The Olympics begin tomorrow and, fortunately for all the defiant cord-cutters out there, it’s never been easier to watch the games without paying a cent to your local cable provider or groveling to friends and family members for their network passwords.
First, the obvious: As they are every year, the Games will be available to anyone capable of connecting an antenna to their HDTV and finding a signal from a nearby NBC affiliate (just a reminder: Modern antennas are sleek and offer pristine image quality; not-so-modern ones are cheap and still work). But if you’d like to watch over 4,500 hours of swimming, wrestling, trampolining and judo-ing (which is more than what you’d get on NBC alone) you’re going to want to stream Rio on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app, which runs on Android, iOS and Windows devices in addition to Amazon Fire, Apple TV and Roku.
Currently, there’s some controversy over whether NBC will allow everyone to watch the Olympics online without a cable subscription: WIRED thinks this is a possibility, but Variety reported last month that NBCOlympics.com will only give freeloaders 30 free minutes of streaming before forcing them to log in with credentials from a cable or satellite provider. [UPDATE: Christopher McCloskey of NBC Sports confirmed with us that both NBC’s app and website will require authentication via cable credentials after a thirty minute grace period.]
Thankfully, cord-cutters still have a number of other options. The best, and easiest, is probably Sling TV. The streaming video service runs on Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast and any Mac or PC, and it offers access to NBC network affiliates in all the big markets — including Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas, New York, Miami, San Francisco and Washington D.C. — through its premium service, Sling Blue (see the full list of covered cities here). While Blue costs $25 a month, new subscribers can watch all the Serena Williams they want absolutely free for seven glorious days. (How long, exactly, do the Olympics go for, again?)
What’s more, Sling Blue subscribers gain access to Bravo and USA Network, both of which carry their own Olympics coverage; Bravo will televise all the tennis matches, while USA will host eight hours of sports most weekdays, including men’s basketball, beach volleyball, synchronized swimming and more.
Those with a PlayStation Vue have even more ways to watch: Like Sling TV, Vue provides access to local NBC affiliates covering the games, as well as all NBC-owned channels providing the vast bulk of Olympics coverage. But with Vue, you can use your login to authenticate the NBC Sports app and other TV Everywhere apps. (You can’t do that with Sling TV.) Oh, and Vue also offers a one-week trial period so you can give the $29.99 a month service a test run and then Usain Bolt outta there before they charge your credit card.
With access to NBC’s app, you’ll also be able to strap your phone to your face and experience some Olympics programming, including the opening and closing ceremonies, in potentially nauseating virtual reality. No doping scandal or dirty water can overshadow the cool factor of this experience — a first for the Olympics, if we’re being honest.
So there you have it. The Rio Olympics is looking like it’s going to be a real shit show — literally, because of all the poop in the water — but even if synchronized crying ends up being the highlight of the games, at least you’ll now be able to join in the masses without having to sign some kind of antiquated cable contract first.
God bless NBC digital and let the games begin!