How to Watch the Summer Olympics for Free

The media company NBCUniversal boasts of "an unprecedented 6,755 hours of programming" from Brazil this month. Here is where you can watch at no cost.

How to Watch the Summer Olympics for Free Photo by lazyllama /

The media company NBCUniversal has the 2016 Summer Games as “the most live Olympics ever,” boasting of “an unprecedented 6,755 hours of programming” from Brazil this month. So you might think you can catch some of the action for free.

And you’d be correct, although that’s hard to tell that from looking at , NBCUniversal’s website devoted to coverage of the games.

As part of a , NBCUniversal was awarded the rights to broadcast this summer’s Olympics — and every other Olympics through 2032 — across all media platforms in the U.S.

So while you can watch the action in Rio de Janeiro live on, the NBC Sports app and NBC Olympics app — and on 11 TV channels owned by NBCUniversal — you’ll need a paid-TV subscription to do so.

For example, to view content on the website or apps, you must first log in using the username and password you use on your TV service provider’s website. This enables NBCUniversal to verify that you have an “authenticated” paid-TV subscription. The media company restricts access to Olympics programming to people with such subscriptions.

If you don’t pay for TV, though, you still have a couple of options for catching the Summer Games for free.

TV antenna

Two of the NBCUniversal-owned TV channels that will air all or part of the Olympics are broadcast channels: NBC and Spanish-language channel Telemundo.

That means you can catch anything aired on those channels with only a TV antenna — no paid-TV subscription necessary.

As we explain in “How to Choose the Right Cord-Cutting TV Service“:

You can watch HDTV with an antenna. The picture from on-air TV stations is perfectly clear, thanks to the switch to digital TV completed in 2009. You’ll either see a crisp, beautiful image or no image at all. (Static is a thing of the past.)

Now, all you need besides those rabbit ears is to know which competitions air on the two broadcast channels, and when. You can find that information at NBC’s .

Sling TV

Sling TV is an internet-based TV service available via devices like Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Roku players.

It offers access to broadcast and cable channels, including several NBCUniversal-owned channels that will air all or part of the Olympics, such as NBC, NBC Sports Network and USA Network.

While Sling TV costs $20 to $40 per month — depending on the package you pick — a is available. Just be sure to cancel before the trial expires so your credit card does not get charged if you don’t want to subscribe.

Do you plan to watch the Olympics? Let us know how you watch and which competitions you’re most excited about — leave a comment below or .

Karla Bowsher
Karla Bowsher
I’m a freelance journalist and former newspaper reporter who has covered both personal and public finance. I've worked for a top 50 major metro daily and a community newspaper as well as ... More


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