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Do you hear that sound of ice cracking? If you're in New York, it might be on account of snowpocalypse outside. But elsewhere it's the sound of NBC warming up to live video online.

After taking a hard stance against live viewing of events out of prime time (and fumbling that strategy by hiding the America versus Canada hockey game on MSNBC earlier this week), NBC will be broadcasting the Men's Hockey Semifinal between the U.S. and Finland today online.

At 3P Eastern time, the U.S. Hockey team will play against Finland. And NBC will allow viewers to watch it in real time on NBCOlympics.com.

This is a stark contract from what happened on Sunday night, when American hockey players beat Canada for the first time since 1960. Many people missed out on the historical game because NBC relegated the proceedings to MSNBC, which is unavailable in many American households. (Instead, NBC chose to show tape of the Czech Republic-Russia game).

But the network is trying to learn from its mistakes. And rather than wait until prime time to air the game, they're letting fans have it as its happens. That's not to say that NBC is going all in on live video though.

The women's final hockey game with American against Canada was only available to viewers with a pay video subscription last night. Meanwhile, the men’s game against Switzerland was open access and resulted in almost 500,000 live streams, which is the highest number of any live event at the games. However, as PaidContent, points out:

"Given that live online has been limited to hockey and curling, that’s not surprising."

When it comes to live sporting events like this, it is a waste of viewer interest to hold onto footage until the networks can air it during prime time. With the wealth of information available in real-time (including NBC's own website), online viewing can be a huge boon to networks that were previously constrained by the hours of prime time.

As these games have shown, online interest can grow the audience for television viewing. Making it hard for viewers to watch content they are interested in is counterintuitive. It's great that NBC is working to get more content up online. They should have more. With that and a reversal on the network's policies on sharing content Olympic online (video clips aren't even available on its partner site Hulu), they'd really be getting somewhere. 

Image: NBCOlympics.com

Meghan Keane

Published 26 February, 2010 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

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