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How to watch the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Where to stream the Olympics for free or with TV subscriptions

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an Olympic flag: the Olympic logo of five colored rings on a white background Photo: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

After the 2020 Tokyo Olympics were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Games will now be held from July 23-Aug. 8, 2021, followed by the Paralympics from Aug. 24-Sept. 5.

Watching the Summer Games this year can be confusing, as your options may vary depending on whether you pay for a cable subscription or you’re looking to stream the event online for free. Regardless of which route you choose, here is how you can watch the Tokyo Olympics.

How to watch the Olympics online

The official broadcaster of the Olympics in the U.S. is NBC. Five cable channels will also air Olympics coverage: USA, CNBC, the Golf Channel, NBCSN, and the Olympic Channel. So if your TV package includes any or all of those channels in addition to NBC, you’ll be able to watch events there, too. (In addition, Spanish-language Olympics coverage will be available on Telemundo, Universo, and Telemundo Deportes.)

To watch the Games, you’ll need to either have a pay-TV subscription that includes NBC, or you’ll need to pay for Peacock, the company’s streaming service. Whether you pay for a service that includes NBC or you want to watch the games for free, you’ll have different options if you want to stream the Games online.

Paid services, including Peacock

If you subscribe to a pay-TV package, like one from a cable or satellite provider, it will almost surely include your local affiliate for the NBC broadcast network. That will let you watch everything that’s airing on the linear TV channel — including, for the first time, the live broadcast of the Olympic opening ceremony starting at 7 a.m. EDT on Friday, July 23.

You’ll also be able to log in to NBC’s websites and apps with that subscription, allowing you to watch live broadcasts as well as highlights and commentary.

NBC’s parent company, Comcast, launched the streaming service Peacock in 2020 with an eye on the Olympics. Peacock is available in three pricing tiers: Free; Premium ($4.99/month), which gets you the full content library; and Premium Plus ($9.99/month), which eliminates ads.

Peacock Free customers will be able to watch a smattering of Olympics highlights, as well as the always-on Tokyo Now channel, which will air a rotation of four original programs that show key highlights. But in order to watch U.S. men’s basketball games, or major replays like the Olympic opening ceremony, you’ll need to subscribe to Peacock Premium.

Here are some over-the-top TV providers whose channel lineups include networks airing Olympics coverage:

How to watch or stream the Olympics for free

Free options for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are a bit more limited.

  • You can watch NBC for free over the air if you have a TV with an antenna. You can buy a fairly inexpensive antenna online if you own a modern television.
  • You can stream highlights of Olympic events on Peacock without a paid subscription.
  • The NBC Olympics website offers 30 minutes of free coverage before you have to log in with a cable provider.
  • Fubo offers a 7-day free trial.
  • Depending on where you live, websites like Locast can help you watch live TV for free.

When to watch the Olympics live

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics are being held in Japan. For those watching across the world, you’ll need to know the time differences to watch events live. For viewers in the continental United States, here are the time differences between Japan Standard Time and your region:

  • Eastern time: 13 hours behind JST
  • Central time: 14 hours behind JST
  • Mountain time: 15 hours behind JST
  • Pacific time: 16 hours behind JST

Keep these differences in mind if you want to watch the Games live. For instance, an event taking place at noon JST in Japan will be airing live at 11 p.m. for viewers in New York City. To help you find out when events will be streaming live for you, use a time zone converter.

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