The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics start tonight. But if you're among the 9 percent of U.S. households who have broadband but don't subscribe to paid television, it will be nearly impossible to (legally) watch the games online this year.
That's because while NBC is streaming all of the events live online, full access to the livestream will only be available to paying cable subscribers. And thanks to a $4.38 billion exclusive deal NBC struck with the International Olympics Committee (IOC) in 2011 for the privilege of broadcasting the Olympic games in the U.S. through 2020, cord-cutters don't have a lot of options.
Since the games started being broadcast, television contracts have become an important source of revenue for the IOC — with broadcast deals now bringing in nearly half of Olympic revenues. And the actual broadcasts have changed substantially: The first "televised" version of the games was in the 1936 Berlin games, and that only included them being beamed by closed circuit to specified halls. Similarly, there was a televised broadcast of the 1948 games at Wembley but it was limited to certain receivers within range of the stadium. But the first significant financial payouts for exclusive U.S. coverage came in 1960, when CBS paid $394,000 for the privilege of showing the games.
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