ended up implementing my own proxy for Netflix as you describe. I use dnsmasq to hijack the relevant DNS requests and then I wrote my own https proxy to proxy the API connections. The actual streams come from CDNs of which are not concerned about your country of origin.

Looks like some sort of proxy. Routing through the UK is an option so BBC iPlayer will allow you to stream the Olympics.

This won't get you live coverage, but it will get you legal NBC coverage on your home TV... The broadcast industry does not want American's to know this, but they are legally obligated to provide the free "over the air" stations on cable (coax) even if you do not pay for cable service. In other words, do what I have done: 1. You need a modern cable-ready TV 2. Plug the coax into the wall (assumes your residence had cable installation at one point). 3. Plug other end of coax into your TV. 4. Scan for channels. 5. Voila: CBS, ABC, NBC, PBS, and more.

Yes, it's that simple. And this is NOT using the coax as an RF antenna. This is the cable company providing me with what I am legally entitled to: over the air stations in a digital age.

The cable companies are trying to fight this, but as of now, it exists. It's legal. And it works. My son's watching PBS Kids as I type. And we watched many Olympic events through-out the days today - OK, not live, but still I DO NOT PAY FOR TV.

Are you sure cable providers are required to provide free over-the-air stations? I haven't heard of that being a requirement and can't find anything online except vague claims without citations. I've heard of low-cost plans that provide all the equivalent over-the-air stations, but no legal requirement to provide those for free.

That said, this certainly does work for some people. It worked for us for a while after we dropped the TV part of our plan but then one day we couldn't receive any channels over the coax, so I assume they installed a filter.

I can't cite a source but I'm quite certain that there is no requirement to provide these channels to non-customers. The requirement is that they broadcast those channels in the clear to customers. That means without a physical filter, non-customers get the channels. Adding/removing filters means a truck roll and $ so often you get lucky.

I'd agree that if your home never had cable, SOL. And you're right that there's nothing in it for them to drive a truck around...it's just s/w setting to turn off your paid subscription. However, see my comment above re ClearQAM, and link to Fred's post.

Where in there does he, or the link he references, substantiate the following claim?

  The broadcast industry does not want American's to know
  this, but they are legally obligated to provide the free
  "over the air" stations on cable (coax) even if you do not
  pay for cable service.
If you follow the link trail, you'll find this quote from the FCC:

  broadcast signals that are subject to mandatory carriage
  must be "viewable via cable on all television receivers of
  a subscriber which are connected to a cable system by a
  cable operator or for which a cable operator provides a
Which is another way of saying what I wrote above. Bottom line is: if you aren't paying for cable video service and receiving these channels, you're benefiting from the cable company not wanting to send out a tech to install a filter, not some legal requirement.

I'm not trying to win a legal case here, just sayin'... 1. "The broadcast industry does not want American's to know..." Opinion. Why would they want this widely known? 2. "...legally obligated..." OK, that might be a little strong, but I stand by the POV that they can not encrypt this signal. The FCC citations (on Engadget article) make that clear (to me).

It's possible that this works for me (and others) because... I am a subscriber to my cable company for telephone and internet access (but not TV), and so they can not send a tech out to disconnect me from their grid because it would terminate my current services AND they can not encrypt the Clear QAM signal for the Broadcast TV channels.

Again, I'm not trying to argue some legal case here. But I do think it's more than just the cable company being lazy and not sending a technician out.

  I'm not trying to win a legal case here, just sayin'... 1.
  "The broadcast industry does not want American's to
  know..." Opinion. Why would they want this widely known?
  2. "...legally obligated..." OK, that might be a little
  strong, but I stand by the POV that they can not encrypt
  this signal. The FCC citations (on Engadget article) make
  that clear (to me).
Agree. Sorry if I'm being pedantic, but this is really nothing more than the cable companies being compelled to broadcast these "mandatory carriage" channels without encryption and the impracticality of filtering every non-subscriber.

  It's possible that this works for me (and others)
  because... I am a subscriber to my cable company for
  telephone and internet access (but not TV), and so they
  can not send a tech out to disconnect me from their grid
  because it would terminate my current services[...]
That's why it works; however, it's not so much that they can't disconnect you but that they can't practically filter you.

  [...] AND they can not encrypt the Clear QAM signal for
  the Broadcast TV channels.
They can't encrypt but they can filter non-subscribers. If this were always practical, there's no doubt many companies would aggressively filter.

  Again, I'm not trying to argue some legal case here. But I
  do think it's more than just the cable company being lazy
  and not sending a technician out.
Sure, the impracticality is there but no legal impediments that I know of :)

My understanding is that it's more subtle than that. If you subscribe to no TV services, they can block all channels. However, if you get any TV service from your provider, they have to provide all broadcast channels to you, either un-encrypted, or encrypted with a free cable box for every TV in your house.

The poster is correct. There is a law, I cannot remember where it is stated and where I read it, but I have heard it and I did check when I only had cable. I got all the broadcast stations in HD no less without a cable subscription using my QAM tuner on my TV and on my HD Homerun.

Quality usually will not be nearly as good as receiving over the air though. At least that is my experience. Most cable operators will compress their stations, some more than others. It is obvious if you have seen or are used to viewing with rabbit ears.

My experience is the opposite. Before I knew about the above, I bought a digital antenna from Home Depot. I got barely any signal.

Now, I get HDTV quality on a few networks.

Fred Wilson first brought this to my attention here: http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2012/02/clearqam-what-it-is-and-why-...

He references "ClearQAM" aka "Clear QAM".

Also note a few people commented on today's blog post (IOW, not here, but on the original post; see my comment and replies) that they tried, and it works.

I've done this for years. When I lived in Washington (state), the channels would periodically relocate themselves, so I had to rescan about once a month. It was also pretty frustrating for the channels to be things like 38.4. I got the feeling the cable company did that on purpose to try and make the experience as frustrating as they could.

Do you have a link where I can read up on this? I'm willing to believe you, but it sounds too good to be true.

See my reply above with link to Fred Wilson's blog post.

NBC is only broadcasting Olympic events on cable channels, not on the basic NBC OTA channels...

I'm watching women's beach volleyball on NBC (Channel 4 in the NYC metro area) as I type this (8:12pm on Sat 28 July)

Answer: Get a cable TV subscription. If you don't want to "pirate," or be in a "grey area," then do what the license rights holder wants you to do and pony up. I pay for Frontier FiOS TV and can watch whatever events I want as part of my subscription. In many areas, the local cable company will have you installed in a day or two and you can go month-to-month. Comcast in Seattle is offering $29.99/month for the first 6 months, no contract, and that includes msnbc, CNBC, and Bravo.

To answer the point of "NBC pays the government," they do: for broadcast spectrum only. All the other channels with Olympics content are not covered by that payment.

This is not the answer. My grandmother was kind enough to give me her Comcast account info so I can stream through nbcolympics.com

Their system is garbage. IE9 and IE9 64-bit come to a screeching halt after 30 minutes of live streaming and have to be killed by task manager. Firefox Nightly x64 (my main browser) does the same thing after ballooning to 600MB of RAM. In Chrome the video starts to skip after 20 minutes when RAM usage hits about 300MB. So far Chrome + AdBlock is the only thing that's been stable so far.

Which brings me to why nbcolympics.com is garbage. They've managed to take a YouTube stream, and then surround it on all sides with 2 flash ad banners, commercial breaks during live streams, many many more commercial breaks during replays, and a drunken orgy of Web 2.0 tracking systems and social medias as far as the eye can see.

They've taken the most widely used video distribution platform and turned it into a hulking behemoth that destroys web browsers.

Ignoring all of that for a moment. NBC also has gaps in what you can watch on nbcolympics.com The opening ceremony wasn't streamed live, or streamed "live" when NBC showed it on TV. I'd have to check, but I don't think you can even watch a reply of it now. I wanted to watch some archery and the USA women's soccer match from earlier. While scrolling through the list I saw a reply link for every event...except gymnastics. NBC decided not to allow replays of that.

This just grows the amount of hatred I have for NBC since the 2010 games when they implemented this system and I couldn't get the same Comcast account to authenticate. So I was stuck with tape delay everything while my friends up north were watching everything live through cbc.ca

The trial run of NBC's system in 2008 was the best run they've had. No ads, no pay wall system, every event streamed live and available for replay afterward. It worked without a hitch.

That works.. sometimes.

I tried calling comcast and they don't serve my address (it's a large apartment building). I specifically told them that I could care less if they actually installed it; I just wanted an account so I could get the olympics online. They claimed they couldn't do that though; the service had to be installable or they could get fined by some entity.

My only legal option is to pay DirectTV something like $800 for a one year subscription. Not happening..

Can't even get the terrestrial DTV signal due to buildings in my line of sight.

How old is your apartment building that you cannot get cable service? I've never run into that before.

23 years. Its age is less of an issue than its size. It has 400+ units and just contracts out TV service to a local San Francisco outfit, Satel: http://www.yelp.com/biz/satel-san-francisco

Satel has a sattelite receiver on the roof that provides for the complex.

The only programming options are:

1. DirectTV (extremely expensive)

2. 'Basic' Cable, which gives only a subset of terrestrial broadcasts at only 480p. This service wouldn't qualify for nbcolympics regardless due to no cnbc, msnbc, etc.

The Olympics, as well as most other major world events, are transmitted via broadcast TV almost everywhere in the world. The whole operation and licensing rights are already paid for by ad space.

Almost everywhere, but not in the United States. Whether or not this is right or fair is left as an exercise to the reader; personally, I think it is not. However, the answer to the question is one of three things: subscribe to the required service, be in a grey area, or do not watch.

I honestly cannot see why we keep having these debates. OBVIOUSLY the content providers are making money doing exactly what they are now doing. Bypassing the restrictions and consuming the content anyway does nothing to change this situation except on the micro level. The only way to change the status quo is to demonstrate that the content is not sufficiently valuable to a sufficiently large group of people that the mechanism changes.

> Almost everywhere, but not in the United States.

No. NBC is broadcasting the Olympics over-the-air all across the US.

NBC, unlike most of the rest of the world, is not putting all, or even most, of its coverage out over-the-air. Many events will only be on pay channels like msnbc, Bravo, NBC Sports Network, and CNBC.

Huh? I'm watching swimming on wnyt in Albany, NY right now OTA.

Ah, but that's forcing you to buy something you don't want (a long-term cable TV subscription) to get something you do want (streaming access to the Olympics on the internet--no TV involved).

As several posters here have said, clearly there is a value to being able to watch the Olympic events you want, live. There is no reason NBC could not charge a fixed access fee for people who don't have one of the "sponsoring" pay TV services.

Rent a VM in a UK colo (I recommend http://www.bytemark.co.uk/), and use get-iplayer (http://www.infradead.org/get_iplayer/html/get_iplayer.html) to download programs from the BBC.

Edit: Even though I live in the UK, this is how I watch TV because with a bit of scripting it's a lot more convenient than having a TV.

Well, my opinion is that the IOC and broadcasters like NBC are being held back by ideas from the last century. They are using the Internet as another broadcasting method and ignoring the potential it offers.

At a very basic level, they could offer live streaming of all events --advertising free-- for a fee. I would gladly pay, say, US $100 for this service. Some might only be interested in a subset of events, which means that there's a possibility to create tiers and capture revenue at various levels.

Here in the US, as has been discussed in this and other threads, NBC has royally fucked up things beyond all recognition. I finally broke down and downloaded their app. It's shit. The ads are intrusive TV-style ads. What's worst, they have some sort of a bug somewhere that is causing videos to end prematurely.

As and example, I tried watching Archery, Judo and Taekwondo pre-recorded events (not live). One of them was supposed to be a five hour event. We watched about fifteen minutes and the stream stopped with a message that read something akin to "This video has ended". There was no way to watch it beyond that point. It literally stopped in the middle of the action.

The other moronic thing is the way the video ads are inserted. They seem to be using a simple timer to determine when to run a video ad. This means that they'll interrupt your viewing in the middle of a match --just as someone is throwing a kick-- to run a stupid ad. Unbelievable.

I am hoping that there's widespread dissatisfaction with this and that the next Olympics, World Cup, etc. see a massive change. I'd really like to see a true Internet company get the rights and do it right. The IOC could make far more than what NBC and others are paying for these events by having a single-point internationally-friendly Internet strategy rather than old-school per country/region licensing.

Finally, a note to NBC advertisers: I am NOT watching your ads. Stop paying NBC! We DVR the coverage and are masterfully skilled at fast-forwarding through your commercials. When I am watching gymnastics I could not care less about your movie or your insurance offering. So, stop supporting broadcasters, you are wasting your money in a monumental way.

Yeah, I think this is right. And NBC actually did this for the soccer World Cup, IIRC -- you could buy a package subscription from NBC letting you watch all the games online.

I have to imagine there's a market for pay-as-you-go subscription to things like Olympic events, same model as buying movies on Amazon or Google Play. I know I would pay.

As it is, try getfoxyproxy.org.

"I use a service called Vyprvpn which is $14.99 a month. I get it as part of a bundle with a subscription to Giganews. That’s how I connect with a VPN to the UK. And you can too."

So the author ended up paying to watch the Olympics. Illegally, instead of legally, I would add.

I guess technically I'm paying for VPN service, but I would have been anyway, so I didn't buy something new.

And, I'm not certain it's illegal. Are you?

Is the legislation specific about where you must reside? What if you're consuming content but you're not in the UK?

If it is illegal for anyone to consume BBC content at the time of broadcast without a TV license regardless of location, what if someone outside of the UK paid for a TV License?

[IANAL] My understanding of copyright is that for events such as the Olympics, copyrights are often licensed licensed a country by country basis and that the retransmission of material across national boundaries is a violation. Doing so violates the author's right to control their work because it bipasses the arrangements the author has made to control their work. Incidently, this rests on the same legal principles upon which much of FOS software community operates (the license terms are merely different).

However, I would recommend speaking with an attorney familiar with such matters.

I bought a TV License (updated the article) and here's the proof: https://img.skitch.com/20120729-8nkr9edjmm4966yt8qm1sfyg5t.p...

So, really now it should just be a question of the rights holder allowing me in the US to watch something broadcast in the UK that I paid for.

One difference might be the consequences of the subscription. A subscription to a big media outlet seems rather icky. I don't want to know what crap they'll try to feed you, pretending that it'll be worth your money. Subscribing to a VPN service presumably just expands your choices in a no frills way.

It is illegal if you live in the UK and consume TV to not pay for your TV license.

Legally, I’m unclear of if an American connecting on a VPN to a live stream in the UK is breaking the law. I would guess that it hasn’t really come up with the TV license people yet.

I don't know about the UK law, but nearby Ireland has a similar "TV Licence". The law there is not "you need a licence to watch TV", but "if you're in Ireland and you have something that's capable of recieving TV signals, then you need a TV licence".

If the UK is similar, then it's not "watch BBC" that requires a licence, but "owning a TV in the UK". The OP almost certainly does not own a TV in the UK, so almost certainly not need a TV licence.

(NB: There may or may not be terms & conditions on the iPlayer website which say you may only access it if you are in UK / have a TV licence / etc., which might make the above the illegal (but not for TV licence reasons). I'm suprised the Olympics works for them, usually BBC iPlayer stuff uses GeoIP to block it from non-UK IP addresses.)


> You must be covered by a valid TV Licence if you watch or record television programmes as they're being shown on TV. It makes no difference what equipment you use - whether it’s a laptop, PC, mobile phone, digital box, DVD/video recorder or a TV set - you still need a licence.

Worth noting that you can legally watch any recorded show online without a licence

Indeed, it is similar here in the UK. Although importantly, it tends to be interpreted as 'something that you do use to watch TV'. So for instance, the TV that OP had that he did not use to watch 'live TV' would not have needed to be licensed. You'd have probably got nasty letters about it, but would be well within your rights not to pay for a license as you would not be using it.

Also, although it has no weight on this discussion, it's worth mentioning that TV licenses are per household, not per TV.

However, having said that, the BBC probably has to take adequate precautions to stop non-UK viewers watching the Olympic coverage as part of their deal with the organising committee to be the 'official broadcaster'. Sports broadcasting is a massive money maker, I'm sure! :)

I don't know whether this would mean a US citizen using a proxy to view the BBC feeds is breaking the law though. Interestingly, our extradition treaty with the US [1] "allows the US to extradite UK citizens and others for offences committed against US law, even though the alleged offence may have been committed in the UK by a person living and working in the UK", although there is apparently no reciprocal right. Therefore one can only assume it doesn't matter whether it is legal or not! (IANAL etc.)

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extradition_Act_2003

According to Wikipedia[0], the UK is actually more like "You need to pay if you have something you use to watch TV". This is quite better than some other countries.

[0] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Television_licence

Funnily enough, I know a lot of British people who use the exact same technique the other way around to watch Hulu and Comedy Central in the US.

I DO have cable TV in the U.S. - Suddenlink

I spent 45 minutes online with the Suddenlink support person and got my account setup with username and password

ALL SET right?

So, with the Suddenlink support person on the phone I login to the NBCOlympics.com site and select Suddenlink.

I key in my username and password.

In about a minute the screen pops up and says I am all set to WATCH THE OLYMPICS LIVE.


Then in about 10 seconds another screen pops up:

"You do not have a subscription to view the requested content. Contact Suddenlink to upgrade your programming then log back in to view content."

What the heck??

So I ask the very helpful Suddenlink support person still waiting on the phone: What Up?

She confirms that since I do not have the EXTENDED basic package with optional add-ons with Suddenlink I do not qualify to WATCH THE OLYMPICS LIVE


Did you read the nbcolympics.com FAQ:

"Q: What is required for accessing Live Extra content? A: You will need to verify that you subscribe to a cable, satellite or telco video tier that includes CNBC and MSNBC. There is no additional charge."

I do have CNBC and MSNBC. CNBC is channel 255 and MSNBC is channel 264 (in my market area)


In the terms of the Olympics here is my message to NBC LET THE GAMES BEGIN - THE INTERNETS ALWAYS WIN.

I'm in London for the Olympics and have been blown away by the BBC - from the usability of their website, the lack of commercials, the generally high quality of commentary and online material, to the 24 hi-definition channels of Olympic coverage live on TV in the flat we are renting.

I wrote up some instructions about how to use EC2 as a web proxy here - http://kev.inburke.com/kevin/how-to-use-ec2-as-a-web-proxy/ - not sure if it would work in Amazon's Ireland data center, but worth a try.

BBC iPlayer is restricted in Ireland unfortunately. I haven't specifically checked from Amazon's data centre though, but I'd imagine it has the same geographical restriction as my home broadband.

I just checked. Gives me the same "Not in the UK" error message as trying from my IP in the states.

Rackspace Cloud has servers in London, which may be a better option.

I'm actually quite surprised to see so many posts on HN discussing ways to pirate Olympic content. The BBC is restricted to UK IP addresses for a reason. Every household in Britian pays the equivalent of around $230 per year for the right to watch live television, whether it be on your phone, laptop or TV. The BBC has a finite amount of resources to spend on hosting online content & if the whole World logs on to watch the Olympics it could end up spoiling it for those of us who've paid for the service. I can understand the Americans frustration with NBC (or whatever broadcaster is showing the Olympics in your region) but if you really do want to watch the BBC, the least you can do is pay for it https://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/pay-for-your-tv-licence/

Hi James. I now own a TV Licence. I'm in the US. Is it still pirating if I watch the BBC feed through a VPN?

There's no higher cost of transmission for the BBC - they're sending it to a UK based IP and then I pay a monthly fee for that transmission to the US.


While it still may not be technically legal, ethically I believe you're in the clear. Enjoy all of the 24 BBC Olympic channels - you'll probably find BBC iPlayer quite useful for catching up on the days events as well!

All european citizen can watch it on http://www.eurovisionsports.tv/london2012/index.html

Just enter bbc into the search box.

> Sure! In fact, if you’re in the UK, you can legally stream every event of the Olympics live, and commercial free.

Note that I believe you need to pay the licence fee to legally watch iPlayer (IIRC it pops up a dialog the first time you run it to confirm you've paid). So even in the UK you have to "pay for TV" to get this service. It costs approx £12/month.

Just a note, that's only for live-streamed things (such as the Olympics). Repeats of shows don't require a license fee.


> I believe you need to pay the licence fee to legally watch iPlayer

Not entirely true. If you only use iPlayer for catchup, you don't need a TV license. But if you use iPlayer to watch TV programmes as they are being broadcast on TV, you do.

Cool - I talk about that at the bottom of the article. But I added a note in that section that you need to pay for a TV license to stream legally. Thanks.

I saw that but it read a bit unclear.

Some European countries' laws haven't caught up the same way the UK has. For instance, you can legally watch the Swedish SVT's live streams without a licence fee. Other countries have gone further - in Denmark they either implemented or were just debating a law where you have to pay the license fee if you own a PC or Mobile phone that can watch streaming video.

All Europeans can legally watch the EBU/Eurovision steams though, I believe. http://www.eurovisionsports.tv/london2012/index.html

I'm nitpicking but I feel it's worth pointing out that not only do UK viewers of live TV need a license but all taxpayers contribute to the BBC by separate payments from direct taxation.

UK ISPs appear to throttle iPlayer traffic so ironically using a proxy might be worthwhile in the UK too.

The bbc is almost entirely funded by the licence fee. There is a small grant to cover world service (mainly for political reasons eg providing news in Arabic) and BBC worldwide makes some money, but the vast majority is from the tv license.


I also don't think it's true to suggest ISPs are throttling iPlayer specifically. The bbc has said it will name and shame any ISP that does.


From you Wikipedia link BBC income includes "£279.4 million from government grants;". That's about 6% of the amount taken from license fees, I'd argue that's not insignificant. Financial information about treasury spend on the BBC seems quite hard to find however.

On point 2 why would the BBC be spending money to develop a system to indicate throttling if there wasn't even an "appearance" (as I claimed) that there was some throttling. Surely they'd want to show at least that there was an appearance of throttling before starting such a project?

FWIW my own experience with one of the top UK ISPs has been of quite poor service for iPlayer - significantly lower bandwidth is used for iPlayer connection than for other streaming sites. That is watching the same show in low quality on iPlayer I get significantly poorer connection than watching in higher quality streaming from some other site - this gives the appearance that iPlayer is being throttled.

That's a great thing to point out. My mistake. I added a note about that in the article.

It informs you that you need to be paying the license fee to watch live TV on the iPlayer but there doesn't seem to be any check. In other words even if you are not paying the fee, tell it you are and you should be able to start streaming.

In the Netherlands you can watch it via NOS. They have explanations for how to watch it on your pc, mobile, tv, radio, twitter/fb. See http://nos.nl/os2012/volg-de-spelen/.

To watch on your pc, they partnered with Youtube Live: http://www.youtube.com/user/nosnlsport

which gives me: "The uploader has not made this video available in your country. " which is a bit strange (living in the Netherlands).

Fortunately it is quite easy to proxy stuff via the UK :)

The NOS website has a nice design. The sports and events are very well categorised. They even place a thumbnail of the video stream in the floating menu when you are looking at items further down the page (so you don't miss out on anything while reading the articles). The only thing that's missing are other languages than Dutch, is it possible that it's done deliberately to keep people from abroad out?

I'm pretty sure they also geo-IP ...

A UK-based Linode instance as a proxy works beautifully: http://bearsfightingbears.com/how-to-watch-the-olympics-live...

As a Canadian, I run into this bullshit all the time.

Comedy Central embedded videos, hulu, etc.

The whole thing seems like a perversion of the promise of the internet: to connect us all... It's double ironic in the OPs case, given the stated goals of the olympics.

Going around via VPN is well within my technical means, but I don't want to support the people who behave this way online, so I usually don't view the geo-walled content, or turn to the pirate bay.

Canadian here too.

I also tend to do the same I can use a VPN or figure out some way to get around restrictions but then I think why?

If I'm blocked I'm not going out of my way to generate ad revenue or support such behaviour, it's called the World Wide Web for a reason.

Except this time around, CTV has done a good job of providing Olympic coverage to non-TV people.

The iOS app is great, and the web portal is great, and it's free.

Yes, but why can't I watch the coverage from whichever country I choose? Canadian coverage focuses on Canadian athletes. Perhaps I'm an ex-pat, and want to watch my home country, or just curious how events are portrayed elsewhere.

Well, that's a problem with the Olympics in general, not with a given country's broadcaster's implementation of the coverage they have purchased the rights to.

Different problems completely... But I agree with your sentiment either way.

does this work in the us? http://www.eurovisionsports.tv/london2012/index.html

this is the official european broadcast stream. simply the best, every event in live and you can also replay them. plus there is no commentator here, just the raw broadcast (i hate when commentators talk too much...)

Negative, "you cannot watch this outside of the European Broadcasting Union".

Will have to check the TV Licensing info again to be sure we're allowed to watch this; works for me but had to disable ad-blocking to allow the video stream to play (after an interstitial).

Just tried from Los Angeles, did not work.

Wait, I don't quite get it - the first thing the author says is that he got "crystal clear" high-def Olympics coverage from someone called Telemundo over the air. He goes on to conclude that "There is no good way to watch the Olympics in the United States without a cable subscription".

What did I miss?

Edit: Thanks for the quick answers.

Sorry - I updated the article, but as the other reply mentioned, Telemundo is a channel in Spanish.

Is there a radio broadcast you can listen to for sound whilst watching the images from Telemundo. I've heard of people doing this to choose a superior radio commentary whilst watching sport on TV in the UK.

AFAIK, NBC/Telemundo doesn't own any radio stations. And since NBC isn't broadcasting live, even if someone was running a radio broadcast it's highly unlikely they'd be in sync.

If there was a radio stream available online you could probably resync using eg VLC?

Did you check to see if they had English closed captioning? They do that for much of their programming.

That Telemundo is a Spanish-language channel and, presumably, the author only speaks english.

Presumably Telemundo have spanish commentators talking over everything?

Telemundo is in Spanish

Telemundo is the spanish channel in the US.

I have a qualifying satellite TV package and that is also broken. I related my experience this morning here:


NBC ought to be ashamed. Their online offering is pure crap.

+1 BBC

The broadcaster of the first public TV signal back in 1936 and still going strong today.

"On November 2, 1936 the BBC began transmitting the world's first public television service from the Victorian Alexandra Palace in north London[12] following alternate daily test broadcasts of the Baird and Marconi systems to the Radio Show at Olympia at the end of August. It therefore claims to be the birthplace of television broadcasting as we know it today." -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_television

Like most people here, I just don't like the fact that some people are trying to put digital walls around me.

To buy my nexus 1 phone, I had to use a machine in US. I bought some other stuff from UK that way, using my machine in UK. But then UK started blocking other sites, so I had move that machine to Germany.

Someone needs to come up with a research paper, showing the optimum number of virtual machines needed to access the whole internet (with their locations). Or better, make a business out of it.

Great post. FWIW, the mobile app that NBC has is 10000x better than their website, and sometimes is even faster and better quality (iPhone). This is a good example of developing for mobile first... The mobile experience strips down all the unnecessary cruft and gets you to what you want immediately. As soon as I logged on to the app, I was able to see all live streaming videos in a nice interface and get to what I wanted. Can't say the same about the wesite.

Ask a friend or family with the required cable package for their login info. A more social than technical hack, but it works very well.

We have the relevant package; but Insight won't even acknowledge our login to use the app. They can keep their streams and ad-views if they don't want to make it even half-usable.

I have roughly the same problem. I spend around $140/mo for internet and cable, of which I receive the full NBC suite of channels. However, the app refuses my provider's login information. When I contacted my provider, they just sent me up to an NBC support clerk who told me essentially "Wow, that really sucks." and that was it. There was no recourse, simply re-acknowledging that I had a problem and they would attempt nothing to fix it.

I normally wouldn't be overly concerned about it, probably just a bit flustered, but this is a global event that occurs twice a decade. I feel this should really be something public broadcasters should control, not mega-corporations.

You might want to verify that your provider doesn't have multiple login schemes. My Time Warner franchise has one account for payment and account services "pay express" and another for service access "my services".

The Olympics requires the services credential.

There are too many people making too much money in the US for it to be handed off to public TV.

Out of curiosity, is there just an advertisement for 20 seconds at the beginning of a live stream? Or do they have commercial breaks?

They run every few minutes, it feels kind of random. But they have a very nasty habit of running right at critical moments during the games.

I don't watch the Olympics, as a general rule, but I'm pretty sure that, even if I desired to, I still wouldn't until broadcasters get around to using this decades technologies to deliver content.

You want them to modernize? Get as many people as you can to stop using cable for TV.

I'm not in the US but I've been watching the Olympics on YouTube - http://youtube.com/user/olympic - this is the official Olympics channel.

Funny nobody's mentioned this. Is the channel not available in the US?

Yes, the IOC are streaming the whole olympics on YouTube at www.youtube.com/olympic to 64 countries in Asia and Africa, where there aren't exclusive broadcaster arrangements. It's the full 10 feeds of events and 1 news channel - no ads and full events.

Yeah, going to youtube.com brings a top bar with info on what is being streamed and takes you to the official channel. Works awesome here in India.

It actually says not available in your country .. just tried it.

I'm posting this in all three of the 'Olympics' threads showing up on the front page of HN:

I live in Berkeley, CA and I was able to get full access to videos, including streams and highlights, by selecting Xfinity as my service provider during my initial sign-up/activation on the NBC Olympics website.

Here at my apartment, we have no cable service and an internet provider called Zoom. So obviously, I wasn't being truthful - but instead was trying to circumvent this ridiculous corporate stranglehold during my first attempt to access Olympic footage.

I don't know if it will still work, but it worked for me on Friday and my credentials have held since - allowing my full access without login each time I access the website.

Get a VPN that gives you a UK IP and watch it on the BBC website. Got tons of results on http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=uk+ip+vpn

I use a similar one to access Facebook when traveling to China.

FYI, it's a link to an article, not a question.

NBC has to recover (and profit on) its $1.1 billion investment. Fault resides more with the IOC (or whoever auctioned these rights) for not requiring live streaming. I presume they assumed this would lower the value of the bids.

If you have an european ip, go to http://www.eurovisionsports.tv/london2012/index.html

It's the official site of all european broadcasters.

You have access to all the live streams (without commentary) from all the arenas and all the live streams from all european stations.

Just enter bbc, zdf, ard, etc... in the search box to get the corresponding live stream with their commentary.

It also works if you are blocked on the broadcasters website (e.g. i can't watch the zdf live stream, but can watch it here).

They have live streams for each olympics and for some special events.

I'm a Brit living abroad, and guiltily use one of the (probably illegal) methods already mentioned to watch the BBC - I feel bad, but I just can't do without it! One thing to know, it's completely okay to listen to BBC radio from anywhere in the world, http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/radio. There's a sports station for the Olympic Coverage - Radio 5, and I also heartily recommend Radio 6 for music, and Radio 4 for excellent speech radio, including news, documentaries, comedies and dramas.

If you're comfortable with SSH you could also just fire up an EC2 or Linode instance in UK, install a local proxy and tunnel traffic through it.

It's way more versatile than signing up for just VPN.

Excellent instructions for doing this on a mac with http://www.mikeash.com/ssh_socks.html

I am an Englishman sheltering from the Olympics in NYC (public transport in London was always going to be a mess) and even though I possess a UK TV license I had to tunnel through my machine at home to watch the opening ceremony.

It's a shame the BBC can't just sell a stream to people elsewhere in the world but the licenses under which they get the content will prevent it. Otherwise people could get content from the lowest bidder in the world, meaning commoditisation and a massive hit to the content owners who wouldn't get to sell the rights over and over again in different countries.

I can't get any major networks over OTA, except for channels I wouldn't watch, ie Telemundo, Univision, HomeShopping,etc. I live about 50 miles from SF. It's really frustrating, not being able to watch the Olympics. But I'd hate to go through VPN. Just like my previous viewing of World Cup,I'd have to resort to non-English channels and learn a little bit of Spanish, although their coverage is focused more toward Spanish-speaking countries.

See my comment above. You CAN get the OTA channels.

Thanks for the info. I will try that. I am subscribed to Comcast internet, but not TV. I have my fingers crossed. Hopefully I'll get some ClearQAM coming through the coax.

If you have a proxy to connect to in Asia, India, or Africa (easy to find) you can watch the live stream on http://www.youtube.com/olympic. Simple clean interface with schedule and easy stream selection for the current events happening. It's also commercial free as well as being up to 1080p. You can even change the language of the broadcast.

This Olympics insanity (needing to subscribe to cable TV to watch a over the air broadcast; Comcasts owns NBC Universal) is a great reason why services like http://Aereo.com need to thrive!

Does anyone here have Aereo and are using it to watch the Olympics?

"ridiculously high standard of TV broadcasting that the BBC provides"

Heh, it's good, but this is overstating it a bit.

If you happen to have PC in virtual - or physical HW then ill recommend using the http://bbc-player.com/ which uses the TOR network to give you access to BBC channels. The iPlayer portal is also accessible with it.

To me, the confusing part is why NBC only lets cable subscribers stream the content for free. I would guess that the cable companies are paying them to do that, but that is pure speculation on my part. If I can stream everything online, why would I purchase cable?

By confirming your cable subscription, you confirm you have access to MSNBC, CNBC, and Bravo, where the majority of Olympic events are broadcast. Only a small number of events are broadcast on NBC affiliate stations, mostly only in primetime.

NBC is owned by a cable company (Comcast).

It's possible to stream the olympics from the BBC iPlayer using a UK proxy only for requesting the page with the player (the flash player itself doesn't seem to care where you're located).

I just tested this using a free proxy. Any slow/unstable proxy will work just fine.

That sucks about not being able to get it OTA. I'm in Toronto and with a $20 antenna I can get a solid NBC broadcast from Buffalo. The local CTV channel also has an Olympics program so at any point in time I usually have 2 sporting events to choose from.

You can also buy a UK based VPS ( http://www.lowendbox.com/tag/uk/) and install some VPN server on there/ Note: Make sure the provider allows TUN/TAP

For the winter Olympics, I had a VPS provisioned with a Toronto-based provider: setup Apache w/ a password protected mod_proxy. Voila, I could watch live curling and luge in the office. Total cost was less than $30 USD.

Did anybody tried francetvsport.fr ?

It seems to work from the webproxy i used but i'm not sure my ip was properly hidden.

Anyway, for once french television is not behind, they broadcast all the sports live on their website without any commentary.

I'm confused. In the iPad app I clicked time-warner cable, that I didn't have service, and I wanted a temporary pass. And then everything just worked. TWC is my ISP, but I have no cable service with them.

Use your email and get a temporary pass on NBColympics.com. Although it only lasts 4hrs but I assume you can use a different email after that and it might still work.

You can also move dots around. For example the following all go to the same inbox:


Gmail's + syntax doesn't work. So -- email+1@gmail.com, email+2@gmail.com as a strategy doesn't work. I tried that.

Just because this is my pet peeve ...

The "+ syntax" does not belong to Gmail, nor was Gmail the inventor of same. foo+bar@domain.net is an ancient tradition, dating back almost to the dawn of SMTP. Of course, the interpretation of the local part is entirely up to the MTA handling it, but foo+bar is pretty widespread. Certainly Sendmail supports it.

I didn't know that. Now that'll be my pet peeve. Im guessing many people have only seen the + as a gmail hack to sign up multiple times on the same site.

What area are you in with no terrestrial NBC affiliate?

It's not clear that he has no terrestrial NBC affiliate. He might well have one that he can't receive with "spare coax cable used as my antenna" instead of, say, an actual antenna.

I can't imagine coax works well as an antenna, considering it's shielded to prevent RF interference.

I'm an Indian and I watch Olympics here http://www.youtube.com/user/olympic

I wonder if folks doing this are also the same ones complaining about people stealing apps and torrenting movies? There's no real difference.

Seriously, this is atrocious. I've been trying to watch the Olympics all day and it's been one huge fail.

The BBC coverage is unbeatable. Really sets a new benchmark for multi sport event broadcasting

A lot of people don't get particular networks because the US recently (June 2009 [1]) switched to digital TV broadcasting. Essentially, digital TV is a transmission protocol which more efficiently utilizes the available electromagnetic spectrum by transmitting compressed video.

The problem is that digital transmission doesn't gracefully degrade like analog transmission does. If you're at the outer part of a transmitter's range, with the legacy analog signal, you might have been able to get an adequate signal with slightly fuzzy picture or static-y sound. But receiving a digital signal is largely a binary affair; you're either in-range and receive it, or out-of-range and you don't. *

Another issue is the economics; most people get their TV through cable. So it doesn't necessarily make economic sense for stations to build new transmitters to make their post-digital range equal their pre-digital range, especially if the new dead zones are in low-population-density areas.

Online streaming is so technically superior to broadcast -- there's no technical reason you can't get what you want, when you want it; and the maximum number of channels we can support isn't limited by scarce electromagnetic spectrum -- that I foresee traditional broadcast TV being completely replaced within the next 10-30 years.

It's still new enough, however, that the social, political, and legal issues still have to be worked out. I.e. FCC requirements to provide broadcast-equivalent service should probably apply to ISP's, but they don't. And companies like NBC should realize it's in their best interest to make content available at reasonable prices "ala carte" online, but they don't.

It's particularly interesting to see that recently services like Hulu or Youtube are running pilot programs for producing original content. Essentially the reason NBC et al can get away with offering customers awful service without having their lunch eaten by startups is that they by-and-large have a monopoly on content that people want to see. But if similar content becomes available from other services at lower cost and/or on saner terms, they'll be forced to change their business or die off. In other words, someone needs to do to NBC what iTunes did to the music industry. There are plenty of people in this space; Hulu, Netflix, Youtube, many others.

Online video is still a very immature industry because only within the last 10-15 years has bandwidth and decoding horsepower sufficient for streaming video become available to most people. Over time the free market should iron out a more efficient solution to connecting viewers, content producers and content aggregators, but many existing businesses are enormously large and entrenched, so the process will take time.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_terrestrial_television#...

* This isn't strictly true; you might get some artifacts in marginal situations, but these tend to be much more noticeable and much less acceptable than with analog. The "in-range" and "out-of-range" might change over time due to weather.

That is the creepiest avatar / drawing I have seen all month.

Why doesn't he just go to the local sports bar?

With up to 24 simultaneous events for 12 hours a day across 18ish days, that's a lengthy time spent at a bar that might not even be showing the event you're interested in.

It would make sense for the BBC to run their own VPN-like service so people outside the UK could view their content.


If they wanted to unblock the world they could just do that without a VPN.

Their license from the IOC will require them to take measures keep their services to the territory they have rights to (the UK). If they allowed their services to be accessed globally they would only get the rights that they bought globally.

If any VPN gets too popular you can expect them to block it too. You may need to factor this into how much you pay for a VPN.

>I didn’t go out and buy an antenna, but I was able to tune quite a few channels

Why not buy an antenna, especially an amplified one? That will run circles around using a shielded coax cable as an antenna.

>FAIL. There is no good way to watch the Olympics in the United States without a cable subscription

Sorry, that doesn't follow when you didn't even try a TV antenna.

Yeah, you're right. I'm not fair to OTA broadcasts and I should have gotten rabbit ears. However, considering the following issues:

1. NBC cut short the open ceremony 2. NBC delayed the broadcast of the swimming 3. Online (from the BBC, and from NBC with commercials) you can get a stream of any event you want.

The online option, and the online option from the BBC especially just blows away an OTA broadcast. BBC has something like 24 different streams for live events. Vs. buying rabbit ears which gives me 1 channel.

And as for running circles around COAX, the only channels I can't get with COAX are CBS and NBC. Everything else comes through in HD either on it's own or if I'm touching it.

We're watching NBC broadcast right now on a pair of rabbit-ears. That works fine for the popular events if you don't mind the delay.

As long as we're mentioning various grey-hat techniques to view content from the BBC and others without paying for it, there are sites like thefirstrow.eu that carry streams from the BBC and other international broadcasters. I'm not encouraging you to use those, but it is an interesting situation. NBC can't issue a DMCA takedown on those streams because they don't own that content. If the BBC has no interest in shutting down those streams, they may never be shut down.

To be fair, not everyone is in a good area for OTA TV.

You can check here: http://www.antennaweb.org/Address.aspx to see if you can pick up an NBC affiliate (or Telemundo, if you're okay with Spanish commentary) near you.

Pay for it. Broadcasting the Olympics costs NBC lots of money. These deals are how they pay those costs. (And if it wasn't NBC, it would be CBS, ABC, or Fox.)

One of the hazards of giving up living television is that...you give up live television. NBC is not obligated to do squat for you if it can't make money from you. It's a business, not a charity.

And stop praising the BBC. It's not free. Brits pay a mandatory tax to support the BBC, so it is no different from cable/satellite TV in the U.S.

I wish people would stop harping on about the UK TV licence fee.

TV in the US is not free - you pay for it every time you buy something made by a company that spends money advertising on TV.

It's practically impossible to opt out of paying for TV in the US. At least in the UK you can opt out if you genuinely don't want to watch anything.

Frankly, I'd rather pay £150/year for all the BBC programming (without commercials, including full online on-demand streaming) than $720/year for my cable company's "basic" package (which I continue to pay for by sitting through advertising for a third of the show's airtime anyway). If we bought that model to the US, I'd be ecstatic.

It is different in that if they ever do a bad job, they get a lot more pressure put on them (occasionally from the government - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-18512995). They are also monitored to make sure they at least try to have no overly political/commercial bias.

You could offer to pay ~£8k in licence fees for life time access to UK TV. Of course, if you watch and don't pay, you will live in fear of a prison sentence. Luckily, extradition from the US to the UK is less likely than the reverse, so you needn't lose as much sleep as eg Garry McKinnon (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_McKinnon)

(may I add a small comment as a (proud) ex-USSR citizen?) In Soviet Russia, we watched Olympics.

Good luck to you guys :)

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