How to Watch the Olympics Online Free

Photo (cc) by Chris Bizzy

Today, the 2012 Olympic Games begin. Want to watch it all online? You’ll need to jump some hurdles.

If you live in the United States and want to see London-based Olympics events live on your computer, smartphone, or tablet, you have to go through NBC. And if you don’t have a cable subscription that includes CNBC and MSNBC, you’ll only be able to see 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 only free for existing cable 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 to 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 have 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 just 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?

If you don’t have cable, you’re not completely cut off. Here’s what NBC’s frequently asked Olympics questions section says…

If I don’t sign-up, will I be able to view any online Olympics coverage on NBCOlympics.com 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 NBCOlympics.com and with the NBC OLYMPIC APP. You won’t be able to view every event live without signing up [for cable].

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

I wasn’t sure which app “NBC OLYMPIC 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 NBCOlympics.com 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 view 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.”

What specifically you’ll be able to watch without access to one of these cable connections is unclear – and totally up to NBC.

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 Internet) 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 NBCOlympics.com 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 straight through the process. You should only have to set up access once.

What if I currently 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 Olympics coverage through its YouTube channel, too.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
How to Invest in Real Estate for as Little as $500
How to Invest in Real Estate for as Little as $500

If stock market volatility has you looking for other investment options, here’s a way to diversify — even if you don’t have tons of money.

5 Simple Steps to an Awesome Retirement
5 Simple Steps to an Awesome Retirement

The path to your dream retirement begins with these five steps. How many have you already taken?

7 Reasons to Carry Mortgage Debt Into Retirement
7 Reasons to Carry Mortgage Debt Into Retirement

It often makes financial sense to not pay off your mortgage before retiring.

9 Products That Will Organize Your Home for Under $45
9 Products That Will Organize Your Home for Under $45

These clever Amazon finds can help transform a messy nest into the pristine home of your dreams.

Not Asking About This in the Hospital Can Cost You Thousands
Not Asking About This in the Hospital Can Cost You Thousands

Medicare recipients who fail to clarify their hospital status can pay a high price.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership
How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership

The warehouse club often has some of the cheapest gas in town. Here’s how you can get it as a nonmember.

10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home
10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home

If you like to keep things simple, avoid these purchases.

A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today
A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today

A few steps can keep your phone from ringing when a spammer calls.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

This iconic dinnerware is prized for everyday use as well as reselling for profit.

This Company Makes the Best Tires in America
This Company Makes the Best Tires in America

Driver satisfaction with tires is at an all-time high, but one brand stands out.

7 Home Improvements That Cost a Lot More in 2021
7 Home Improvements That Cost a Lot More in 2021

These projects will take a bigger bite out of your budget than in the recent past.

This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance
This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance

One type of pain is especially associated with cognitive decline.

Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?
Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?

Knowing when to claim can help you maximize benefits.

Medicare Will Not Cover These 6 Medical Costs
Medicare Will Not Cover These 6 Medical Costs

Don’t let these health care expenses catch you off guard in retirement.

Beware This Hidden Ingredient in Rotisserie Chicken
Beware This Hidden Ingredient in Rotisserie Chicken

Something foul may lurk in those delicious, ready-to-eat birds.

8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon
8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon

The giant retailer shines when it comes to these things, from basics to hard-to-find specialty goods.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food
5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food

Anyone can take advantage of these resources.

Never Buy These 10 Things on Amazon
Never Buy These 10 Things on Amazon

Just because you can purchase something on Amazon doesn’t mean that you should.

7 Big Purchases You Should Never Make
7 Big Purchases You Should Never Make

Sometimes a big-ticket purchase is nothing more than a big waste of money.

5 States With the Worst Health Care for Retirees
5 States With the Worst Health Care for Retirees

All of these states are located in the same region of the nation.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

5 Products You Should Never Buy Generic
5 Products You Should Never Buy Generic

Sometimes the brand-name version is clearly superior.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.