The Winter Olympics have arrived once again, this time in PyeongChang, South Korea. We can look forward to watching the first Nigerian bobsled team compete for a medal and maybe inspire a sequel to the 1993 movie “Cool Runnings,” about the Jamaican bobsled team. We also anticipate watching more of the Olympics live, since the much-reviled tape delay is mostly gone, although some events will still be tape-delayed so NBC can show them in prime time.
United States — So how do you go about tuning in on your Apple devices? In the United States, NBCUniversal owns the broadcast rights, so on traditional TV, look to NBC, NBCSN, CNBC, USA, and the Olympic Channel to get your fix. But there will be more than 2400 hours of coverage, with a 14-hour time delay, so alternative methods of watching the games are more important than ever.
Unfortunately, you’ll need a subscription to a participating cable, satellite, or telco provider to take advantage of the NBC Olympics Web site and apps (here’s the full list). It continues to astonish us that NBC doesn’t sell an NBC Sports Gold pass to the Olympics, as they do with various specific sports.
The good news is that there is now a long list of streaming TV services that are affordable, require no lengthy commitment, will authenticate the NBC Sports apps, and offer an Apple TV app. Sign up with one of them and you can both test the service for a month and use your credentials to enable live streaming in the NBC Sports apps. That’s a fine deal for less than $40 for a month.
In the list below, I note each service’s minimum monthly price (which may vary slightly by region), which support Apple’s single sign-on feature, and which we’ve reviewed:
- DirecTV Now ($35, see “DirecTV Now Joins the Scrum of Cord-Cutting TV Services,” 9 December 2016)
- FuboTV ($19.99 for the first month; $44.99 afterward)
- Hulu with Live TV ($39.99, supports single sign-on)
- PlayStation Vue ($39.99, supports single sign-on, see “PlayStation Vue Wins Cord-Cutter Option for News and Sports,” 9 December 2016)
- Sling TV ($25 for Sling Blue to get NBC, supports single sign-on, see “FunBITS: Sling TV Is Made for Cord Cutters,” 20 February 2015)
- YouTube TV ($35)
The choice of service is up to you — the differences mostly come down to pricing and interface, and if you’re using one of these services just to authenticate the NBC Sports apps, interface doesn’t matter much. I’ve been partial to PlayStation Vue in the past, and I like YouTube TV’s interface, but DirecTV Now has a limited-time deal where if you prepay for three months of service, you get a free Apple TV 4K. So even if you don’t like DirecTV Now, you get a $179 Apple TV for about $115 after taxes and fees.
If you don’t want to pay for TV at all, you’re not entirely out of luck. Apple News has a prominent section where you can follow the games — just open the app, you can’t miss it. Snapchat will be live-streaming key moments, but that means using Snapchat, which has an interface best described as “brutal.” There’s also the dead-simple official Olympics app, though it doesn’t seem to offer any video. Finally, you could download the Team USA App, which offers information about U.S. athletes and even includes a mini-game for the sports sensation that’s sweeping the nation, curling. Sorry, couldn’t resist.
International — Outside the United States, you can try the following apps for iOS and tvOS:
Have you run across other alternatives for watching the Olympics? Let us know in the comments, and we’ll update this article as appropriate.