How to Watch the 2020 Summer Olympics in 2021
We researched dozens of TV options to find the best ways to watch the Summer Olympics on cable, satellite, streaming TV, and via an over-the-air antenna.
Don’t let that 2020 date fool you—same Olympics, different year. We don’t want you to miss a beat. July 23—August 8, 2021 are the dates for the sports spectacular.
The COVID-19 pandemic put last year’s Summer Olympics on hold, but this year, as Penny Lane says in the Cameron Crowe movie Almost Famous—“It’s all happening!”
We did the research, and here are CableTV.com’s top picks for watching the 2020 Summer Olympics.
What is the 2020 Summer Olympics schedule?
The 2020 Olympic Games—held in Tokyo—feature a record 33 competitions and 339 events held across 42 competition venues.
Opening and closing ceremonies: July 23 and Aug. 8, 2021:
- 3×3 basketball: July 24–28, 2021
- Archery: July 23–31, 2021
- Artistic gymnastics: July 24–29 and Aug. 1–3, 2021
- Artistic swimming: Aug. 2–4 and 6–7, 2021
- Athletics: July 30–Aug. 8, 2021
- Badminton: July 24–Aug. 2
- Baseball and softball: July 21–22, July 24–Aug. 5, and Aug. 7, 2021
- Basketball: July 25–Aug. 8, 2021
- Beach volleyball: July 24–Aug. 7, 2021
- Boxing: July 24–Aug. 1, and Aug. 3–8, 2021
- Canoe slalom: July 24–30, 2021
- Canoe sprint: Aug. 2–7, 2021
- Cycling BMX freestyle: July 31 and Aug. 1, 2021
- Cycling BMX racing: July 29–30, 2021
- Cycling road: July 24, 25, and 28, 2021
- Cycling track: Aug. 2–8, 2021
- Diving: July 25–28, 30–31, and Aug. 1–7, 2021
- Equestrian: July 24, 25, 27, 28, 30 and 31, and Aug. 2–4, and 6–7, 2021
- Fencing: July 24–Aug. 1, 2021
- Football: July 21, 22, 24, 25, 27, 28, and 30–31, and Aug. 5–7
- Golf: July 29–31 and Aug. 4–7, 2021
- Handball: July 24–Aug. 8, 2021
- Hockey: July 24–Aug. 6, 2021
- Judo: July 24–31, 2021
- Karate: Aug. 5–7, 2021
- Marathon swimming: Aug. 4–5, 2021
- Modern pentathlon: Aug. 5–7, 2021
- Rhythmic gymnastics: Aug. 6–8, 2021
- Rowing: July 23–30, 2021
- Rugby: July 26–31, 2021
- Sailing: July 25–Aug. 4, 2021
- Shooting: July 24–Aug. 2, 2021
- Skateboarding: July 25–26 and Aug. 4–5, 2021
- Sport climbing: Aug. 3–6, 2021
- Surfing: July 25–Aug. 1, 2021
- Swimming: July 24–Aug. 1, 2021
- Table tennis: July 25–30 and Aug. 1–6, 2021
- Taekwondo: July 24–27, 2021
- Tennis: July 24–Aug. 1, 2021
- Trampoline gymnastics: July 30–31, 2021
- Triathlon: July 26–27 and 31, 2021
- Volleyball: July 24–Aug. 8, 2021
- Water polo: July 24–Aug. 8, 2021
- Weightlifting: July 24–28 and 31 and Aug. 1–4, 2021
- Wrestling: Aug. 1–7, 2021
Channels you’ll need to watch the 2020 Summer Olympics
NBC has the broadcasting rights to the 2021 Summer Olympics. They’re the friend you’re going to need for this premier sporting event.
The network will be broadcasting the Olympics over the air, so if you have a TV (we’re guessing you do), an antenna, and access to a local NBC station, you can see several of the events.
NBC Sports Network
To get the most Olympic goodness, though, you’ll also need the NBC Sports Network channel. The NBC Sports Network channel on most cable TV and live TV streaming services will offer the most robust coverage of the event, airing 440 hours of competition around the clock.
NBC Sports Digital will stream all 41 sports and 339 medal events on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app.
Peacock is NBC’s streaming service, and many of the 2020 Summer Olympics events will be streamed on Peacock, which has a free subscription tier—in this case, free means that ads are part of the viewing experience.
Peacock will offer four live shows that will stream for free on Tokyo NOW—their channel for Olympics live coverage, interviews, and highlights.
Additionally, cable networks USA, CNBC, GOLF Channel, and Telemundo network will offer Summer Olympics coverage.
Best for cable: Spectrum
- No contracts
- Premium channels
- Limited availability
If you’re looking for a provider to get the job done, Spectrum will put you directly in front of the Olympics content that will have you on the edge of your seat at an affordable price.
Plus, Spectrum won’t lock you into a contract. And if you are involved in one of those contractual situations with another provider, Spectrum will give you $500 toward a buyout when you decide to join their team.
Spectrum channels and pricing
Spectrum offers packages with pricing that starts at $44.99—for Spectrum Select—with local channels, including NBC, as well as the NBC Sports Network. Compared to other cable and streaming packages, it’s an affordable way to view the Summer Olympics.
If you’re a fan of sports looking to save some money and opt for Spectrum Select, ESPN and FOX Sports are among this package’s lineup of channels. With more than 170 channels, this package also has AMC, FX, and the Paramount Network, for a diverse range of content.
Downside of Spectrum
While Spectrum has reasonable pricing and the channels that give you a front row seat to the Olympics, it may not be available in your area. Enter your zip code below to see if you can get Spectrum in your neighborhood.
Best for satellite TV: DISH
Data effective as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
- Free Google Voice remote
- Free DVR
- Inexpensive packages
- 2-year price guarantee
- Limited internet/phone bundling options
We think DISH is a great option for TV watchers who want the frills—in this case, packed channel lineups that feature content that appeals to all sorts of people, from those obsessed with reality television to sports fanatics.
DISH’s combination of prices and an excellent, top-rated DVR option are two of the reasons we rated it Best Overall and Best for Kids among TV providers this year.
DISH channels and pricing
We highly recommend DISH’s America’s Top 200 plan. Its $89.99 price tag is locked in for two years, and you get more than 240 channels, including plenty for sports fans, like numerous ESPN and FOX Sports channels and the Big Ten Network.
Not only that, but Disney, Nickelodeon, local PBS affiliates, and the Cartoon Network are some of the channels in this package that will keep the kids entertained.
DISH’s optional Hopper 3 DVR costs you an additional $15 a month but gives you 500 HD storage hours. If you have to step away from your TV, you can hit the record button to capture Olympic moments you will want to watch over and over again.
Downsides of DISH
DISH has channel-packed plans, but they do come with a hearty price tag. For example, you can get cheaper plans that include NBC Sports Network starting at about $30 per month.
The two-year price lock may offer a sigh of relief but if for any reason you decide DISH isn’t your cup of tea, you have to wait it out. You can cancel but it will cost you $20 per each month left on your contract, up to $480.
Best for cord-cutters: Sling TV
Data effective as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
- Free trial period
- Free device for new subscribers
- Lower price points
- 30+ add-on options
- Confusing navigation
- Few local channels in packages
We are fans of Sling TV for a few reasons, one being that it is affordable. Whether the moderately-sized channel lineups of the Blue or Orange packages hit the spot, either one only sets you back $35.00 a month.
The Disney Channel, Cartoon Network, and Nick Jr. make it a good option for keeping the young ones entertained.
Another bonus point is that if you need to cancel your subscription at any point, you won’t get dinged with a fee. So if you decide you’re done Slinging after the Olympics, don’t be afraid to say goodbye.
Sling TV channels and pricing
Sling TV’s Blue package has NBC and the NBC Sports Network on its channel roster and its monthly fee is just $35.00 —cheaper than streaming competitors like YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV.
If recording the Summer Olympics for easy viewing or rewinding the highlights is your jam, Sling TV has a cloud DVR that gets you 50 hours of storage included with the package of your choice. You can also spend $5 a month to increase your storage amount to 200 hours.
Downside of Sling TV
While it’s a small price to pay for that storage, keep in mind that you’re adding that to the monthly subscription fee, you’re going to get only NBC with Sling TV’s Blue plan so you’re stuck with those channel lineups just to get your Olympic fix.
Also, local channels like NBC are available in only select markets, so you’ll want to check if Sling TV offers NBC near you before you seal the deal. View Sling TV plans and services here.
- No subscription required
- No premium channels
- Signal instability
We know the thought of an antenna conjures up images of big boxes that sit atop the TV with giant metal “ears” springing from them—but that’s not the case with the Mohu Leaf Metro. It’s compact—both in size and price.
Plus, the price is nice. Once you spend the less-than-twenty-bucks price it costs, this baby is yours, and it gets you signals in a 25-mile range. It’s a painless way to watch NBC and catch the major network’s Olympic offerings.
Downsides of the Mohu Leaf
This inexpensive option may be easy on the wallet, but if you’re outside of the 25-mile-range from local broadcast towers, watching the Olympics—or anything else—is going to be a challenge.
How to watch the 2020 Summer Olympics for free
If you don’t want to spend money on a cable, satellite, or streaming TV plan or package, get yourself an over-the-air antenna. While an antenna isn’t free, it certainly isn’t expensive. Once you make this purchase all of your channels are free and you’ll have no monthly fee to think about.
While you won’t see every Summer Olympics event, the antenna will get you the local NBC affiliate and all of the coverage it offers. It’s a great way to get your Olympics fix while being considerate of your budget.
If you want to compare Mohu antennas, here are CableTV.com’s OTA antenna picks:
- Mohu ReLeaf ($34.26 on Amazon)*
- Mohu Curve 50 ($59.95 on Amazon)*
- Mohu ReLeaf Metro ($17.99 on Amazon)*
*Amazon.com price as of 6/10/21 at 11:34 am PT. Read full disclaimer.
Accessing NBC—and primarily the NBC Sports Network—is key to watching the 2020 Summer Olympics (in 2021).
All of these providers will get you access to the Olympic games—without breaking the bank:
Spectrum offers cable TV packages that start at $44.99 and 125+ channels, including the NBC Sports Network, to satisfy an Olympics-sized craving.
DISH is a great premium TV option and locks your price in for two years. And its industry-leading DVR is a bonus.
Sling TV is an affordable option, and its Blue package includes the NBC Sports Network.
If you have cut the cord or never had one to chop, the Mohu Leaf Metro is a very affordable over-the-air antenna option. It will get you connected to a local NBC affiliate, so while it doesn’t carry the NBC Sports Network, you will still get all of the NBC Summer Olympics coverage through the local outlet.
Let the Olympic torch light your summer season
Enter your zip code to see what TV providers are available in your area.
How to watch 2020 Summer Olympics FAQ
How can I watch the 2020 Summer Olympics for free?
You can watch most of the games on a local NBC channel, but for unlimited viewing, you’ll need to watch the NBC Sports Network with a cable, streaming, or satellite TV subscription.
Can I access the NBC Sports Network via a phone or mobile device?
In addition to watching the Olympics on your TV and desktop computer, you can enjoy the feverish fun on a mobile device.
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