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Streaming the Olympics Will Be Easier Than Ever This Year

You won't need cable this year to watch the action down in Rio.

by Chris Brantner
Jul 28 2016, 1:00pm

Signatures in 2009 in support of the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Image: Wikimedia Commons

In case you didn't realize it, the Olympics is kind of a big deal. Don't believe me? Just look back to the 2012 London games. Averaging 31 million viewers per day, not only was the Olympic games the most watched event in US history, but it also set streaming records with approximately 159 million total streams.

Think that's something? Wait until you see what NBC has planned for those who want to watch the Olympics online this year, which begin on August 5.

"With 4,500 hours of streaming—1,000 more than London—including nine TV networks and connected TVs for the first time, we certainly anticipate record-setting consumption for Rio," Rick Cordella, SVP and General Manager of Digital Media at NBC Sports Group, told Motherboard.

The live streaming will occur on NBCOlympics.com as well as the NBC Sports app. The catch? You get a small free preview, but then you have to log in with your pay TV credentials to authenticate. Which means cord cutters are out when it comes to watching the Olympics, right? Thankfully not.

There are actually two platforms which will allow you to watch the Olympics online. First up is Sling TV, who recently struck a deal with NBC to carry their channels. For starters, local NBC affiliates are available in several major markets, including New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, with the Sling Blue package, which will allow many people to stream a good chunk of Olympic coverage. Of course, if you aren't in one of those markets, you can still get your local NBC affiliate free with an antenna.

The other network that's a must-have for Olympics coverage is NBCSN. And along with the agreement, the Sling Blue package allows you to watch NBCSN online in real time, so you can catch all the action while everyone else in the US is watching to avoid spoilers. Of course, there are other NBC-owned stations like Bravo and USA that will carry some Olympics coverage, all available with various Sling TV packages. For more info on which station will carry what sort of coverage, visit here.

The other platform that will allow you to watch the Olympics online without cable is PlayStation Vue. Similar to Sling TV, Vue offers NBC local affiliates in select markets, as well as all the other channels you need for Olympic coverage. It's slightly more expensive starting at $29.99 per month ($39.99 per month in markets where it carries NBC local affiliates), but has a key differentiator when it comes to Olympics coverage--you can use your login info to authenticate the NBC Sports app and other TV Everywhere apps. This makes it the only way to watch via the app without cable.

Of course, that inevitably means that people will be sharing passwords to gain access without actually paying for anything. How does NBC feel about this?

"We're aware that password sharing exists and look for ways to implement controls," Cordella said. "However, our data suggest that password sharing isn't as prevalent or as harmful as believed."

Regardless, it's something NBC is willing to deal with. And why not? According to Cordella, "as with all of our streaming coverage, it serves as a complement to our television presentation, and our extensive research shows that the more someone consumes the Games digitally, the more they will watch on TV."

So the more people tuning in to the online video, the more people will watch on TV. The more people watch on TV, the higher the ratings. The higher the ratings, the happier the advertisers. And so on, and so forth.

But besides all that, the writing's on the wall. There's a clear shift to online viewing. And it seems clear that NBC isn't looking to be left behind.