An Olympic Dream Unwatched

When I read this week’s Writing prompt, “Share your favorite Summer Olympic Moment so far,” I was struck by a myriad of different emotions: frustration, sadness, regret, annoyance, even anger. These were not the feelings I experienced while actually watching the games, however, but were instead caused by the fact that I couldn’t watch them.

It won’t come as a surprise to anyone reading this that the last few years have been “tight.” On more than one occasion, my husband and I have attempted to cut back, including reducing our cell phone minutes, cutting back on the extras at the grocery store, and limiting spending money on takeout to just the most special of occasions. We then turned our focus to the cable company. We were no longer receiving the discounted price for the “Triple Play” (cable, phone, and Internet), and our bill had somehow grown to around $250 per month. When I started to look into how to reduce this amount, I was confronted by the fact that even by eliminating the extras like HBO and other on-demand features, the most I would be able to bring it down to would be $180 per month. As I started to think of the other ways that we could access programs we regularly watch, I came across a device called Roku. For around $50, I would be able to buy a device that would stream television shows and movies into our home via a subscription to HuluPlus and Netflix at a cost of about $7 a month for each.

When I first broached the subject with my husband, there were a lot of questions about the cost of buying the devices—we would need four, one for each TV—along with questions about which programs we would and wouldn’t be able to watch. I won’t lie, giving up Game of Thrones mid-season, along with all future episodes of Dexter, True Blood, and everything on CBS, was not an easy thing to do. . . but we decided to do it. The kids tried to protest—there was an endless stream of complaints about “all the shows they couldn’t watch,” and my daughter stopped talking to me when the subject of “what to watch” came up, limiting conversation to annoyed grunts.

I’ll fess up, it wasn’t easy for me either. At first, the hardest adjustment came with my morning cup of coffee. I was used to starting my day off in front of Today, and without cable, this was no longer possible. Thanks to an NBC channel through Roku, however, I was able to watch the previous day’s program, which really wasn’t so bad—except for being terribly behind on all current news.

The only thing that would fill me with dread regarding watching TV was when my children would suddenly remember that the Olympics were coming this summer, asking—

“We’ll be able to watch the Olympics, right?”

I didn’t actually have the answer to that question, and would answer “Sure,” with a slight hesitation in my voice. That is, until I saw an ad for a free NBC Olympics app that I could download to our iPad—I was saved from all future complaints about depriving my children of something they really wanted. There’s just something about the Olympics—especially as a parent who wants their children to witness determined people achieving their goals—it is magical.

When I finally attempted to download the app, my excitement over the NBC App quickly turned to disappointment when I saw that I needed a log-in from my cable company in order to view the games. Although I was still paying them for my Internet and phone, I was not actually a cable TV customer and therefore couldn’t log in. I was frustrated, but I didn’t get all out pissed off until I tried using my cousin’s Cablevision log-in. I immediately realized that based on my IP address, the NBC App/Cablevision knew that I wasn’t a customer and refused to let me log in.

You may be thinking that there must be another way for me to watch the games—and there are—but I don’t think I should have to do anything more than I am.

  • I could answer one of the hundreds of calls I have received from Cablevision since canceling—I would probably even get a better deal . . . well, for at least a year.
  • I could spend every waking moment—when not at work—at my cousin’s or sister’s homes watching the Olympics live.
  • I could force my family to DVR all of the sports we love, and then invite ourselves over all the time to catch up.
  • I could buy a converter for my TV so that I can watch NBC for free (are those boxes even still available?)

Ever since downloading that NBC Olympics app, I have been completely flabbergasted at NBC. It is not a requirement that you are a cable-subscriber to watch the channel, so why should I have to have cable? I was also under the impression that NBC wanted as many people as possible to actually watch the games and their network—which is why they created the “free” app in the first place.

I’d like to ask NBC their opinion about families, like mine, who would like their children to be inspired by these incredible Olympic athletes, and yet find it difficult to pay the cable bill. This post won’t end with advice for my daughter as it usually does—although I’m tempted to tell her to always stand up for something she believes in—but instead will end with advice for NBC: If you create something that is free in the spirit that anyone might use it, you should make sure that it is, in fact, free.