Live streaming the Winter Olympics online has become as much of a tradition as the torch-lighting ceremony because TV networks haven’t been willing to broadcast the games in real-time through normal channels. The 2014 Sochi Olympics in Russia are going to be no different as it’s halfway around the world for a lot of fans.
This has meant watching tape-delayed events on TV in the past, including some of the best sports: figure skating, alpine skiing, snowboarding and hockey. The internet, especially Twitter, has played spoiler to who won the gold medal in each.
But the internet has also provided a solution via online streaming more of the Olympic schedule than any one network can handle. NBC for example plans to air more than 1,500 hours of Winter Olympics coverage through its TV networks, websites and apps.
Finding the more than 1,000 hours that are supposed to be streamed through the internet, however, has become an Olympic sport of its own and requires practice, practice, practice.
Watch the games on the web
The Olympics are truly an international sporting event with NBC in the US, BBC in the UK, CBC in Canada, and Network Ten in Australia all promising snow wall-to-snow wall coverage on the web.
NBC is putting hard numbers behind that promise, saying it’ll stream every single medal-winning performance of all 98 events in all 15 winter sport disciplines through NBCOlympics.com.
That’s easier said than done. Users must first pass through NBC’s strict authentication methods that require logging in via a cable or satellite account. This means cord cutters and over-the-air antenna watchers are locked out.
Once authenticated, it’s up to NBC to make good on its promise to competently stream the games. The #nbcfail hashtag was born two years ago out of users’ frustration at buffering times during the Summer Olympic Games in London. It was impossible to faithfully watch a second of some of the most popular streams in real-time. The 100-meter dash consisted of a starting gun and an instant winner thanks to choppy video. This year will hopefully be different.
Canada, through the CBC, has restrictions in place so that Americans’ geo-tagged IP addresses prevent them from tapping into the network’s live Opening Ceremony feed. A VPN workaround is required to watch it in the morning vs its tape-delayed broadcast on NBC.
The BBC will attempt a similar feat in the UK through its BBC Sport website boasting six HD streams with a total of 650 hours of Winter Olympics coverage.
In Australia, the Ten Network has the rights to broadcast the Olympics and a streaming platform to go along with that via its Ten Play website.
Watch the games on a mobile device
Live streaming through smartphones and tablets is more prevalent at the Sochi Winter Olympics compared to four years ago when the Vancouver games were held. After all, the iPad hadn’t even been announced at the time.
Networks are no longer turning a cold shoulder to tiny screens, with apps available on all three major platforms: iOS, Android and Windows Phone 8.
In fact, NBC has two apps dedicated to its 1,000-plus hours of mobile streaming content. NBC Sports Live Extra and its second-screen NBC Olympics Highlights and Results. Live Extra is obviously the more desired app of the two due to its live streaming capabilities, but like the NBCOlympics.com website, it too requires account authentication.
The official CBC Sochi 2014 app is the best way for Canadian viewers to watch the games on the go from an iOS, Android and Windows Phone 8 device.
The BBC Sport app works on iOS and Android smartphones and tablets, and while we haven’t found a way for Windows Phone 8 users to enjoy the games in the UK, the network is catering to owners of Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets.
Australia’s Ten Network has live mobile feed has eight simultaneous streams available on both iOS and Android devices.
How to stream to a big TV
Appreciating the frozen landscape of Sochi Russia by watching the Winter Olympics on a normal-sized TV without a cable box or a satellite dish requires some extra gadgets.
The easiest way is to beam the streaming picture from an Apple computer, smartphone or tablet to an Apple TV via AirPlay mirroring. This wireless connection beats having to run wires from a device to the television, and Google’s Chromecast doesn’t have similar mirroring just yet.
This is as long as NBC doesn’t disable AirPlay mirroring like Fox Sports Go did for the English version of its Super Bowl live streaming app this week. For some reason, the Spanish-language feed worked just fine.
Alternatively, you can always run an HDMI or Mini DisplayPort cable from a computer or laptop to the TV for the hardwired method of porting the small-screen picture to an HDTV.
Finally, folks in Australia will be able to download the Xbox One and Xbox 360 Ten Play app to conveniently stream coverage of the Olympics to their HDTVs via Microsoft’s consoles.
How to watch the Opening Ceremony
Online streaming of the Winter Olympics starts off with a whimper rather a starting pistol bang because several TV networks won’t be streaming the elaborate Opening Ceremony. Most time zones would have to air the choreographed spectacle in the morning.
The Opening Ceremony will be tape-delayed to 7:30 PM Eastern Time in the United States, but America’s neighbor to the north will be streaming it live.
The problem is that geo-tagged IP addresses are sure to turn away US viewers wanting to tap. Setting up a VPN ahead of time could give you a nine hour jump on the Opening Ceremony.
Seeing this four-hour live stream, including the seemingly endless parade of athletes, at 11:30 Eastern may come down to whether or not your IP address is turned away at the border.
- Read: Tackling the bandwidth issue at Sochi’s Winter Olympics