Breaking Down the Olympics: Where, When and How to Watch

5 years ago

With unprecedented coverage of the 30th Summer Olympics, including more than 5,000 hours of footage and 10 viewing platforms from primetime TV to cable, internet and mobile, you can keep up with the London Games pretty much anytime and anywhere.

In fact, it would take you almost five solid months -- without sleeping or bathroom breaks -- to watch every sporting event at this year's Summer Olympics. With all the content online, on TV and on social media, keeping up with the Olympics won't be nearly as much of a challenge as avoiding spoilers.

The 2012 London Summer Games has been dubbed the “first Social Media Olympics” allowing sponsorship, advertisement, and marketing to take on a new shape and meaning.This year, 40% of people plan to follow the games on more than one device, with 35% checking in on their tablets and 27% using their smartphone, according to a new study by Harris Interactive.


via mashable

With so much happening, you might feel like you need a tutorial just to follow.


NBC TV listings let you know where to watch the comprehensive Olympic coverage, across the NBC family of networks. You can sort the schedule by day/time or by sport.

The wall-to-wall coverage will be available variously in HD and ultra-HD, in 3D, on tablets and on mobile phones and on radio and television around the world. In contrast to the 5,000+ hours of programming for this Oympics, the 1948 London Games - the first to be broadcast, just 64 hours were produced, and the broadcast was available to just the 500,000 people with access to a TV who lived within a 50-mile radius of London.

Twitter Tracker

If you just want to know who won the gold as soon as it happens, you're in luck. Individual sports have official, automated Twitter feeds that will tweet out the results as they happen. You can narrow it down to just the events you're interested in and follow those feeds (say @L2012Trampoline or @L2012Judo), or keep an eye on all of them at once by following the London 2012 official Twitter list of automated feeds. The official London 2012 feed is @London2012.

This year a lot of the fun will be following the athletes themselves. You can look up your favorites or follow this list of verified Olympic athlete Twitter accounts, the London 2012 list of Olympians or find a list just for your preferred sport of team, like Team USA.

Out of more than 10,000 Olympians, who should you follow? Mashable's Must-Follow Athletes on Twitterlist includes the always fun to follow @LoloJones @Usain Bolt @CaroWozniacki @Candace_Parker and @Natalie Coughlin.

You can also track the following hashtags to keep up with what's happening: #olympics #London2012 or  #nbcolympicsThere will be over 40 competitive sporting events so can also follow your favorite events by following the individual hashtags, e.g. #archery #basketball  #boxing etc.

An all out media campaign makes Twitter the favorite at this year’s Olympic Games. As reported by Mashable, linguistic analysts even plan to interpret all Olympic-related tweets and light up the London Eye a specific color depending on the mood of the Twitterverse.

Live Streaming

After years of tape-delayed broadcasts and online video, NBC has caught on that viewers want to follow the Olympics on multiple devices in real time, and is offering the live options in addition to its regular television programming.

The bad news is that anyone in the U.S. who wants to enjoy live streaming of the games needs to have a current cable, satellite or telco TV subscription that includes MSNBC and CNBC (for some areas this may mean be more than just basic cable). You will be prompted on the NBC site and in NBC apps to choose your provider from a list and log in with your official username and password in order to access any live streams.


The Internet portal for all video in the U.S. is On the main video page, you can view select clips featuring highlights from events, interviews, profiles, and peeks behind the scenes. You can sort by sport or type of video but you have to watch a short ad.

For the first time, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will live stream 11 high-definition channels simultaneously over YouTube for 64 territories in Asia and Africa that don't have broadcast deals, but those streams will be blocked for U.S. viewers.

Mobile apps

NBC created two official apps for Android and Apple mobile devices, NBC Olympics and NBC Olympics Live Extra, and both are free to download. NBC Olympics has no live video, but tons of content that can be enjoyed by for free, including news, results, and video highlights.

NBC Olympics Live Extra app is a mobile version of its LiveExtra online service and requires a cable, satellite or telco subscription. View any event live, watch replays of the ones you missed, and check out medal ceremonies and alternative camera views. Look over the in-app schedule and set up notifications for the events you don't want to miss. (Avid streamers should be careful not to go over their monthly data limits.)

There are two official London 2012 apps, and they're available for a mix of platforms including iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7. Official London 2012: Results App has live updates of results, as well as schedules, news, background on sports and athlete profiles. You can follow specific countries and set up custom alerts. The second app, Official London 2012: Join In App, is more for people attending the games, and has schedules and locations for the various Olympic-related festivities going on in London.

Forbes has a list of the best Olympics apps, along with the pros and cons of each.

Social media

In addition to Twitter, there's an official London 2012 Facebook page you can like to get quick updates.

The London 2012 Organizing Committee (LOCOG) has also created the Olympic Athlete’s Hub, where fans can follow their favorite athletes and participate in the hub’s forum and activities. In theory the Athlete’s Hub is a great platform for fans and athletes alike to share and communicate with each other. But don't be fooled into thinking you're really getting the inside track. Guidelines released earlier this month by the IOC on social media regulations surrounding the Olympics have all but gagged athletes from sharing any ‘meaningful experiences’ they will encounter with friends, family and fans. They're also not allowed to mention any non-official Olympic partners - which means no shout-outs to the long-time sponsors who helped them get to London.

And of course, there are thousands of old-fashioned news sites and blogs filled with words and pictures. There are 21,000 journalists in London covering the Olympics (outnumbering the 10,500 athletes competing).


If all of the above is not enough, there's TV, too. If you have cable, you can catch NBC's coverage scattered across a bunch of channels: NBC, NBC Sports Network, MSNBC, CNBC, Bravo and Telemundo. Check the schedule for your location, sorted by time or sport, at the NBC Olympics site.

If you don't have cable, you can still tune into NBC over the air for nearly round-the-clock coverage, including the four-hour prime-time broadcast that will show the most popular events mixed in with the usual profiles and athlete interviews. The channel will broadcast a total of 217 hours of Olympic coverage.

And for those of you who recently purchased a HDTV 3D televison, NBC has also announced it will broadcast 242 hours of the London Olympics, 12 hours a day in 3D.The bad news: you won't be able to watch any 3D coverage live.

Will you be watching the Games on TV or a mobile device? Any other tips for enjoying or keeping up with the Games?



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