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How to watch the Olympics online

Unfortunately, your options are going to be limited if you don't have a cable or satellite TV subscription.

By MSN Money Partner Jul 27, 2012 1:06PM

This post comes from Brandon Ballenger at partner site Money Talks News.


Money Talks News on MSN MoneyThe 2012 Olympic Games begin today. Want to watch them all online? You'll need to jump some hurdles.


Image: Woman with computer (© Jose Luis Pelaez/Getty Images/Getty Images)If you live in the U.S. and want to see London-based Olympic events live on your computer, smartphone or tablet, you have to go through NBC. And if you don't have a cable or satellite subscription that includes CNBC and MSNBC, you'll be able to see only parts of the games.


NBC is offering more than 3,500 hours of Olympics video for TV and digital devices, and they're touting it as "free" -- but it's free only for existing subscribers. That's something you might not know by looking at their mobile apps. Here's the top of the description for NBC Olympics Live Extra for Apple and Android devices:

Get ready to watch every moment of the 2012 London Olympic Summer Games LIVE for FREE with the NBC Olympics Live Extra app. In addition to watching all the live action, during the Olympics, enhance your viewing experience with alternate camera views, plus full replays on-the-go! You can follow your favorite events and sports, and receive push notifications for event start times.

And here's a typical one-star review that users ranked the most helpful:

Too bad if you've cut the cable/satellite by Grumpymatt
You are out of luck if you are like many who have chosen to cut (or had to due to finances) your cable or satellite subscriptions. It requires verification that you are a subscriber to access live events.

Adding to the confusion is the fact there's more than one app. In addition to NBC Olympics Live Extra, which offers "comprehensive live coverage," there's another official one called NBC Olympics, which lets users "experience the best of the 2012 London Olympic Summer Games." Does that mean highlights? Let's try to sort this all out.


What can I do without cable/satellite?

If you don't have a paid-TV service, you're not completely cut off. Here's a frequently asked Olympics questions at NBC:

If I don't sign up, will I be able to view any online Olympics coverage on or with an app?
Yes. You will still be able to view limited live NBC network content including full event replays, short-form highlights and features, event encores and other content at and with the NBC Olympics app. You won't be able to view every event live without signing up (for cable).

(Post continues below.)

You also may be able to get full access through a buddy's or neighbor's Internet connection, as I explain below. But first, here's what I did:


I wasn't sure which app "NBC Olympics app" referred to, so I downloaded both.


On the NBC Olympics app, I was able to see Olympics news headlines, photo galleries, video clips of athlete interviews, a schedule, and result pages -- all stuff that seems available through on my laptop. All of this should be free to everybody regardless of cable, since every national media outlet will probably have similar wall-to-wall coverage.


The app's schedule marks what's currently live and available for replay. Trying to tap on any of the events to watch them sent me over to the Live Extra app. So it appears NBC Olympics is the "everything else" app, and Live Extra is the streaming app.


In the Live Extra app, there's a top reel of video clips including what's live, how to get the app, and how it works. There are also some of the same interviews from the other NBC Olympics app.


Below that, there are reels called "Live Now," "Spotlight," and "Channels." When I looked at it on Thursday, there was a lot of overlap between those reels -- it was all the same soccer stuff. I expect it will diversify as more events are happening. The Live Extra app also lets you "heart" events from the full schedule to create a custom one, which will send your phone an alert 15 minutes before your faves start.


Without logging in, I was able to watch both replays and live coverage. But I think this is because my Internet connection is provided by my cable company, Comcast. NBC's FAQ says, "For some at-home users, 'automatic' validation may occur, allowing direct access to content without the need to input a username/password."


Does that mean I can watch everything for free?

Maybe. Just as you can sometimes get free Wi-Fi from your neighbor's unsecured connection, you may be able to get free access to Olympics video -- if their Internet comes as part of a package from a cable company and not a telecom (DSL) service, and if that particular provider happens to automatically validate. It may come down to luck, but it definitely worked for this South Florida Comcast/Xfinity customer.


I have cable. How do I get started?

If you try to view video on or the Live Extra app and you aren't automatically validated through your Internet connection, you'll be prompted to select your cable provider and enter your username and password.

This may have been established when you registered for service, and maybe it's attached to an email address provided by the company. If you don't have a username and password or don't know what it is, you'll need your account number or a recent bill. NBC’s FAQ has dropdown menus of all the cable companies and can direct you through the process. You should only have to set up access once.


What if I live outside the U.S.?

The official Olympics YouTube channel will offer fans "across 64 territories in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa" more than 2,200 hours of high-definition coverage, for free -- no cable required. CTV will offer Canadians Olympic coverage through its YouTube channel.


More on Money Talks News and MSN Money:

Jul 27, 2012 8:53PM
What a complete crock of ****. You can't watch the olympics w/o cable or satellite?!
Jul 30, 2012 10:45AM
Watch Olympic Game for FREE!!! It is russian website! Hope you will enjoy it! It is live!
Aug 10, 2012 6:52AM
The 2012 Olympic Games Live Stream will be made available through various media. As this event is dubbed as the “Digital Games”, this can be watched even through your computer or Smartphone live.

Jul 28, 2012 10:58AM

Here is a blog post - you will have to search for it, this won't let me put in the link -  Edit Your Home Movies blog - Olympic Coverage on Roku BBC without Cable TV 
about watching wrap up olympic coverage on the BBC with a Roku player. Forums have mistakenly said that the BBC Roku in the states isn't working but it is. 
Jul 28, 2012 1:27AM
Following the link to the FAQ, the specific question you quote doesn't seem to be there anymore. In fact, any reference to "full event replays" now seems to be in the same context as live streaming, i.e., you must already pay for cable.
Jul 28, 2012 7:33PM
You can Watch 2012 Summer Olympics Games Online at our website. We are the number one source to view the Olympics Live Stream.

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