Watch the Summer Olympics on Your Mac or iOS device

The 2012 Summer Olympics will use more streaming and digital reporting technology than any event in the history of events. NBC, who has the prized US contract for broadcasting rights, plans to stream absolutely everything from the opening ceremony, to every sport, every event, every medal presentation, you name it. In all they plan to stream 3500 hours of content. But, according to a study reported by, only 16 percent of those watching will see it on a computer and only 7 percent plan to watch it on a smartphone or tablet. The study didn’t break it down by those watching on anything made by Apple or anyone else for that matter. 


To Get Everything You’ll Need to Pay a Provider 

In the US, to watch absolutely everything on the Internet at, you’ll need a cable or satellite provider which seems eminently unfair since anyone can get a local NBC affiliate with a digital antenna. I can see being prevented from seeing MSNBC or CNBC content, but everyone should, at the least see online content from good old NBC mothership. I’m not positive local coverage won’t stream, but there’s no way of knowing until the games begin. Right now there are some canned videos on my local New York Page, but we’ll have to wait and see.

The site lets you add NBC Olympics to your Facebook Timeline and share what you’re watching. You can get an online listing, full schedule of events, videos, photos, results, medals, athletes, medals and more.

 The site lets you add NBC Olympics to your Facebook Timeline and share what you’re watching. You can get an online listing, full schedule of events, videos, photos, results, medals, athletes, medals and more. If you’re paying a TV programming bill, every sport and event will be be streamed live from a combination of NBC, NBC Sports, MSNBC, CNBC, Bravo and two NBCUniversal specialty channels. 


Be Alerted to Events

There is a listing of every event with an Alert Me button that brings you to an email sign up. Thirty minutes before the event you’ll be sent an email telling you the chosen event is coming up. That seems like a nice feature. They’ll be running 24/7 and this looks like the most extensive thing NBC has ever done online. It’ll be quite interesting to see how they pull it off.

The Olympics on iOS


 You’ll also need a provider to stream to iOS

In the US, the only way to stream all 3500 hours is through the NBC Olympics Extra app. This free Universal app only works if you’re paying a Cable or Satellite Provider. When you log on, the picture above is what you’ll see. My provider is DIRECTV, so I had no problem. But if you don’t have one, you’re out of luck on iOS. The main screen only runs in portrait mode. Videos and streams can be viewed in landscape mode. 

The videos, which was all I could see since there is no streaming until the start of the games, uses a proprietary non-flash player, so there is no AirPlay function to watch via an Apple TV.  But, of course, if you have an iPhone 4S or an iPad 2 or newer, you can mirror the screen. 


 NBC Olympics Live Extra app on an iPad

The app comes chock full of content. You can choose:

  • Live Now
  • Channels for Different Sports
  • Schedules
  • Featured
  • Events

and a lot more that will be coming. The app, as are all the ones covered, is free, but this one is loaded with heavy dollops of advertising. The Citi logo along with that of your provider stays on top of screen and the bottom has ample space for ad banners and picture listing of video clips. Before the start of the games the bottom toggles between ad banners and a notice that no clips are available right now. 

The preview clips look great on the new iPad’s retina display. There is a scene of fireworks that is just breathtaking. 

If you don’t have a provider, that’s about it for iOS streaming with one exception, that I have to believe is really an exception. 

BBC Olympics


BBC Olympics is an iPhone app that is not optimized for iPad. Starting on the 25th, not the 27th of July, it will provide over 2500 hours of live streaming coverage. I don’t know if it will work in the US since at this point there are just preview films. It uses the iOS built-in movie player so it’s Airplay enabled. It contains schedules, all sports, medals, countries that are competing, and information on athletes. It will stream over cellular networks.

I think this app was in the US store by mistake since if you try and get it now you are presented with the following.



Sorry, Wrong Country

I’ll be very curious to know if it actually works for me, in New York, once the Olympics kick off, but my guess is no. I have a feeling someone from NBC put in a call to Apple.


NBC Olympic app

NBC’s non-streaming alternative is the NBC Olympics app. It’s also free and Universal. This is meant for those without a cable or satellite provider. It’s full of background information at this point. Sections are listed for all the sports, athletes, Team USA, videos of previous events and a few extras.

A map tracker asks you to enter your Zip code and then your TV provider. If you don’t have one there is an option for antenna local broadcast, which brings you to a logo of your local NBC affiliate. From there you’ll see the affiliate logo, the name of your town and stories relevant to athletes from your area. I live on Long Island, and there’s a preview story from titled “Several N.J. natives headed to the Olympics”.

There’s a Twitter tracker, a discussion board and a section titled: Destination London with stories about the Olympic Village and London in general as it relates to the event. Any information can shared on Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus. 


A Few Other Non-Streaming Apps


2012 Team USA Road to London Olympics app

This universal app is created by the United States Olympic Committee and it’s content is quite scaled down when compared to most of the other competition. It gives you some background information, a Twitter feed, stories and buttons to donate to the Olympic Committee.


London 2012: Official Join In App for the Olympics and Paralympic Games


The London 2012 Official Join In app is a free Universal app, meant for those in England, tries to be everything for everybody with no video. It offers a directory of what’s going on in major towns in England, having nothing to do with the Olympics or Paralympics, as well as basic Olympic information.

Included are  searchable maps of the venues, cultural events, live updates on what’s going on during the games and augmented reality. If you’re there, using your camera will bring up extended information on what you’re viewing.

Using the GPS, if tells you cultural events near you and directions on how to get there. It will also cover the Paralympics that will be held in August. With an emphasis on the Olympics, it’s a cultural summer guide to England and a trip planner if you go. So this is more to help you when you are at the games focusing on the facilities than an app for results.

Although results will be given, there are much better apps for that and the lack of video is a detriment. This works in portrait mode only on the iPhone and landscape mode only on the iPad.

And Now For Something Completely Different

London 2012 - Official Mobile Game

The London 2012 - Official Mobile Game app bills itself as letting you play the London 2012 Olympic games on your smart phone, however above is an iPad screen shot. This is a gaming app that has nothing to do with reality. The app is universal but won’t play on an iPod touch, iPhone 3GS or earlier or an iPad 1. It was apparently subcontracted to a Japanese game maker.

After an animated video you create a character with customizable attributes that can compete in nine Olympic events from running to Kayaking to Archery. It’s free, and there is  a US$1.99 paid version that does more, but you’re not going to get any information here. It looks like fun though and the graphics are very nice. 

At the end of the day, 71 percent of fans are expected to watch the Olympics on good old TV. But if NBC, at least in the US, can really pull this off online, this has the potential of changing the face of media. I’m curious to see how it all comes out, but I’m more curious to ask a question that the study quoted in Mashable didn’t: What percentage of viewing per fan will be on TV - Computers - or Mobile Devices? I can see people checking in on an iPad over lunch and watching TV at night when home. Or maybe some public transit commuters will watch on their iPhone during their commute, switch to an iPad later and maybe a TV for recaps. Who knows? 

I’m sure that many are going to collect data on just that and the results might be quite telling on how media consumption is changing and can be extended to changing patterns in advertising and popular culture in general.