If you’re planning on watching the summer games but don’t know how, we’ve compiled a guide here on how to stay current on what’s going on. Our first section is on television, but if you’ve cut the cable, skip it, because we also have apps, online streaming, and some virtual reality content for those of you lucky enough to have gotten in on the VR ground floor.
Here’s our guide to your Olympic viewing options.
Let’s not forget the original television delivery system here. NBC can be received on an antenna and stick with us for a second because it’s not the weird shitty rabbit ears anymore. While no one was looking, the tech improved to the point where it could be considered a viable option for watching the Olympics, among other things. It shouldn’t be dismissed, since most of the stuff is cheap and offers better quality than other still lagging options. It doesn’t require a subscription of any kind and is more reliable than online streaming. At the very least, don’t scoff at it.
For cable subscribers, NBCUniversal’s breakdown of where you can watch everything they’re broadcasting is extensive and frankly, we didn’t know that NBC owned and operated this many channels.
NBC proper, where you used to watch The Office, unless you watched on Netflix, is covering the most popular sports. Swimming, gymnastics, track and field, diving, beach volleyball, regular volleyball, and men’s and women’s basketball finals can be seen here. They’re also going to have all that oh-so-sweet Bob Costas action, along with interviews and produced segments.
NBC Sports Network will live up to its name and air the most sports coverage. They’ll be covering basketball, soccer, track and field, archery, boxing, cycling, fencing, field hockey, judo, open water swimming (good luck to the athlete’s in that one), rugby, shooting, soccer, table tennis, weightlifting, wrestling, and more.
The Golf Channel is airing golf. So exactly what you’d expect. The reason it’s notable is golf hasn’t been in the Olympics for more than a century, so we recommend flipping here once or twice, if not because you like golf, at least to watch a bit of history get made.
If you want tennis, you’re going back to Bravo. That’s what they’ve got and it seems like they’re happy with it.
CNBC’s not airing a whole hell of a lot. It has a lot of sports, including elimination round basketball and volleyball, archery, beach volleyball, cycling, rugby, water polo, and wrestling, but they’re only airing that stuff for three hours on weekday nights. Not that you should skip it, but maybe if you’re playing catch-up, this is where you can look.
There’s a bit more on MSNBC, like basketball, beach volleyball, rugby, soccer, volleyball, and water polo, with more time devoted to them than CNBC, so this is a better bet for your more obscure sports lunchtime fix.
The USA Network’s summer Olympics hiatus ends this year and will air coverage starting two days before the Opening Ceremonies all the way through to the last day. They’ll have men’s basketball, beach volleyball, cycling, rowing, synchronized swimming, volleyball, water polo, and a few others.
Telemundo and NBC Universo is doing it all in Spanish, so if you’re bilingual and want to practice tune in here. If you only speak Spanish, we’re not telling you anything you didn’t already know in a language you don’t understand.
There are specialty channels as well, but the website’s not terribly clear on what they are or where you can find them. Just that they’re airing a ton of soccer and basketball, each with its own devoted channel.
Finally, they’re airing 4K UHD video on a one day delay this year. They’re packing a ton of tech into the broadcast, so if you have the capability, definitely check this out.
There are a few different options for Olympic apps, but if it’s live streaming you’re wanting, US-based viewers might not have that many options. The most reliable one is the NBC Sports app, as it offers a bunch of different choices about what live event you want to stream, but you may also need a cable sign-in to watch. The good news is, that sign-in is most likely the same thing you use to get into HBO Go and similar services, so if you have that, it should work for the app. Unless you got the HBO specific subscription. Then maybe not.
The NBC Sports app is also available for Roku and similar devices.
There’s plenty of stuff for staying up to date in terms of results and medals on your mobile device, as Rio 2016, Brazil 2016, and the official Olympic app all serve that purpose, along with dozens of other apps in every app store. They’ll also be offering highlights and videos throughout the Olympics, just maybe not streaming.
A bit riskier, Kodi is an open-source app that streams all kinds of stuff. It seems reputable and, when we think about it, we haven’t had a truly bad experience with open source software, so this may be worth your time. It’s also available for just about every device you can think of and some you can’t. All told, this might be your best, if legally dubious, bet for live streaming. We know a guy who tried it out, and everything seemed to work for him.
The Kodi app should be mentioned here as well. For a computer, the guy we know said it runs smoothly and the stream seemed stable and at a decent resolution. It could be considered an option for Olympic viewing.
There will be coverage and highlights on NBC’s site, but it looks like it’s going to have the same login requirement as the mobile app. It should be a great and reliable source, as long as you have that login.
There’s also the official Olympic YouTube channel, though it looks like that won’t go active until August 21st. Hopefully someone puts up some kind of live streaming on YouTube, as their service seemed pretty stable, judging from the presidential primary debates they were streaming.
Social media’s going to be all over the games too. There are Facebook and Twitter pages set up for news and highlights and for staying informed down to the minute, this should be a pretty good, if a bit factually unreliable, source.
Streaming and 4K are cool and all, but one of the true technological tests of the Olympics is going to be in VR. While it’s not exactly where you’d expect VR to show up, it makes perfect sense if you think about it. A brand new technology trying to prove that it’s a worthwhile investment couldn’t hope for a better platform. This could be the exact thing VR needs to push it out of obscurity and into the general population.
Through a partnership with Oculus, NBC is going to make about 85 hours of VR footage available to those with the Samsung Gear VR kit and they’ve published a guide to setting up the experience. Footage includes the opening and closing ceremony as well as basketball, gymnastics, track and field, beach volleyball, diving, boxing, and fencing, which are definitely not the lamest sports they could’ve picked. We do wish rugby was on the list, but it’s just a matter of time so we’ll be patient.
Speaking of patience, there’s going to be a time delay of one day on the footage, but honestly, that’s completely understandable. A VR livestream has a lot of potential for failure and would make all VR look bad, possibly even doing damage to the progress the technology’s made in recent years. Emphasizing the quality of the broadcast rather than the immediacy of it is a good move and there’s going to be so much to watch, you won’t even notice it’s not live.
Sadly, the VR experience is exclusive to the Samsung Gear. We find it a bit odd that, right now, the footage isn’t going to be available on Oculus’s own VR device, the Oculus Rift. There’s probably a whole host of legal crap to sort out, so that makes a little more sense, but it doesn’t lessen the disappointment. But if the past has taught us anything, the footage will probably come to the Rift, just not right away. People love their exclusivity, even if there is a time limit built into it.