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Originally published Monday, August 11, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Games coverage by NBC has limits

With millions spent for broadcast rights and more than a billion in advertising at stake, there's a lot of testiness surrounding who sees...

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With millions spent for broadcast rights and more than a billion in advertising at stake, there's a lot of testiness surrounding who sees what when in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

That certainly was the case Friday, when, to the consternation of many, NBC showed the lavish opening ceremonies during prime time, rather than live 12 hours earlier. Even if you tuned in to the NBCOlympics.com site — where hours upon hours of coverage are planned over the next couple of weeks — you wouldn't have glimpsed a second of ceremony coverage.

What's more, in this Internet age, content that sneaked through the barricades for posting on YouTube didn't get too far before being pulled.

NBC's explanation was simple: It wanted the maximum audience for its TV coverage — where the gold-medal advertising dollars are.

Nevertheless, the network's Web site, supported by Microsoft's Silverlight video-delivery technology, is promising to fill your screen time with live and on-demand coverage. But, here again, there are limitations.

People who don't subscribe to one of NBC's "distribution partners" are left out in the cold. NBC said this is a small slice of the U.S. audience, less than 10 percent by its own reckoning.

One of those is Paul Drahn, who lives in Crooked River Ranch, a community about 15 miles outside of the other Redmond in Central Oregon.

"I thought this would be great for my wife to watch a bunch of the Olympics on the Internet," Drahn said in an e-mail to us. "We don't have TV by choice. When all was downloaded and ready to go, I had to enter my ZIP code, no big deal, and my TV service provider. There is no choice for 'none of the above!' "

Drahn was filling out the short "get local" form first-time visitors to NBCOlympics.com are prompted to complete.

The information helps populate the TV and online schedule tab at NBCOlympics.com with a programming guide specific to your market. But it also determines whether you are a customer of one of NBCOlympics' cable and satellite-distribution partners.

Drahn tried selecting the local cable company that provides access at his electronics-assembly business, BendBroadband, but it's apparently not among the partners.

For those who aren't customers of NBCOlympics distribution providers, the system denies access to the cream of the online presentation: live video and full-length replays of events that will take place in China while most of America is sleeping.

It's spelled out in NBC's Terms and Conditions of service.

Why the limits?

NBC made the premium package available to every cable, satellite and broadband provider in the country, said Greg Hughes, spokesman for NBC Sports. Not all of them chose to take it, but most did.

"There are limitations to everything that you do and you do them for business reasons and you don't want people to fall through the cracks, but you can't make everything available to everybody at all times," he said. "... What we're doing is, a, maximizing our rights for the Olympics and, b, maximizing the exposure where we can, but there are parts of this that are out of our control, certainly."

Location, location

In a low-stakes David vs. Goliath competition, Seattle's Estately last week won the "most innovative Web service" award at the Inman Real Estate Connect conference in San Francisco. Among the finalists the pipsqueak real-estate startup defeated: Zillow's Mortgage Marketplace.

Other local finalists included Redfin, in the "most innovative brokerage" category, and Mixpo, in "most innovative technology."

Separately, the city of Kirkland received the "special achievement in GIS" award from GIS industry giant ESRI, during the ESRI user conference in San Diego.

Download, a column of news bits, observations and miscellany, is gathered by The Seattle Times technology staff. We can be reached at 206-464-2265 or biztech@seattletimes.com.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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