How to watch the 2016 Rio Olympics on TV and every other device

Let the games begin.
Let the games begin.
Image: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
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The 2016 Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro officially begin tomorrow (Friday), Aug. 5. If you’re reading this, you may be feeling overwhelmed about how exactly to watch it all. There are a lot of competitions, spanning three weeks, broadcasted on several different channels, streamed on a smorgasbord of apps and websites, and all of which are available on all sorts of devices.

Fear not, for Quartz has you covered.

You can see the full schedule here, or subscribe to the Quartz Olympic Calendar to have the major events appear automatically in your calendar of choice. The International Olympic Committee estimates that 5 billion people will watch the Olympics this year.

First, we’ll start with the easy stuff. If you subscribe to a cable television package, this first section is for you.

How to watch if you pay for cable TV

We won’t list every country, but rest assured, the Olympics will be on television in essentially all of them. Here are the major broadcasters in a few countries:

  • United States: NBC (English), Telemundo (Spanish)
  • United Kingdom: BBC
  • Canada: CBC
  • China: CCTV
  • Brazil: Several networks (see here)
  • Germany: ZDF, ARD
  • Mexico: Canal 22
  • India: DD National
  • France: France Télévisions

If your country isn’t listed above, check this handy resource to see what channels the Olympics will be on.

In the US, NBC will be your headquarters for the next month. But that doesn’t just mean the broadcast network NBC. Competitions will also be shown across NBCUniversal’s slate of cable channels, including Bravo, CNBC, MSNBC, USA Network, and NBC Sports Network. To see which channels will show each specific event, check here.

If you get NBC through your cable subscription, you’ll also have access to all of NBC’s streaming content via the NBC Sports app and The NBC Sports app is available on iPhones, iPads, Android devices, Windows phone, Amazon Fire TV, the new Apple TV, Roku, and Chromecast. You will, of course, have to login with your cable credentials to access live events on the app. If you don’t have any cable credentials, try asking a friend or family member—nicely.

And if you have a 4K TV, you’re in luck—NBC plans to broadcast over 80 hours of coverage in glorious 4K UHD. NBC will also broadcast 100 hours of events in virtual reality, but only for those with Samsung Galaxy phones compatible with Gear VR.

In the UK, the games will stream live on BBC’s iPlayer. In Canada, CBC will stream the games on its app and website. If you’re an American who wants to watch the opening ceremony live, you’ll have to use a VPN service and watch BBC or CBC’s live coverage. While NBC is airing most events live, it is broadcasting the opening ceremony on a tape delay.

To see where cable subscribers in other countries can access the Olympics online, check here.

How to watch if you don’t pay for cable TV

Cord-cutters, this section is for you.

In the US, your first and most legitimate option is to sign up for an internet TV service, like Sling TV or Playstation VueBoth services offer seven-day free trials, so if you time it right, you could watch the Olympics online for two weeks for free.

Sling TV’s $25 Blue package includes NBC, NBC Sports Network, Bravo, and USA Network. However, those channels are only available in these markets: Chicago, Dallas, Hartford, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, San Diego and Washington, D.C. Usually, subscribers have to pay $5 extra for MSNBC and CNBC, but Sling is offering a free preview of those channels through the games. Sling TV is available on most major devices (here’s the full list).

Playstation Vue, which recently expanded to the entire US, also includes NBCUniversal channels in its base package (which runs $40). In addition to NBC, you’ll get CNBC, MSNBC, NBC Sports Network, Bravo, Telemundo, and USA. Like Sling TV, Playstation Vue is available on most major devices.

If you’re more of a hands-on type of person, buy an HD antenna (they typically run about $20 to $50) and watch NBC for free on your TV, over the air.

Handy resources