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
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.

Could You Give Up These 7 Expenses to Save Thousands of Dollars a Year?
Could You Give Up These 7 Expenses to Save Thousands of Dollars a Year?

You could save more than $30,000 by setting aside these costly expenses for just one year.

5 States Where Drivers Pay the Most for Car Insurance
5 States Where Drivers Pay the Most for Car Insurance

Auto insurance will cost you more than three times as much in one state compared with another. Here’s how to lower your rates no matter where you live.

17 Home Maintenance Tasks That Save You Money
17 Home Maintenance Tasks That Save You Money

Here’s how to cut household costs and maintain your property’s value.

7 Hobbies That Help You Live Longer
7 Hobbies That Help You Live Longer

Research shows some hobbies can add years — or even decades — to your life.

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.

Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?
Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?

Can an adult daughter tap into her late mother’s benefit?

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

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.

This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia
This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia

Nearly half of U.S. residents may face this threat.

Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds
Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds

Resolve to be clutter-free in 2021 with these secondhand purchases.

This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers
This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers

For the second straight year, a growing number of Americans believe they’ve fallen prey to this scam.

11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It
11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It

Seriously? Fibbing about the weather is a crime? This and other little-known legal traps await the unwary.

11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco
11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco

Not all generics are worthwhile, but these are among the best from Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand.

These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy
These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy

These vehicles boast reliability, safety and long-lasting value.

13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free
13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free

There are many ways to get cheap or free services and goods after reaching a certain age.

6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have
6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have

Few retirees have all of these documents that are crucial to their golden years — especially during a pandemic.

8 Tips for Retiring Comfortably on Social Security Alone
8 Tips for Retiring Comfortably on Social Security Alone

It’s never too early to start learning how to live well while living on less.

Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore
Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore

Starting this month, your ISP no longer can bill you for this fee.

Is This Treatable Condition Causing Your High Blood Pressure?
Is This Treatable Condition Causing Your High Blood Pressure?

Researchers say too many doctors are overlooking this potential source of hypertension.

15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021
15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021

Follow these tips to save, so you’ll have money for things that really matter.

9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry
9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry

Keep more of future paychecks by eliminating these budget-busting unnecessary expenses.

11 Huge Retirement Costs That Are Often Overlooked
11 Huge Retirement Costs That Are Often Overlooked

Does your retirement budget account for all of these costs?

7 Bank Accounts With Extra Perks for Seniors
7 Bank Accounts With Extra Perks for Seniors

These accounts offer exclusive discounts and other perks — including interest — to older customers.

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.