How to Watch the Olympics 2016 Without Cable

Starting August 5, the 2016 Olympics will kick off in Rio de Janeiro. It promises to be “the most live Olympics ever” thanks to all of the live streaming options available. Here’s how to watch it.

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NBC Universal (NBCU) has exclusive broadcasting rights to this year’s Olympics. Roughly 6,755 hours of programming will be available across NBC, NBCSN, Bravo, USA Network, MSNBC, CNBC and the Golf Channel.

Although NBC will live stream 4,500 hours of the Games at and through the NBC Sports app, both services requires you to log in with a paid TV subscription. However, there are alternatives.

OTA Antenna

Buying an OTA antenna is probably the easiest solution. There are plenty of options to choose from, depending on your needs and where you live. First, find out which channels are available in your area. You’ll have better luck if you live in or near a metropolitan area. A couple of websites to check out are TV Fool and AntennaWeb.

TV Fool is the better choice. It creates a polar graph and a list of color-coded channels broke down into callsign, signal strength and distance. The tool even categorizes the channels by UHF and VHF. ¬†AntennaWeb explains different types of OTA antennae and explains the jargon you’ll find as you shop.

tvfoolIt’s important to pick out the right antenna based on your geographical location and which channels you want. For a better choice of channels broadcasting in all directions, choose an omnidirectional antenna. If all of the channels are strong in your area, then maybe a directional antenna will be a better choice. This antenna is stronger and reaches further than an omnidirectional antenna.

The next step is determining whether to get a UHF antenna, VHF antenna or one that does both. Most antenna models are better at one or the other, and less at both. In general, lower numbered channels will most likely be VHF and higher channels will be UHF. You can even try building your own antenna. Lifehacker has great instructions here, here and here.

antennawebSling TV

Generally better than traditional cable, with Sling TV you can start getting more than 40 channels for $20/month, and on any device. Depending on where you live, you can try to get a package that will net you channels covering the Olympics.


If you live in one of the following areas, you can get the Games on NBC:

Chicago, Dallas, Hartford, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, San Diego, Washington, D.C. If you live outside of these areas, you can’t get the main NBC channel but you can get these channels: NBCSN, USA, Bravo.

NBCSN is covering: boxing, fencing, field hockey, track and field, cycling, synchronized swimming, weightlifting and wrestling. This channel also hosts most of the medal ceremonies, and covers Team USA women’s soccer and Team USA men’s and women’s basketball.

slingtvUSA: This channel covers women’s soccer, beach volleyball, cycling, synchronized swimming, rowing, water polo, volleyball and men’s basketball.

Bravo: Bravo covers Olympic tennis from August 6-14, including men’s and women’s singles finals.

Paying a little extra money gets you MSNBC, CNBC and the Golf Channel. Since Sling TV offers a free seven-day trial, you can watch much of the Olympics for free. You can even cancel your subscription once the Olympics are over. If you prepay for three months of service, you have the opportunity to get a free Roku 2, 50% off a Roku 3 and $60 off an Apple TV.