How to watch the London 2012 Olympics anywhere

You don't have to miss a single event—even when you're not at home

Published: July 2012

The 2012 Olympic games, based this year in London, officially begin on July 27—and if you're anything like us, you'll be glued to your TV for much of the following two-plus weeks. (Gymnastics, archery, and diving? Of course. Canoe slalom: Sure, why not?)

But there will also be times that you'll be away from your TV. What then? You don't want to miss synchronized swimming!

 Our guide will tell you how you can best view the 2012 Olympics at home and on the go.

Live streams for all events

This year, for the first time, NBC will be live-streaming every single Olympic event from its website, To get a video stream of an event on your computer or mobile device, you'll need to have a cable, satellite, or telco TV subscription that includes MSNBC and CNBC; after you verify that you're a customer, there's no charge for viewing. You'll also be able to see past events on demand. Live streaming begins on July 25, with early-round women’s soccer games.

Incidentally, if you are one of those who likes to watch TV with a second screen—such as a tablet, phone, or laptop—at hand, NBC also announced a partnership with Facebook: Fans of the NBC Olympics Facebook page will see updates with exclusive content and will be able to let their Facebook friends know about what they're reading and viewing on NBC's Olympics website. And NBC is planning to create television segments based on popular topics on Facebook.

Here's how to get access to the live streams:

1. Make sure CNBC and MSNBC are part of your television package.

2. Go to and click the Get Started button.

3. Click on your TV provider, then enter your username and password for your account (if you don't have those or don't remember them, contact your provider).

4. For mobile devices, you can download a Apple iOS or Android app at and then sign in with your TV account's username and password. 

5. For each device (laptop, desktop, tablet, or smart phone) you wish to stream to, you'll need to go through the verification process only once—as long as you check the “remember me” box when you're verifying your account information.

6. To watch online, you must have Flash enabled in one of the following browsers: Internet Explorer 8 and above, Firefox 3.6 and above, Chrome 16 and above, or Safari 5 and above.

More Olympics than ever before

NBC plans to broadcast a record 5,535 hours of the London 2012 Olympics, on NBC, NBC Sports Network, MSNBC, CNBC, Bravo, Telemundo,, and two specialty channels.

Watching the Olympics in 3D

If you do have a 3D TV, you're in luck: At least some Olympic events will be broadcast in 3D.

NBC said that it will be offering 242 hours of 3D broadcasts (in conjunction with Panasonic, which is also a partner in the n3D channel) to various TV service providers, who then have to decide whether or not to use it. But the 3D coverage won't be live; instead, the events will be shown the day after they take place.

Check with your local TV service provider to find out its plans for 3D coverage of the event. NBC will have a comprehensive list of all the cable, satellite, and telco TV service providers that will be airing 3D Olympic coverage, but you'll still need to check your local listings for exact broadcast times.

Also, DirecTV's n3D channel, despite a recent move to part-time broadcasts, will have 3D broadcasts of some of the upcoming London 2012 Olympics. The channel plans to air the opening and closing Olympics ceremonies in 3D, and select events including gymnastics, diving, and swimming.

Viewing on a mobile device

Here are some general tips for viewing video streams on the go without running down your battery or straining your vision.

Use Wi-Fi, especially if you have a metered plan. Although 4G connectivity will give you a good streaming experience—and most phones with 4G have large, sharp displays—it will burn through your data allowance pretty quickly. Switching over to Wi-Fi saves your data usage.

Adjust your display's brightness. Take it off Auto, and set it to less than 50 percent brightness, to save your battery from dying too quickly. (And then find a shady place to watch!).

Download a free battery-monitor app. It can will alert you if you're running out of juice. (Some phones, such as Motorola's latest Android phones, have this function built in.)

Hold the screen 3 or 4 feet away, to avoid eyestrain. Some phones (such as the HTC Evo 4G) have built-in stands; or you can buy stands for tablets or phones, for not much money. Or go DIY and make your own, from, say, a cheap picture frame.

TV-buying tips

OK, so you’re not headed to London to watch the Summer Olympics in person. Neither are we. But the next best thing to actually being there is watching it on a big-screen TV from the comfort of your couch. If you’re looking for a new TV that can do justice to all the Olympic action, here are a few buying tips that can help you bring home TV gold.

Size matters. Go bigger if you can, especially if you’ll be cheering on Team USA with a group of friends. There are now plenty of LCD and plasma TVs in screen sizes 55 inches and larger. And some manufacturers, including Sharp, are going even bigger with LCD TVs in the 70- and 80-inch range.

Don’t get blurry. Sports can really test a TV’s ability to display fast-moving scenes without blurring. Plasma TVs typically handle motion without much blurring, if any, so almost any model will do. But many 60Hz LCD TVs fall prey to this shortcoming. We’ve found that many models with faster 120Hz and 240Hz frame rates can help minimize blur to the point where it’s hardly noticeable. We recommend models that let you adjust the anti-blur circuitry separately from judder reduction, which can give film a video-like look.

Play the angles. Plasma TVs have virtually unlimited viewing angles that allow everyone in the room to get a great picture. But many LCD TVs still have narrow viewing angles, so only those directly in front of the set get to see the Olympic sports action in all its high-def glory. That’s why we measure viewing angles for all the TVs in our TV Ratings. But some LCD TVs--including many sets from LG, Panasonic, and Vizio--have wider-than-average viewing angles for an LCD. If you or others will regularly be watching the set from an angle, you’ll want an LCD TV with a fairly wide viewing angle. Oh, and don’t pay attention to any of the manufacturers’ specs--almost all claim they have 178- to 180-degree viewing angles.

Consider a 3D TV. 3D hasn’t caught fire the way many of us thought it might, but NBC is turning on the 3D taps for the Olympics, which could help drive interest. The good news is that you don’t have to pay a big premium to get a 3D-capable set; it’s really just another TV feature--like Internet capability--on many step-up models. And one problem with many early 3D sets--bulky, expensive 3D glasses--has largely been addressed. Most of the newer active 3D sets we’ve tested now come with comfortable, lightweight active shutter glasses, and extra pairs can cost as little as $20 each--drastically cheaper than the early models, which cost $150 each. Even better: Many passive 3D sets come with four to six sets of free polarized glasses.

Get connected. A model that lets you connect to the Web can bring you a variety of Olympics-related content that can supplement the actual sporting events. Built-in Wi-Fi makes connecting to your home network easier, especially in rooms where you might not have a wired Ethernet connection. Many TVs can now access downloadable apps, and as we've noted, NBC will be live-streaming every single Olympics event at

Sound off. If you want to hear all the bone-crunching, muscle-straining action of the Olympics, you’ll need a TV with decent sound. But one consequence of ever-thinner TV sets is that sound quality has become a 98-pound weakling on many models. To get the full visceral impact of a boxer’s knockout punch or a full body slam when a Greco-Roman wrestler goes medieval, consider adding a soundbar speaker system or home-theater-in-a-box sound system to supplement your TV’s sound.

Gold-medal apps

Want the best apps to help you enjoy the Olympics on your smart phone or tablet? Go straight to the source: NBC will be broadcasting the games in the U.S., and the apps the network is offering will tap you into the games better than any other. Here’s a look at NBC's apps and one promising app from Reuters.

NBC Olympics Live Extra (for iOs and Android). Before the games even begin, prepare by selecting your favorite sports and events. Once you do, you’ll be notified by the app 15 minutes before showtime. Log in with your cable provider, and you’ll be able to watch events live on your tablet. In the weeks before the opening ceremonies, a Spotlight section featured previews of various sports, highlights of Olympic trials, and athlete interviews.

NBC Olympics (for iOs and Android). Two reasons to download this app to augment the live coverage: You love following and commenting on sporting events as they happen on Twitter, and you want to get the inside scoop about individual athletes. For the former, there’s a "Twitter tracker" built in, and you can choose to follow tweets about sports, athletes, or the "Tweet Sheet," which consists of tweets by the athletes. Link into your Twitter account to offer your own commentary. As for the athletes’ stories, you can search for your favorites or learn about some of the top-rated participants. You’ll get a bio, videos, photos, and the latest news about each.

Reuters Olympics London 2012 (for iOS). As you might expect from Reuters, this app’s emphasis is on the news coming out of the Olympics. It opens up with a photographic timeline showing the day’s events by sport. The app takes an interesting approach to presenting photos and information together. Tap on the “infographic” icon at the bottom of the screen, and informative tidbits pop up over the photo. Use finger gestures to move among the sets of facts on each photo. Most include data about the venue, number of competitors, and number of medal events for a given sport. A shot of the U.S. swimmer Cullen Jones, for example, also included facts about how the butterfly stroke was developed and the first man to swim 100 meters in less than a minute. That would be Johnny Weissmuller, better known as Tarzan.

E-mail Newsletters

FREE e-mail Newsletters!
Choose from cars, safety, health, and more!
Already signed-up?
Manage your newsletters here too.

Electronics News


Cars Build & Buy Car Buying Service
Save thousands off MSRP with upfront dealer pricing information and a transparent car buying experience.

See your savings


Mobile Get Ratings on the go and compare
while you shop

Learn more