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How to watch the Olympics without paying for cable TV

Michael Ansaldo | Aug. 3, 2016
These alternatives add up to an all-access pass to the 2016 Summer Games.

Rio 2016 promises to be the “most live Olympics ever.” It may also end up being the most-streamed, thanks to a wealth of options that enable cord cutters catch all the action.

More than 10,500 athletes from 206 countries will compete in the Games of the XXXI Olympiad this August. NBCUniversal (NBCU), which has exclusive broadcasting rights to the Olympic Games, will air 6,755 hours of Olympic programming across its channels and digital platforms. That includes NBC, NBCSN, Bravo, USA Network, MSNBC, CNBC, and Golf Channel.

Olympics on NBC

NBC will deliver the most TV coverage of the 2016 Summer Games. 

That’s enough to stop the heart of any cord-cutting Olympics enthusiast. With the exception of its flagship station, all NBCU’s channels are cable networks. And though NBC will live stream 4,500 hours of coverage on and through the NBC Sports app, both require users to authenticate their pay-TV subscriptions.

The good news is today there are alternatives for cord cutters we couldn’t dream of at the time of the last Summer Games just four years ago. And with very little hassle or expense, you can be sure you won’t miss a single medal-winning performance.

Catch the Olympics over the air

The simplest and least expensive way to get your Olympic fix without cable is with an OTA antenna. You’ll only be able to tune in to NBC, as the other channels are not broadcast, but that will still give you access to a significant portion of the Games. The network is slated to deliver more than 260 hours of coverage, including some of the Olympics' most popular sports: gymnastics, swimming, diving, track and field, beach volleyball, and the men’s and women’s basketball finals. It will also carry the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.

NBC also goes behind and beyond the competition. Its coverage includes athlete features, interviews with medal winners, and segments on the host city and country. Not bad considering it’s all free for the watching (you'll have to suffer through commercials, though).

Mohu ReLeaf
Jason Cipriani

In our most recent roundup, the Mohu ReLeaf delivered the best bang for the buck among OTA antennas, but you'll want an amplified model if you live far from the nearest broadcast tower.

Subscribe to a Sling TV package (or three)

If you’re willing to shell out a few bucks for your Olympic viewing, there’s good reason to go with Sling TV. With a few cherry-picked packages, you can get every channel covering this year’s Games.


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