No Olympics for you: Comcast locks value customers out of Sochi streams

Remember that internet plus HBO deal that Comcast (S CMCSK) introduced late last year, presumably to give online-savvy folks an incentive to subscribe to cable again? Turns out it doesn’t come with the ability to watch any live streams from Sochi, which is starting to get people in Comcast’s web forums very upset.
For the second time, NBC has been restricting its live online Olympic coverage to viewers that have a pay TV subscription. Viewers who want to tune into the network’s 1,000 hours of live streams need to authenticate themselves, as it’s being called in industry-speak, which means they need to log in with the username and password they use on their TV provider’s website. But a number of Comcast customers now notice that despite paying for cable, they still can’t get access to those Winter Olympics live streams.
That’s because Comcast is limiting Olympic live streaming to customers who have, at the very least, the company’s Digital Starter package. Customers who only subscribe to the company’s basic cable package, or the slightly pricier Digital Economy package, don’t get access to any live streams from Sochi.
And the internet plus HBO package includes HBO Go streaming and access to the company’s Xfinity TV apps, but on the traditional TV front, it’s like basic cable, so Sochi streams aren’t included either. That’s because neither of these packages includes access to CNBC or MSNBC – a prerequisite for Sochi streaming that’s enforced by other TV providers as well.
Some of these restrictions may hit low-income viewers who simply can’t afford a more expensive cable package. But it looks as if Comcast may also be punishing some of the very viewers it was trying to attract with the internet plus HBO deal: Heavy online users who want access to HBO Go, and were on the fence about cord cutting. Here’s what one of them had to say on Comcast’s forums:

“I was mildly interested in the Olympics – but I don’t care THAT much. If I have to jump through hoops to ‘fix’ problems introduced by Comcast and/or NBC, I’m not going to bother. I’ve been holding onto a TV subscription on top of my cable internet, but more and more I find myself wondering exactly why.”

This post was updated at 12:45pm with additional information about the required TV channels needed to watch the Olympics online.