How and Where the Summer Games Are Being Streamed and Televised

The Rio 2016 Olympics officially get underway with Friday's Opening Ceremonies, although coverage of preliminary events, including soccer, began today. As usual, the Olympic Games will be a petri dish for emerging broadcast technology, albeit on a fairly small scale. 8K broadcasts will be viewable in Japan, but sports fans in the U.S. will have to make do with 4K feeds that are severely limited both in the scope of coverage and where it can be tuned in. A healthy dose of HDTV viewing will be possible on NBCUniversal's line-up of broadcast and cable channels, but if truly comprehensive coverage is what you want, you'll have to go online or download mobile apps that will give you a highly customizable viewing experience. Here's a look at the Olympics landscape, from country to country and format to format.

Big in Japan

Japanese public broadcaster NHK has already begun 4K and 8K UHD test broadcasts over its satellite channels. Because there are no 8K consumer displays, NHK has installed 8K displays at multiple venues in Japan and in Rio de Janeiro where the public can watch the high-resolution coverage. One of the first programs to be broadcast on Monday was a replay of the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony, one of the first events to be captured in 8K. Delivery in 8K is said to use the HEVC/H.265 codec in an MPEG transport stream, and a single satellite transponder can transmit at a data rate of about 100 Mbps, NHK says.

The World's First 8K OB Vehicle Is in Rio

Ikegami is providing what it says is the world's first 8K OB vehicle, which it delivered last fall, outfitted with 8K field cameras and supporting gear. Here's what's inside: 

8K OB Truck

Vehicle size 2,495(W) x 3,330(H) x 11,930(D) (mm)
(1,000mm (W) expandable when operating)
Switcher 16 inputs 4 outputs 1 M/E
Router 8K, 4K and HD/2K
Downstream Keyer 8K (four supers)
Camera 8K camera (Ikegami’s SHV-8000, SHK-810 etc./max 10 units)
Recorder 8K recorder (max four units)
Slow Player 8K slow player (max four units)
Sound Router MADI support
Monitor for Switcher Main: 55-inch 8K monitor
Sub: 55-inch with multiviewer
Monitor for VE 32-inch monitor and others

4K in the USA

U.S. residents will have to make do with a 4K downconversion from the 8K footage captured by NHK and Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS). NBC is offering at least one event per day in 4K UHD, distributing the footage to TV providers starting Saturday, August 6, after a one-day delay. Footage will be drawn from events including swimming, track and field, basketball, and the men's soccer final. (The Opening Ceremony is being produced by NBC Olympics in HDR and with Dolby Atmos audio.) NBC is also providing scenic footage from Rio. UHD broadcasts will be available via DirecTV (channel 106), Dish (channel 146), Comcast (via the Xfinity app on Samsung UHD TVs), and the new 4K TV service being offered by EPB on channel 803 in Chattanooga, TN. Don't have access to one of those services? No 4K Olympics for you. It's still the early days, after all.


NBC's HDTV coverage will use broadcast equipment from Sony and Canon, including Sony's HDC-4300 4K high-frame-rate camera system for HD replays, its PWS-4500 XAVC server, and its BVM-X300 OLED monitors. The glass is 2/3-inch 4K broadcast lenses from Canon.

Cutting the Cord

Second-screen experiences will be up and running in full force for the event. NBC Universal is providing a free official app, NBC Olympics: Rio News & Results app, while the NBC Sports app has live streaming of every sport. The International Olympic Committee is offering The Olympics: Official App for the Olympic Games, with a wealth of information about this year's event and this history of the games. iDG's TechHive has a rundown of those apps and more that can enhance (or replace?) your TV-viewing experience.

In the Middle of It All

Samsung Gear VR

The Olympics coverage will have a VR component, naturally, but you'll need to use the NBC Sports app and a Samsung Gear VR headset to experience any of it. Like NBC's 4K feeds, the 100+ hours of VR and 360-degree coverage will be available on a one-day delay from August 6 through August 22. Per NBC's instructions, here are the steps you have to follow to see the VR content:

Make sure you have your Samsung Gear VR compatible device** and Samsung Gear VR headset 
Download the NBC Sports app via Google Play
Authenticate your cable or satellite operator within the NBC Sports app
Click on exclusive VR content
Insert Samsung phone into Gear VR powered by Oculus 
Download the NBC Sports app within the Oculus store
Follow prompts within the NBC Sports app to start your VR experience

Simple, right?

Turning on the TV

Watching the Games the old-fashioned way? Here's how the TV coverage breaks down: NBCUniversal is planning 6,755 hours of coverage, but only 260.5 of them will be broadcast on NBC. You can catch NBC's daytime broadcasts from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., prime-time broadcasts from 8 p.m. to midnight, late-night coverage from 12:35 to 1:35 a.m., and replays from 1:35 a.m. to 4:30 a.m. (All times ET/PT.) Meanwhile, NBCSN will run from 8 a.m. to midnight ET most days. Coverage will also air on Golf Channel, Bravo, CNBC, MSNBC, USA Network, Telemundo, NBC Universo and specialty basketball and soccer channels. If you need to know what's on what channel, see the official TV listings. And finally. if you just want to know when you need to block out time to tune in or turn on to watch your favorite sport on TV or online, check NBC's full schedule of which sports are taking place on which days.