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How to watch the 2024 Summer Olympics: Every streaming option

The Summer Olympics start this Friday. Here's how to watch the opening ceremony and the games, in some cases for free.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor
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The 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris kick off this week, and for those who have cut the cord, there are plenty of ways to catch all the action without a traditional cable or satellite TV subscription.

Also: The best live TV streaming services

When do the Olympics start? And where can I watch?

The Olympics will officially open on Friday, July 26, 2024, at noon Eastern time with a ceremony on the River Seine. However, some events, such as handball, rugby, and soccer, will begin on July 24-25. NBC and Peacock will present live coverage of the opening ceremony on Friday, July 26. Telemundo will provide Spanish-language coverage at 1 p.m. ET. Primetime coverage will begin at 7:30 p.m. ET/PT on NBC and Peacock. The Games will feature 16 days of competition, ending on August 11, with around 10,500 athletes from over 200 nations competing. 

NBCUniversal will provide at least nine hours of daytime coverage of the Summer Games' most exciting events. Altogether, NBC will present 5,000 hours of live coverage from all 329 medal events. This will include live coverage of swimming, gymnastics, and track and field finals. The major events will be shown on NBC and Telemundo between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. ET. Olympics coverage will preempt all other shows. Other events will be carried on the USA Network, Golf Channel, CNBC, and E!. For Spanish speakers, check out Telemundo, and Universo.

With an over-the-air (OTA) antenna, you can watch many sports on NBC and Telemundo for free. This is a great option for those who live in range of a broadcast tower. You can also watch the opening and closing ceremonies, some medal ceremonies, and highlights for free on the NBC Olympics website. 

Also: The best TV antennas

If you're outside the US, you'll need to use a VPN to stream the Olympic Games. ExpressVPN is our tested pick for the best VPN for streaming.

Paris is six hours ahead of the United States' Eastern time zone. That means most major events will happen in the morning and afternoon for American viewers. The network will also show a three-hour Olympics primetime show every evening. NBC promises that Paris 2024 will have more programming hours on the NBC broadcast network than any previous Olympics.

While the games will be produced in high-dynamic-range 4K video, it's unclear how much of that 4K video will be broadcast in the States, either on OTA or Peacock. Since NBC isn't boasting about it, I'm presuming the coverage will only be a few of the most popular events.

Here's ZDNET's comprehensive guide to watching the 2024 Paris Olympics, ensuring you don't miss a moment of the excitement.

Where to stream the Summer Paris 2024 Olympics

peacock-tv
Peacock/ZDNET

The best way to watch the Olympics will be by streaming on Peacock for $7.99 a month (that price did go up $2 a month in July, but Peacock is still one of the most affordable streaming services). 

With Peacock, you can stream all 329 medal events live. To help you watch, Peacock will offer features such as Live Actions, which lets you set prompts to jump to new activities, and Discovery Multiview, which allows you to stream four sports simultaneously. You can also create a viewing schedule, search by sport or athlete, and keep updated with all the medals and awards.

Peacock Live Actions is an innovative interactive feature that empowers viewers to customize their Olympic viewing experience during live and primetime broadcasts. This tool seamlessly allows fans to switch between different events based on their preferences.

Peacock Live Actions is particularly evident in programs like Gold Zone. This live whip-around show provides continuous coverage from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET. While watching Gold Zone, viewers can use on-screen prompts to opt for continued viewing of a specific event's live feed rather than following the Gold Zone coverage.

Additionally, Peacock Live Actions enhances the NBC Primetime simulcast experience by allowing viewers to add upcoming events to their "My Stuff" list for later viewing. Complementing Live Actions is Peacock Discovery Multiview. This offers a four-view experience to help users navigate the most significant events. With up to 40 live events co-occurring, this tool provides real-time on-screen descriptions from NBCU's Olympic experts, highlighting crucial moments such as medal events, elimination risks, or first-time Olympian performances.

Peacock will also offer another multiview option for a few sports, such as soccer, track & field, and wrestling, enabling you to watch up to four matches on one screen. This will work somewhat like the NFL Sunday Ticket does for American football. Both Multiview options enable you to switch between screens, change audio, and access full-screen views for a more immersive experience.

In addition, Peacock will be offering a host of other improvements. These include:

  • A "Browse by Sport" option enables you to quickly find all live events, highlights, and replays for your favorite competitions. Fans can quickly jump between sports via top-of-screen navigation.
  • A new "Search by Star Athlete" feature enables you to more easily follow your favorite athletes through the Games. This includes tracking them whether they are an individual competitor or part of a team sport. As in previous Olympics, fans can also search by sport, event, and team, including country names and three-letter country codes.
  • An enhanced Interactive Schedule enables fans to plan their Olympics viewing day-by-day, join events live, watch replays, or add events to their "My Stuff" to watch later.
  • Up-to-date Medal Standings help fans keep track of every country competing in Paris.
  • Peacock's award-winning "Catch Up with Key Plays" allows fans to easily access key moments when joining an in-progress game or revisit their favorite plays, will now be available for basketball and golf, in addition to soccer. 

The only possible problem is that Peacock doesn't offer a cloud DVR to basic subscribers. Replays of the most important events and happenings will be offered. With Peacock Premium Plus, which is $13.99 a month, subscribers can download and save some live event content to watch offline later. To do this, click the content's tile and the Add to Watchlist button on the details page. The content will then appear in the "My Stuff" section or in "Featured" under a row labeled "My Stuff." 

In addition, the Premium Plus plan promises to be ad-free. However, most live sporting TV broadcasts still have ads, so I presume the Olympics will. 

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DirecTV/ZDNET

Recently, DirecTV Stream didn't offer the NBC channels due to a contract dispute. Fortunately, the Olympic channels you need to watch the games -- CNBC, NBC, NBCSN, Olympics Channel, and USA -- are back now, even on its lowest-price level, the $79.99 Entertainment package.

In addition, DirecTV Stream includes generous unlimited cloud DVR storage. With it, you can keep as many DVR recordings as you'd like for up to nine months. 

You can watch the game or any other show on up to 20 streaming devices simultaneously on your home network. Away from home, you can share your stream with three other devices.

DirecTV has one unique feature. You can "upscale" some sports events to 4K and manually adjust the content to "Best," "Better," or "Good" across devices. However, I don't recommend this approach. When I tried it, I saw streaming slowdowns and odd video artifacts.

fubotv
Fubo/ZDNET

FuboTV is best known for its sports coverage, but it's also a full-fledged streaming service with all the usual networks, including the ones that matter the most for the games -- CNBC, NBC, NBCSN, the Olympic Channel, and USA.

FuboTV's starter plan, Pro, has 183 channels and 1,000 hours of cloud DVR storage. For $74.99 a month, you can stream up to 10 screens on your home network and three screens simultaneously away from home. One big plus about FuboTV is that it offers 4K streaming as part of its base package. 

FuboTV's other packages -- Elite, $89.99, and Premier, $99.99 -- include additional channels. The streaming service also offers a week-long free trial. 

All Fubo plans come with unlimited cloud DVR space at no extra charge. You can stream on up to 10 devices simultaneously on your home network, plus three streams outside your home.

Hulu + Live TV offers an attractive combination of on-demand video and live TV for $83 per month. For Olympics watchers, it offers your local NBC channel, CNBC, NBCSN, the Olympics Channel, and USA.

Hulu also offers enhanced cloud DVR, increasing the available DVR storage from 50 hours to 200 hours. That should prove very handy for the Games. In addition, you can store an unlimited number of videos in your cloud DVR archive for up to nine months.

With the Unlimited Screens package, you can watch the games on unlimited concurrent streams in your home with up to three outside for an additional $9.99 monthly. The service comes with a three-day free trial. 

slingtv
Sling/ZDNET

I like Sling TV's à la carte approach to channels. I enjoy picking and choosing channels, but I know some people find it more confusing than useful. That said, for the Olympics, you might be able to get by with Sling Blue, which costs $45 monthly. 

It takes digging but Sling TV does offer NBC and USA in "select areas." Which ones? Good question. This page will let you see what's available, but it doesn't explain the logic. For example, it tells me I can't get FOX, NBC, or ABC even though they are available OTA in my area.

Potential Sling TV subscribers need to look at the above-mentioned page if they want to get the service to watch the games. 

For CNBC, you'll need to pay $6 a month for a News Extra add-on, and you'll find the Olympics Channel on the $11-per-month Sports Extra package. NBC Sports is not included in any Sling TV package.

Sling TV's default cloud DVR offers 50 hours for free. You can upgrade to 200 hours for $5 a month. The video is shown on 720p HDTV. With a Sling Orange plan, you can only watch a single stream, and with Sling Blue, you can watch shows on three devices simultaneously. Combined, you can stream your shows on up to four devices. 

YouTube TV
YouTube/ZDNET

With over 100 channels, YouTube TV offers more popular channels than its competitors, and costs $72.99 per month. It includes all the relevant channels: NBC, USA Network, CNBC, and more.

By CNET's count, out of the top 100 live TV networks, YouTube TV offers the most channels, 78, of any streaming service. YouTubeTV's DVR is also outstanding. With it, you can record as many shows as you like. The only restriction is that they'll disappear after nine months. I can live with that.

However, for 4K, you'll need to pay extra for the $9.99 4K Plus add-on. This also gives you unlimited simultaneous streams and allows offline DVR viewing.

Can I stream the Olympics from outside the US?

Yes, you'll be able to watch the games. But, no matter which service you use, you'll need a virtual private network (VPN) to watch the games if you're outside the States. That's because NBC only has the rights to show the games in the US. To bypass these restrictions, you'll need to use the VPN  to make it appear you're watching the games from a US site. Here's how to use a VPN to stream the Olympics:

  1. Download and Install a VPN: ZDNET has several recommended streaming VPNs. Personally, I highly recommend NordVPN. ZDNET has named ExpressVPN the best VPN for streaming. 

  2. Connect to the Appropriate Server Location: Open the VPN app and select a site in the US. 

  3. Finally, go to your streaming service and start watching the games. 

Also: The best VPN services (and how to choose the right one for you)

Or, if you want to watch using your usual US streaming service, you can stream the game from your home streaming service with most VPNs.

I live in Canada. How can I stream the Olympics?

CBC will stream the Olympics for free on CBC Gem. Sportsnet and TSN will also provide coverage, but you'll need to subscribe to their services. 

What is the cheapest way to watch the Olympics?

The least expensive way to watch the games is with an antenna (find my top picks for the best TV antennas here). You can also watch some of the Olympics on the NBC Olympics site.

If you can't watch the Games with an antenna and don't subscribe to a streaming service, there is one other cheap way to do it: Get the game on Peacock

For detailed schedules and updates, visit NBC Olympics.com or the official Paris Olympics website. I guarantee the schedules will change, so if there's a sport you follow closely, keep an eye on what's showing and when. Enjoy the games, my friends!

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