As a South African, I was close to tears with utter excitement when Chad le Clos, stunned Michael Phelps in the 200-metre butterfly to win Olympic gold by 0.05 seconds. It was a moment that South Africans could watch over and over again. I wanted to share this moment with my dad. He had predicted the South African swimmers would fair well in the Olympics, and I thought he might appreciate Chad’s victory even more than I did.
Sharing information in today’s age is usually a click away. But I, and most probably a heap of other people in the world accessing the BBC, NBC or any Olympic streaming website, was fairly annoyed by the following message: “Cannot play media. Sorry, this media is not available in your territory.”
The BBC is not allowed, The Guardian reports, to broadcast “anything online outside the UK from the Olympic Park or other Olympic venues.” That includes radio shows broadcast from these venues. I thought the BBC was global news brand? Well clearly not: “As the official Olympic Broadcaster in the UK, the BBC geo-blocks its online content, so that video and audio streams are not available to audiences outside the UK.”
TechCrunch had an interesting post on how the sales of UK VPN’s spiked just before the Olympics kicked off. For all the normal, less technically inclined people out there, a VPN would give you a UK IP address and with that, users can visit the BBC’s site, as if they were in the UK. All the online Olympic goodness would be just a click away.
My initial shock and horror, when I got denied access to a video of our medal winner, most probably occurred because I am a bit of an information brat. South Africa has fairly loose media morals, we don’t restrict internet activity like China, Iran, North Korea and the Emirates. The online-world and its wealth of information, is available to all with internet access. I started investigating other media locations. YouTube was filled with Olympic videos that had been removed because they violated copyright.
The more time I spent on finding a videoclip of our brand new Olympic rock star Chad le Clos, the more apparent it became that the IOC had paid a lot of people, to make sure the 2012 Olympics the most antiviral thing on the internet.
I find this so unusual, and completely counter productive. I don’t think the IOC will lose a tremendous amount of money by streaming a time delayed channel or two somewhere. One up! They can make even more money by selling ad-space on their delayed streaming channels. Something like this YouTube channel would be great, if it wasn’t geo-blocked.
Am I the only one totally confused by the logic in geo-blocking an event as big as the Olympics?