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How to watch the 2018 Winter Olympics opening ceremony

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Let the games begin!

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Previews - PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

The 2018 Winter Olympics have arrived, and things will kick off with the extravagant opening ceremony, which features the lighting of the Olympic flame, the introductions of the countries participating through the flag parade, and a showcase of the culture and history of host nation South Korea.

While the opening ceremony may claim to be the “official” start of the games, the Olympics actually started on Thursday afternoon in Korea (Wednesday evening in the US) with mixed doubles curling and ski jumping. They will be continuing throughout Thursday and Friday with other events, including figure skating, before the ceremony actually starts.

When is the opening ceremony?

The opening ceremony for the XXIII Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang starts at 8PM KT (6AM ET / 3AM PT here in the US).

This is where things get tricky. In the past, NBC has refused to show the opening ceremony live — the last time was the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games — instead holding it for Friday night when it can air during the more advertiser-friendly prime-time slot.

This year, the broadcasting company — which holds the exclusive rights to the Olympics in the US — is compromising: the main broadcast on the NBC TV channel will still be at 8PM ET on Friday, 14 hours after the ceremony has actually occurred in South Korea. But there will be a stream of the live event available online through NBC’s various apps (including NBC, NBC Sports, and NBC’s Olympics website).

NBC is one of the only broadcasters across the world to intentionally tape-delay events, so this practice left US viewers in a strange place: lagging behind the rest of the world as NBC waits until timing is more convenient for the network.

Over-the-air / satellite / cable

So, if you only have access to traditional broadcast TV, whether that be over-the-air, satellite, or cable, you have one option: wait until the delayed broadcast at 8PM ET on NBC. The advantage (or disadvantage, depending on your feelings on commentary for the opening ceremony) is that the 8PM prime-time broadcast will be hosted by NBC’s Katie Couric and Mike Tirico.

But I want to watch it live! What are my options?

The good news is that NBC is actually going to air the ceremony live this year at 6AM ET / 3AM PT, if you’re willing to wake up. The bad news is that it’ll only be available on internet streams through the NBC apps and websites. NBCOlympics.com on the web or the NBC Sports mobile app (Android / iOS) are your best bets. That stream will only feature “natural sound only,” instead of color commentary, which again, could be a plus or a minus, depending on your preferences.

Unfortunately, to watch online, you’ll need a cable login of some kind, either from a traditional cable company or an over-the-top TV service like Fubo TV, DirecTV Now, Hulu, PlayStation Vue, Sling TV, or YouTube TV (which can also be used to authenticate NBC’s app).

That’s all good, but how do I watch the opening ceremony live and for free?

Well, technically, you can’t.

But there are a couple workarounds to try. First off, while you need a way to authenticate the live stream to watch live at 6AM, you can sign up for a free trial of one of the over-the-top services like Fubo TV, DirecTV Now, Hulu, PlayStation Vue, Sling TV, and YouTube TV (assuming you haven’t used up all your free trials on the Grammys and Super Bowl).

Additionally, as my colleague Chris Welch pointed out in his general Olympics viewing guide, the BBC airs coverage of the Olympic Games for free. With a VPN (which probably won’t be free), you can mask your traffic to appear as though you’re an English citizen, and enjoy the live coverage of the opening ceremony there. For additional coverage on game results, medal counts, and more, stay tuned to our sister site SB Nation.

Disclosure: Comcast, which owns NBCUniversal, is an investor in Vox Media, The Verge’s parent company