Even London's famous Tower Bridge is decorated for the Olympics.
AFP/Getty Images
Even London's famous Tower Bridge is decorated for the Olympics.

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This is the first year the Olympic games will be available as live streams in the U.S.

The events can be watched on TV, computers, tablets and smartphones

Only cable, satellite and telco TV subscribers will be able to watch live streams

CNN —  

It would take you almost five solid months – without sleeping or bathroom breaks – to watch every sporting event at this year’s Summer Olympics. More than 3,500 hours of competition from London will be crammed into just 17 days.

In the past, people had to settle for watching the delayed, edited bits broadcast on TV or websites, but technology and viewing habits have changed. 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.

Fans asked to tweet from Olympics only if it’s ‘urgent’

So what are the best ways for today’s mobile, multiple-screen owning, Twitter-loving generation to follow the Olympics à la carte? We offer these five:

Live streaming, with a catch

First, the good news: It’s finally possible to stream any Olympic event live online, on a tablet or from your smartphone. 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.

Cord cutters – those who have canceled their cable and primarily watch TV online through services like Hulu and Netflix – are out of luck, however. They can sign up for cable and cancel after the games are over, but there’s no one-time payment option just to access live streaming. NBC wants mobile and online options to complement the TV coverage, not replace it.

NBC, which is owned by the largest cable provider in the United States, Comcast, paid $1.18 billion for the rights to this year’s Olympics. The network makes a good portion of that amount back on television advertising, which still generates more revenue than online ads.