6 Ways to Watch the Olympics Without a Cable Package
Just when you thought you couldn't stand another second of election coverage, the 2016 Summer Olympics swooped in to save the day. With more than two straight weeks filled with superhuman feats of strength, endurance and athletic skill, the Olympics have been capturing the hearts, minds and TV sets of the world since they were first televised in 1936.
But a lot has changed since that first, historic broadcast. Today, more and more people are opting to cut their cable cords in favor of streaming their favorite shows on Netflix, Hulu and HBO Go. And for these people, watching the 2016 Olympic games is not as simple as turning on the TV.
I should know, I'm one of them! After years of frustration as a Comcast customer, I finally cut the cord and switched to an only-internet plan through AT&T. We still have two TVs, one in the living room, hooked up to a PlayStation 4, and one in the bedroom, where we use an Apple TV to stream our favorite shows on Netflix and Hulu. But watching the Olympics has proven to be difficult. While we have an HDMI cord to connect our laptops to our TV screens, streaming on NBC.com requires a cable login, which we don't have. How are we supposed to keep up with all the medals Team USA has been raking in without cable? Here are six ways to watch all your favorite Olympic events while staying off the cable grid!
Invest in a digital antenna.
The 2016 Olympics are being broadcast on NBC, which is one of the four channels you can get for free without a cable package. While most newer TVs don't come with the digital antenna you need to access these channels, you can pick one up for around $20 at most tech stores, or use our code BRADTV and get one for $16.99 at BeHearty.
Use a VPN.
While this is likely the most complicated option on this list, tech-savvy folks who want to enjoy free, international Olympics coverage can use a VPN service to trick their computers into thinking they're in another country. For example, both the United Kingdom and Canada are offering free Olympics streaming on the BBC and CBC respectively, so if you can convince your computer that you're in one of those countries, you can watch their coverage for free.
We've previously recommended Hola.org, which is a free, in-browser VPN that can get you past BBC location-based blackouts. It can be slow during peak times, so you can also try out Unlocator, which has a monthly fee of $4.95 and is compatible with streaming devices like Roku.
Try out PlayStation Vue free for a week.
You don't actually need a PlayStation console to access PlayStation Vue, the TV-streaming app is available for Amazon Fire TV, Android, Google Chromecast, iOS and Roku. While this service goes for $40/month, they offer a free, week-long trial that you can use to stream the Olympic games and all your favorite cable channels (think Bravo, Disney Channel, Food Network, etc). There are three tiers of membership: Elite, which comes with 100+ channels and costs $55/month, Core, which comes with 75+ channels and costs $45/month, and Access, which comes with 60+ channels and costs $40/month. You can try out any of these membership plans for free for a week, just don't forget to cancel before your week is up or you'll be out $40-$55.
Sling TV also has a free week trial.
Sling TV is another TV-streaming app which is available on Apple TV, iOS, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, Xbox One, Android TV, Android and Windows. Like PlayStation Vue, Sling also has three levels of membership, ranging from $20 to $40/month, and they also feature a free, week-long trial. As their lowest-tier membership is half of PlayStation Vue's, this is a slightly lower risk trial period, as you won't be out $40 at the end of the week if you forget to cancel.
Use the Channels app for Apple TV.
If you have an Apple TV, the channels app, which costs a one-time fee of $25 upon download, might be your cheapest, most reliable bet for accessing network channels without a cable package. You'll also need a digital antenna and a HDHomeRun tuner, but using the Channels app will get you a much clearer signal than using a digital antenna alone, especially if you live in a rural area where digital signals are harder to come by.
Mooch a cable login off of a friend or family member.
Full disclosure: this is the option I went with. Being the proud owner of a Netflix account, I was able to barter my mom into a password swap for her Comcast credentials. Now she and my dad can enjoy Netflix originals like Stranger Things (if you haven't seen this yet, drop everything and go watch it, seriously), and I can spend this week breathlessly watching men's synchronized diving like some kind of parched desert explorer. Win-win situation for everyone.