The 2018 Winter Olympics officially get started tonight from Pyeongchang, South Korea with mixed doubles curling. This is a new event for the Olympics and comes in advance of Friday’s opening ceremony and the lighting of the Olympic torch. More competition is scheduled for tomorrow including figure skating and freestyle skiing.
If you’re like me and find the highs and lows of the Olympics irresistible, you’re probably wondering about the best way to watch the games. After all, where else can you bounce around from seeing pure elation when someone achieves a lifelong dream to the embarrassment and anguish they show after totally blowing it with one wrong move?
NBC is the official broadcast partner for the 2018 Winter Olympics here in the United States and plans to blanket its various NBCUniversal networks — NBC, NBC Sports Network, USA, CNBC, and the Olympic Channel — with coverage. Here’s how that shakes out:
NBC: 176 hours of total coverage
Daily daytime, primetime and late-night primetime plus shows from Feb. 8-25.
Primetime is at 8PM ET each night except Sundays, when it starts at 7PM ET.
Live primetime coverage of Alpine skiing, figure skating, snowboarding, freestyle skiing and short track speed skating.
Daytime coverage from 3 to 5PM on weekdays and 3 to 6PM on weekends across all time zones beginning February 10th. Coverage includes speed skating, ski jumping, cross-country skiing, biathlon and luge.
NBCSN: 369 hours of total coverage
Live primetime coverage for the first time, plus 10 days of 24-hour programming.
Live men’s and women’s hockey finals.
Medal events in biathlon, bobsled, cross-country skiing, luge, Nordic combined, short track speed skating, ski jumping, snowboarding and speed skating.
CNBC: 46 hours of total coverage
Highlighted by evening curling telecasts, usually from 5 to 8PM ET.
USA: 40.5 hours of total coverage
“Mostly live” coverage of curling and hockey between 7 and 9:30AM ET.
If you’ve got traditional cable:
Cable and satellite TV customers will be able to stream events in their entirety live and on-demand if they miss a must-see moment when it originally airs. The central hub for all of this viewing is NBCOlympics.com if you’re using a web browser or the NBC Sports mobile app, which you can download here for Android or here for iOS. There’s also an NBC Sports app for most of the big streaming devices (Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV, etc.).
If events aren’t being televised, you can still watch them live as they happen by streaming. (There’s a pretty massive time difference at play, but NBC is still being aggressive in its TV coverage.) NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app will also be packed with highlights that won’t require any kind of cable authentication to view.
Comcast has created a dedicated hub for the Winter Olympics where you’ll be able to quickly get to live coverage or watch curated highlight packages like triumphant moments or devastating mistakes. It’s also planning to offer on-demand Olympics content in 4K HDR. Dish and DirecTV are both doing the same, though you’ll need to own the right equipment for each provider if you want to watch in that glorious quality.
No cable? Internet TV is your second best option:
If you don’t have cable, the NBC Sports app will let you stream up to 30 minutes of live video initially. So if you track things on social media and only care about one event or athlete, maybe that’ll be enough to get your fix. After that first viewing, you can watch 5 minutes of live video each day of the Olympics — but that’s really not enough to be of any use. What if you want to see more action live?
If you’ve got an antenna hooked up to your TV, that’s enough to get you primetime NBC coverage and see many of the biggest events. But you’ll still need to find some way of accessing the other NBCUniversal networks (and the online streaming portal) if you want the whole Winter Olympics experience.
It’s here where internet TV services like Hulu, YouTube TV, Sling TV, DirecTV Now, and PlayStation Vue are going to come in handy. Almost all of them offer a free trial if you haven’t signed up before, but those won’t necessarily last long enough to cover everything. Sling TV, Hulu with Live TV, DirecTV Now, and YouTube TV will all give you one free week. Combining a couple of them — if you haven't already used up your free trials — should be enough to cover everything at the Pyeongchang games. PlayStation Vue’s trial is only five days.
Hulu built a custom interface for the Winter Olympics and will let you follow individual sports if you don’t want to be overwhelmed by stuff you’ll never watch. Don’t you get enough hockey outside of the Olympics, anyway?
Fubo TV, which is another, sports-focused web TV service, is also streaming Olympics coverage and has a free 7-day trial.
The important thing to check is whether or not you get a live feed of NBC with these services, and the answer is going to depend on where you live. Sling TV, for instance, only offers a live stream of NBC in select markets. That’s true for pretty much all of them, actually. Be sure to put in your viewing area zip code with each company to make sure you won’t get stuck with on-demand content and miss out on live events. You’ll still get live access to NBC Sports Network and USA on Sling no matter what, according to the table below:
Another good thing to know: the NBC Sports app will let you sign in with your account credentials for any of these internet TV services if you prefer to watch via that app or from NBCOlympics.com. DirecTV Now, Hulu, PlayStation Vue, Sling TV, and YouTube TV are all listed among the supported TV providers. Just scroll down past the list of big cable/satellite companies to get to them.
Watch in virtual reality:
Intel has said that over 50 hours of 2018 Winter Olympics coverage will be made available to experience in virtual reality (VR). Google Daydream VR/Cardboard, Samsung Gear VR, and Windows Mixed Reality users will all be able to don headsets and experience events in 360-degree immersion. The NBC Sports VR app is what you want to install on whatever device you’re strapping to your face to get you closer to the slopes or luge track. Here’s the website with instructions on how to get started.
Use a VPN and watch the BBC’s free coverage
Another option is to pick a trustworthy VPN and pretend to be someone from the UK. With the right IP address (which is where the VPN comes in), you can tune into the BBC’s coverage of the Pyeongchang games for free. The VPN part likely won’t be free, but if you’ve already got one set up for other purposes, the BBC is your path to the drama and suspense.
Watch through social media
Failing all else, you can count on seeing some highlights, videos, and big moments on Twitter. NBCUniversal will likely clamp down on user-posted content and have some removed, but social networks should be good for something — especially from official accounts tied to the Winter Olympics. Additionally, you can also catch up on the latest news, medal counts, and games results out of South Korea through our sister site, SB Nation.
Disclosure: Comcast, which owns NBCUniversal, is an investor in Vox Media, The Verge’s parent company.