If you’ve given up on NBC’s televised Olympic coverage, here are some other options

There are a few other ways you can watch.
There are a few other ways you can watch.
Image: AP Photo/Mike Groll
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We’re halfway through the 2016 Olympic games and Americans aren’t thrilled with the television coverage that US broadcaster NBC has provided thus far.

Fans have slammed the network, which has the exclusive rights to air the games in the US, for fumbling its coverage by airing too much swimming and gymnastics, delaying or failing to air groundbreaking moments, focusing on American success stories, and occasionally permitting sexist commentary.

But before throwing in the towel on watching the games, consider these other viewing options:

Channel surfing

TV is by far the simplest way to watch the Olympics. But NBC’s flagship TV broadcasts haven’t shown much love for sports besides swimming, gymnastics, volleyball, and track and field. Some of the sports that aren’t featured on NBC, like soccer, tennis, and golf, air on other NBCUniversal networks, including NBCSN, Bravo, USA, CNBC, MSNBC, Telemundo, NBC Universo, Golf Channel, and two Olympic specialty channels—one for basketball and one for soccer. Olympic tennis, for example, airs on Bravo.

Channel surf to find the sports that aren’t in NBC’s flagship coverage. Many of these events air with tape delays, so check NBC’s TV listings, rather than the official Olympic schedule, for the most up-to-date TV viewing schedule.

Curate your own streams

For über fans who don’t want to miss a minute of the games, live streaming is probably the best option. It’s more work and requires a decent broadband connection, but offers more control over the Olympics viewing experience. You can watch sports that aren’t airing on TV. And you can run multiple live streams concurrently, some of which don’t have the unwelcome commentary from NBC’s announcers and analysts.

Olympic gymnastics, for example, has been widely covered on NBC’s flagship TV broadcasts. But the competitions aired on tape delays. And, during the all-around finals, in which athletes from different countries competed on four different apparatuses at the same time, it was easy to miss things. I watched separate streams of each apparatus instead of the women’s gymnastics all-around feed, to make sure I caught every bounce and tumble.

Here’s how to track teams, athletes, and sports closely:

  1. Find the order the Olympic teams and/or athletes are competing in.
  2. Go to NBC’s live stream schedule.
  3. Choose the desired sport(s) from the drop-down menu.
  4. When you find the event(s) you want, open the ”Watch Stream” link for each one in a separate tabs.
  5. Queue them up based on the order of the competition(s). (See: Step 1.)
  6. Sign in through your cable TV provider to watch. Otherwise, NBC will boot you from the feed after 30 minutes of streaming.

Country-by-country coverage

If you’re tired of hearing about Michael Phelps, Simone Biles, and the rest of Team USA, try Olympics broadcasts from other countries. UK-broadcaster BBC’s coverage, for example, is more Euro-centric and pro-Great Britain than NBC’s, which favors Team USA.

In order to access another broadcaster’s coverage, you’ll have to make the internet think you’re in that country. Streams are usually ”geo-blocked,” which means that people can’t access them from other countries. However, you can use a VPN, or virtual private network, to make the internet think that you’ve moved locations.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Sign up for a VPN service like Overplay, ExpressVPN, or Total VPN. (Most of these services aren’t free. They can run you any where between $5 and $15 a month, depending on the service and plan selected. Some, like Total VPN, have free options.)
  2. Download the app to the device(s) you plan to watch on.
  3. Open the app.
  4. Connect to a server in the country you want to watch from. There are dozens of broadcasters around the world and not all are streaming the games, so review this list of Olympic broadcasters to see your options.
  5. Visit the stream of choice on your device, and enjoy.

This method of viewing the games isn’t perfect. Folks with lower broadband connections may have more trouble streaming, and the coverage from other regional broadcasters may not actually improve on NBC’s—viewers have criticized BBC’s and CBC’s coverage and commentary too.

Also keep in mind that using a VPN to circumvent geo-blocking, as described above, may violate some networks’ terms of use, and exists in legal grey area in countries like Australia. Know the internet and copyright laws in your country, and your desired broadcasters’ terms of use, before signing up for a VPN service.