Your ultimate guide to streaming the summer 2016 Olympics


The 2016 Summer Olympics, set in the literal cesspool that is Rio de Janeiro, are finally here. There are more problems than just the raw sewage that will pose challenges and threats to the athletes, media, and spectators during the Games, but they are still the Olympics and, as we learned from the London Games and historical Nielsen data, everyone watches the Olympics, and with a staggering 6,755 hours of footage set to air between 11 broadcast networks and digital platforms, there is going to be a lot of Olympics to watch.

So for cable package subscribers to cord-cutting millennials borrowing an HBO GO password, here’s all the ways you can watch the Olympics online.


Someone Else’s Cable Log In and the NBC Sports app are showing everything (except the opening ceremony) and those are the only way to guarantee you can witness all 306 events across 19 days live. (This is your reminder that anything you might watch on linear, over-the-air TV during primetime will actually be footage taped from earlier.)

NBC’s making broadcasts available on computers, cell phones, tablets, and connected TVs, and over-the-top boxes like Roku or Apple TV. There will be so much more stuff available online and on the app (archery, powerlifting, canoe sprint, and more).

Here’s a schedule for the official livestream coverage. Telemundo’s website and apps will be showing that networks’ coverage, as well.


NBC has put a large number of restrictions on what digital platforms can do with highlights. Snapchat will be making their own content on a dedicated channel, and BuzzFeed will be there reporting through the Discover section. Snapchat’s done this already this year with the Super Bowl and the Oscars, so assume there’ll be a similar user experience.


Search and follow the official account of the games (@rio2016) for additional content created by NBC Sports. I mean, people are going to be tagging you in various #OlympicFails as it is with their own uploads, so might as well see some additional stuff.

Facebook Live

Publishers are going to figure out Facebook Live someday. Maybe. Until then, you can watch interviews with athletes, commentary from NBC personalities, highlights, and exclusive short-form video essays.

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality is the next wave in entertainment, and content providers (like Fusion!) and the people who make the machines that provide that content are invested in virtual reality, and thanks to technological advances, it’s not as lame as it was during your friend Todd’s birthday party at Dave & Buster’s back in sixth grade.

The nitty-gritty: You’ll need a mobile device with Samsung Gear functionality (a Galaxy Edge or Note, basically), as well as a headset that will hold that device. From there, you just get the NBC Sports app and you’ll be on your way to watching events like gymnastics, basketball, beach volleyball, and diving in 360-degrees.

On TV, If You Must

NBC, the regular old TV channel that is free, will be showing a lot of the Olympics. Honestly this is what most people will be watching, so if you want group texts, Twitter, or Snapchat to make any sense for the next few weeks, this is honestly your best bet.

The Peacock’s also planning to broadcast during the day time as well as blocks for recaps and replays in the early, early morning hours. Ten other NBC-owned cable channels are going to be doing broadcasts as well, which you can learn about here. Another bonus for cable: the 4K resolution material is going to be easiest to watch as on-demand programming.


Sling TV

You’re going to have to stagger some subscriptions or sign up for previews, but Sling customers will be able to watch every broadcast and cable channel that’s showing the Olympics. Want to watch Bravo’s tennis coverage? Sling has your back. It’ll run you about $40 for the month-ish amount of time the Olympics are on, but will give you access to non-Olympic TV during that time as well, so it’s a pretty good deal. Sling’s available on services like Amazon Fire TV, so if you’re using one of those, Sling’s even offering a one-week trial to their barebones service which would get you the opening ceremony and a few days of events.


“What the hey is Tablo,” you ask. It’s like Sling TV, but only works for over-the-air broadcasts, which, again, are free and in HD. What sets it apart is its wifi-enabled DVR. It’s a physical box with an accompanying app that you can use with your computer, mobile, tablet, or on Apple TV/any TV stick you can think of.

It connects to your internet connection (or 3G/4G if you’re on mobile) and works like a regular old DVR, provided you’re TV is picking up the free over-the-air HD signal. So you’ll need a HDTV antenna for it to work, and a USB hard drive to record content. The cheapest one costs about $200 bucks, but that’s a one-time fee (they offer a TV Guide-like subscription service, too). If you only want to watch NBC and Telemundo’s stuff (as well as other network programming), this could be the way to go.

Playstation Vue

Did you know Sony had an online TV service? They do! “Access,” their base level subscription, costs $40 a month but gives you, ahem, access to several of the channels that are showing the Olympics: NBC, CNBC, MSNBC, Telemundo, NBC Sports Network, Bravo, and USA. It doesn’t offer the DVR playback that Tablo does, but you get some cable channels and don’t have to buy a $200 piece of equipment that only does one thing. Now, you do need a Playstation 3 or 4, or one of three sticks/boxes (Roku, Fire TV, Chromecast), or an iPad, Fire, or Android tablet. But, chances are you already have one of those. They’re currently offering a seven-day trial, so it’s another option to test-drive and catch the opening ceremony.

Enjoy the games, don’t drink the water.

David Matthews operates the Wayback Machine on—hop on. Got a tip? Email him: [email protected]

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