Review: The Olympics Are OTT – But the Best Viewing Is at Home on Pay TV

By Brittany Demmon

Some things change and some things stay the same. That is true for the Olympic games and it’s true for the way we watch them. Now that the 2016 Rio Olympics are well underway we decided to review our experience watching the games using NBC’s array of OTT offerings that are playing host to its coverage, in addition to the NBC network coverage on its pay TV channels.

When the games kicked off last week, we had high hopes for NBC’s OTT coverage considering the broadcast network has been publicizing its apps and website coverage of the games but for all of the effort that goes in to trying to watch programming via mobile app or online, it is much easier to just tune in to events when they broadcast on TV.

We tested out a few different OTT options including the NBC Sports app on both an Android smartphone and an Apple TV, the TV Everywhere app from Cox (our pay TV and broadband provider) as well as the website. And after testing them all out we have mixed feelings when it comes to accessing broadcast TV content over-the-top.

The content offerings within the NBC Sports app for the Olympics are well balanced and the company has done a good job of covering a wide range of events, considering there are so many. But the broadcaster is also attentive to what events are most popular and make a point to give precedence to popular events like swimming, soccer and gymnastics. In fact the app even provided alerts for big primetime events like final events or competitions including the channel and time it would be airing on cable.


The problem with the NBC Sports app, unfortunately for us, is the fact that our cable provider does not support the live streaming of events over the app, so despite authenticating the app using our pay TV credentials, we were unable to view any live action as it unfolded. A rather disappointing discovery when you are ready to watch the Rio opening ceremony and met with a little box informing that the provider does not support the feature. Other customers with different pay TV providers supporting the live streaming feature within the NBC Sports app do have a great tool for catching all of the action no matter where they are. But we are still shocked that Cox would not support live streaming within the app during the summer Olympic games, something that won’t happen again until 2020, and hopefully it won’t take Cox until 2020 to figure out that not providing its customers access to live streaming is unacceptable. But, we cannot fault the NBC Sports app for an error on Cox’s part and overall the app seems to be a great option for fans who want to keep up with the games, either with the live streaming coverage (for viewers who can get it) or just with the highlights and extra content such as interviews and backstories.

The Website is not overly impressive. More than anything, it is a tool to get users to tune into the live coverage on its linear TV channels and the live programming that it did provide was only available to viewers for 30 minutes before it had to be authenticated, then we run back into the same problem we had with the NBC Sports app. The website did offer a schedule of events, list of athletes competing as well as full replays of events and live coverage of select events, making the option a formidable one for coverage of the games but not as convenient as a mobile app.

Since we couldn’t watch OTT coverage with in the NBC Sports app, we turned to Cox’s TVE app, the Cox Contour 2 app. The term is TV Everywhere, but that was also not the case because despite subscribing to pay TV, live NBC broadcasts are only available in the app when you are on your own in-home Wi-Fi network…

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Feature image: NBC’s dedicated website for the 2016 Rio Olympics.