All eyes are on London these days, where athletes of the world are getting ready to compete in the 2012 Olympic Games. And there’s some good news for sports fans: Not only are the main competitions scheduled to happen during times when most of us in North America are actually awake, you’ll also be able to watch almost everything in real-time online – as opposed to the hours of tape delay that are common for traditional TV coverage of the games.
However, there’s a bit of a caveat: NBC will be streaming more footage than ever before – but only to viewers that can authenticate themselves as pay TV subscribers. How does that work, where can you watch once you’re authenticated, and what else can you do with your iPad, iPhone or Android mobile device?
Check out our definitive guide to watching the Olympics online:
How to get access: To watch any of NBC’s live streams, you’ll have to first authenticate yourself as a pay TV subscriber with access to both CNBC and MSNBC. That should cover most cable and satellite customers, but you might be out of luck if you have an analog basic package that doesn’t include both of those channels.
Authentication is fairly simple, and can be done even before the games start: Just go to NBCOlympics.com or launch NBC’s mobile app, start the authentication process and select your pay TV provider. You’ll then be forwarded to your TV provider’s website, where you’ll need to log in with your username and password.
Don’t have those at hand, or maybe you never signed up for an online account with your cable provider before? No worries, NBC will give you a break in form of a four-hour viewing pass. This feature is rolling out on NBCOlympics.com on Saturday, 7/28.
Don’t pay for TV? Here’s how you can watch the Olympics without cable.
Watch on NBCOlympics.com: Once authenticated, NBC is going to stream every competition on every sport, totaling more than 3,500 hours of live coverage on its website. The streams will be available as 1080p HD, if your Internet connection can sustain it. Viewers will even be able to watch specific parts of an event. Really love the long jump, but don’t care about all the running during track and field competitions? NBC has a live stream for you.
Watch on your iPad or iPhone: The live stream will also be available through a dedicated app for iPads, iPhones and iPod touch devices. The app does require authentication, so get your pay TV credentials ready, and then head over to iTunes.
Watch on your Android device: NBC will also provide live streams through an Android app, which essentially mirrors the look and functionality of the iOS app. And of course, viewers will need to authenticate as well. However, there’s one big downside for Android users: the app will only work with a limited number of devices. How can you know if it will work for you? Just go Google Play, log in with your Google account, and check the green box under the install button on the left.
Of course, watching live video feeds isn’t the only thing you can do with your tablet or mobile phone. Here are some of the apps that deliver additional information to your second screen as you’re watching the games unfold:
The other NBC Olympics app: NBC and Adobe built a separate app to keep track of the performance of athletes in London and show highlight videos. This app doesn’t require any authentication, but can be used in concert with the live video app. And there’s a so-called Primetime Companion mode that can be used to receive additional information synced to competitions you’re watching on TV. It’s available for both iOS and Android, but the Android version doesn’t work on all handsets.
Shazam: The sound-tagging app will offer check-ins, up-to-the-minute results, polls and other extra features throughout the Olympic Games. Shazam knows which competition you’re watching by listening to your TV’s audio feed, and is available for both Android and iOS.
BuddyTV: Online TV guide BuddyTV wants to make it easier to find the competitions you like when they air on TV, which is why the company introduced an Olympics-specific quick-lists feature to tell you exactly what’s airing where and when. BuddyTV also comes with a bunch of social features, and is available for iOS, Android and Google TV.
PlayUp: Sports fans who want to geek out while watching their favorite artists compete can use the new version of PlayUp’s sports-centric second screen app to chat live with like-minded viewers. PlayUp also ropes in relevant Twitter feeds and live results, so you won’t miss any of the action. PlayUp is available for iOS devices in the iTunes store.
ConnecTV: Olympic gold medalists Greg Louganis, Aaron Peirsol, Amanda Beard, and Eric Fonoimoana are contributing to the Watercooler section of ConnecTV’s second-screen companion app, chiming in on this year’s games while the app provides you with live results, top tweets and background info. ConnecTV is monitoring what you’re watching on TV, so it knows exactly what to tell you at which times. ConnecTV is available for Windows, OS X and the iPad.
We will update this list with additional apps and information as the games unfold.