UPDATED JULY 24, 2012: Details on watching the Olympic Torch Relay online, mobile apps available, and exclusive content for Facebook added.
The Olympic Games date back to the 6th Century BC, but this summer’s London 2012 Olympics mark the first time you can sit at the computer and watch the Olympics live online. NBC Sports will be streaming every London 2012 Olympic event live on the Internet, in real time, without waiting for the evening’s primetime tape-delayed coverage.
When NBC says “every event,” they do mean every canoe race, judo match, and rhythmic gymnastics competition will be streamed live over NBC Olympics Live Extra, and most of those Olympic events will be available on demand afterwards. NBC will stream an average of 291 hours of Olympic coverage daily.
Just be aware the games are being played on London time. That means streams to watch Olympics live online will begin daily around 3am EST and the games will run until around 7pm EST.
Watch Your Favorite Olympics Videos
Download your favorite Olympics videos online and save them in your personal video cloud. Then you can watch the video on your phone, tablet, and even TV.
If your Olympics-watching binge just can’t wait for the actual games to begin, then check out a free, live webcast of the Olympic Torch Relay. The official website of the London 2012 Olympics is hosting live video of the Olympic Torch Relay as the torch makes its way to Olympic Park in London. No cable subscription verification is required, but the stream is only shown live – not on demand. Torch carriers begin at about 3am EST and continue until about 12 Noon EST each day until July 27. If that doesn't work with your schedule you can always catch highlight videos of the Olympic Torch Relay on a dedicated YouTube channel.
There has already been quite a few memorable and amusing moments in the Olympic Torch Relay as the flame traveled from Athens, Greece through England. Two pint-sized schoolboys in the English city of Coventry actually managed to hop on course and steal the Olympic Torch for all of about two seconds. Another British torch carrier proposed to his pregnant girlfriend while running with the torch - it was quite a heartwarming moment captured on video.
HOW TO VERIFY YOU CAN WATCH ALL THE OLYMPIC EVENTS LIVE ONLINE
NBC’s live Olympics webcast is available at no cost – provided that you have a valid cable subscription. Unlike ESPN’s online streams of the NBA Playoffs, NBCOlympics.com video will be available to all cable and satellite subscribers regardless of carrier. As long as your cable package includes CNBC and MSNBC, you have met the minimum criteria to watch Olympics live online.
The streams are free and completely legal, but you will be asked to verify your cable account first. This entails more than just a quick click – you’ll need to produce your account number, then create a username and password for this account, then log in with your new account (that’s the account you just created). It’s a new concept called TV Everywhere, and this is how cable networks and movie channels will stream movies and premium video online without allowing access to non-subscribers.
Viewers without a cable subscription can watch the Olympics live online free. NBCOlympics.com, for example, will stream a few live Olympic events that will not be behind the subscription verification firewall, but these are unlikely to be the more popular Olympic events. If you want to stream the debut of Women’s Olympic Boxing on July 28th, or Paul McCartney performing at the Olympics opening ceremony on July 27th plan on having proof of that active cable or satellite TV subscription.
OLYMPICS ON MOBILE APPS AND FACEBOOK
If one screen is just not enough to satisfy your Olympic cravings – and NBC is hoping that it’s not – there will be two official Olympics apps for smartphones and tablets. Mobile device and tablet viewers can get in on the games with the NBC Olympics Live Extra app that provides the same universal streaming video access of all Olympic games and a cable subscription is still required. If you don't have a cable subscription, there's a loophole through which you can watch the Olympics on a cellphone or tablet. GigaOM reports that mobile device users can watch the Olympics free for a one-hour grace period before cable subscription verification is required. The grace period for non-cable subscribers lasts only one hour and can only be used once, so choose that hour wisely.
The second Olympics app is simply called NBC Olympics and will provide brief highlight videos, news, photos, real time stats, and medal counts. The NBC Olympics app delivers “second screen” capabilities for the nightly broadcast on NBC that provides interactive analysis of the athletes competing in the evening’s tape-delayed broadcast, plus a Facebook plug-in for posting, and some Twitter features for a more interactive watching experience. Both apps are free and available for Android and Apple iOS.
Speaking of Facebook, the social networking site has partnered with NBC to provide exclusive content and online tools. You’ll see Olympic-themed online polls popping up on your Facebook feed frequently during the games. Facebook is also launching a new tool called Talk Meter for the Olympics, designed to highlight the Olympic athletes and events that are trending among your friend network. Rest assured the NBC announcers of the games will provide reminders often to check out these Facebook features.
OLYMPICS LIVE WEBCAST WILL DIFFER FROM NBC BROADCAST
Web viewers will be able to watch Olympics live, but for recaps and highlights they’ll still need to tune into NBC’s primetime broadcast that airs on NBC that evening. The primetime shows will feature interviews and highlights interspersed with tape-delayed competitions, while the Internet streams will simply show the live competitions. Though, you will not get all the available NBC camera angles in your online viewing. Broadcast announcers will still describe the action, but these may not be U.S. or NBC announcers to whom you’re accustomed. That said some sports may have multi-screen feeds available, but which Olympic events haven’t been announced. After all, NBC still wants you to tune in for the slick and superbly edited primetime broadcast replay that evening. The event that is on NBC that evening, you will not get on demand access to that video until after it has aired on NBC.
London is five hours ahead of Eastern Time, and eight hours ahead of Pacific Time. This means the highest-profile Olympic events will stream live in the U.S. late in the morning on the East coast of the U.S., and early morning on the West coast. The Men’s Basketball Gold Medal Game, for instance, will stream live at 10 a.m. EDT and 7 a.m. PDT on Sunday, August 12.
Mobile device and tablet viewers can get in on the games as well, with the NBC Olympics On The Go app that will provide the same universal streaming access of all Olympic games. This will also be the first Olympics broadcast in 3D, though 3DTV viewers will only get next-day tape delay broadcasts of certain select events.
The London 2012 Olympics will begin with the opening ceremony on Friday, July 27, and the games will run through Sunday, August 12.
What Olympic sport are you looking forward to watching live? For me, it's definitely canoe slalom.
Joe is a San Francisco tech blogger, sports journalist, and regular contributor to the RealPlayer blog. His background writing technical manuals and internet marketing content fostered his interest in web video, while his two years writing for NBC fostered his interest in cracking bad jokes. Joe’s work has been quoted in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal on days when their editors made particularly strange decisions.