The 2016 Summer Olympics kick off Friday night in Rio de Janeiro with an opening ceremony that is likely to be one of the most-watched TV events of the year, if previous Olympic openings are any guide.
The opening ceremony for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London drew a reported global audience of 900 million people, with 41 million of those people watching from within the U.S. For some context, those U.S. viewership totals would outpace this year’s Academy Awards (34.3 million viewers) while falling well short of the most recent Super Bowl (111 million).
In other words, a lot of people will be tuning in to host network NBC for tonight’s festivities—featuring the ceremonial lighting of the Olympic cauldron and the parade of thousands of athletes from 206 countries (even Russia!)—as well as for the sporting events planned for the next two weeks in Rio, as NBC is likely to easily average more than 30 million viewers each night.
Of course, not everyone will be able to watch NBC’s Olympics coverage live between now and the closing ceremonies on August 21, as the network has once again opted to air various Olympic events on a tape-delay. The opening ceremony is no different, as the event will air on a one-hour delay for viewers on the east coast of the U.S., with even longer delays in the western U.S.
For a by-the-numbers look at the games, check out this piece: http://fortune.com/rio-olympics-numbers/.
While many viewers complain about NBC’s tape-delay tradition, the network maintains that the practice is better for ratings as NBC claims female viewers (who actually make up the bulk of the Olympics’ audience) watch sports differently than men do, with women investing more in coverage showing athletes’ journeys to the games than in the actual results. (Still, some people are looking for ways to circumvent NBC’s tape delay to watch the Olympics live.)
Considering that NBC spent more than $1.2 billion to secure the U.S. rights to air the Rio Olympics (and has paid even more to air the Olympics through 2032), it’s understandable that the Comcast-owned network would be particular when it comes to its broadcast strategy. And, that Olympics coverage has already proven to be a windfall for the network, which said this week that it has already set a record with $1.2 billion in national advertising sales for this year’s summer games, which puts NBC on pace for a 20% bump over the network’s ad sales for the 2012 London Olympics when this year’s event is finished.
NBCUniversal has a lot of ad space to fill, too, as the company says it will produce 6,755 hours of Olympics coverage over the next two weeks across its family of broadcast and cable networks, plus streaming. With that in mind, here are all of the ways you can watch the 2016 Summer Olympics.
TV (broadcast and cable): You can catch thousands of hours of Summer Olympics coverage on NBCUniversal’s two broadcast networks, NBC and Telemundo (for Spanish language coverage, and on eight different cable networks: Bravo, CNBC, the Golf Channel, MSNBC, NBC Sports Network, NBC Universo (Spanish language), the USA Network, and two “Specialty Channels” that will carry basketball and soccer games. NBC even said it’s offering some 4K Ultra HD coverage to various cable and satellite providers for certain Olympic events.
Streaming: NBC will be live-streaming every single athletic event at this year’s Olympics, which means 4,500 total hours of content on NBCOlympics.com or through the NBC Sports app. Roughly 85% of viewers are expected to watch some of NBC’s coverage via a “second-screen” (aka mobile) device, according to WalletHub, and NBC said this will be the first year that viewers will be able to watch the network’s coverage through a connected TVs, including Apple TV, Google’s Chromecast, Roku, and Amazon Fire devices. NBC is expected to draw a pretty sizable digital audience this year, as more and more people stream live content, and those high expectations are evident in the fact that the network’s digital ad sales are up 33% over the 2012 Summer Olympics. (Viewers watching online or through the NBC app will need to enter login credentials for their cable provider.)
Streaming for Cord-cutters: There are several ways to watch the Olympics without cable, including a subscription to the Dish Network’s Sling TV service, which streams most major NBCUniversal channels carrying Olympics coverage as part of its $25-per-month package. Another option is Sony’s Playstation Vue, which also streams various NBC channels and has subscription packages starting at $30 per month. Additionally, Playstation Vue subscribers can use their login credentials for that service to access the NBC Sports app and stream the Olympics on mobile devices, as well. Both Sling TV and Playstation Vue also have seven-day free trials, but that would only cover you for half of the Olympics. (Note: NBC’s network feed is only available to Sling TV and Playstation Vue customers in “select markets.”)
Of course, if you’re a cord-cutter who doesn’t want to pay for a fancy subscription streaming package, there’s always an even cheaper, though not quite as fruitful, option: get a digital antenna. You can watch more than 260 hours of Olympics coverage on the flagship NBC broadcast channel for free with an antenna in most U.S. locations and the antenna itself can cost as little as roughly $10. (Meanwhile, if you really want to skimp, some sites are also offering tutorials on how to use a VPN, or virtual private network, to cut out NBC and access free livestreams from other countries.)
Virtual Reality: Want to feel like you’re actually at the Rio Olympics without the cost of a plane ticket to Brazil (or the risk of contracting the Zika virus)? NBC has you covered in the form of a partnership with Samsung that will allow users of the NBC Sports app, who also have a Samsung Gear VR as well as a Samsung Galaxy smartphone, to access more than 100 hours of virtual reality programming. That VR content will include coverage of the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as certain men’s basketball, gymnastics, track and field, beach volleyball, diving, boxing, and fencing events.