By Mike Murphy
It’s been delayed a year, will have almost no fans in attendance and there’s a 13-hour time difference with the U.S. East Coast, but the Tokyo Olympics will still offer some must-see viewing when they kick off Friday. The only question is, where?
The good news is that you can watch thousands of hours of the Olympics for free over the next few weeks. The bad news? No one platform offers absolutely everything.
The simplest way to watch is on NBC, and on NBCUniversal’s family of cable channels that include USA, CNBC, NBC Sports Network, the Olympic Channel and the Golf Channel. And while most of those require a cable subscription or live-streaming plan (such as YouTube TV, Sling or Hulu Live), remember that NBC is broadcast for free — all you need is an antenna for your TV, which can typically be found for $30 or less at electronics stores.
NBC and its sister channels will have everything most viewers will want: basketball, track and field, gymnastics, swimming, etc. NBC’s prime-time show will air at 8 p.m. Eastern (5 p.m. Pacific) every night starting Saturday; expect to find all the major finals, pre-packaged highlights and the usual tear-jerking features and profiles.
Comcast’s (NAS:CMCSA) streaming service, Peacock, will carry thousands of hours of Olympics programming, and it’s almost all free. If you’re a Comcast or Cox cable-TV subscriber, you should be able to get Peacock Premium (typically $4.99 a month, with ads) for free.
But anyone can watch Peacock for free — all you need to do is download the app. All of its Olympics programming will be available to stream on its free tier (with one big exception), though viewers will have to create an account to log in. And that one big exception? U.S. men’s basketball games will only stream on Peacock’s Premium tiers (though they’ll also air on TV).
Peacock will feature an Olympics hub, with dedicated channels for live events, on-demand highlights and in-studio highlight shows. Be warned that while most events will be streamed live, the full-event on-demand features won’t be available for around 24 hours. Also, Peacock will not stream the Opening Ceremony.
Viewers can also log on to nbcolympics.com or use the NBCSports mobile app for live and on-demand coverage of events — if you provide a login for your cable provider. The website also has a handy schedule of events , listing what’s airing or streaming, and where.
There’s also Locast.org , a free (and legal!) site where you can stream local broadcast TV (so NBC, but not the cable channels).
Don’t expect to see many highlights on social media. The International Olympic Committee is notorious for cracking down on unauthorized clips, and will zap them from existence. But there are some authorized sources.
Twitter (NYS:TWTR) will have a daily studio show live from Tokyo, and @NBCOlympics will have video highlights. Snap’s (NYS:SNAP) Snapchat will also have five daily shows, including two highlight shows, and Amazon’s (NAS:AMZN) Twitch will have a prime-time interactive stream to go along with NBC’s broadcast. There will also likely be highlight clips on the official NBC and Olympics TikTok accounts.
So when does it all start?
The Opening Ceremony will be broadcast live coast-to-coast on NBC starting Friday at 6:55 a.m. Eastern. Too early for you? It’ll be rebroadcast Friday evening, starting at 7:30 p.m. (4:30 Pacific). NBCSports’ website and app will also carry the Opening Ceremony live.
Between the time difference and replays, there’ll be Olympics programming running pretty much 24/7 through the Closing Ceremony on Aug. 8.