Global Games: Your best secondary options for a Summer Olympics fix

The Summer Olympics are not only the world’s biggest sporting event, but also account for billions of dollars in business—for local communities near the sites, for corporate sponsors, and especially for broadcast partners. NBC Universal, now owned by Comcast, paid the IOC more than $1.1 billion for the American broadcast rights. For that, we get more than 5,500 hours of programming across multiple TV channels and the web, as well as live-streaming via select NBC apps. It’s an unprecedented effort to cover the Olympics with sweeping control.

What Americans don’t get, however, is any choice. Officially, the only option we have to watch and cheer on Team USA is through the NBC family of networks and websites. But just because NBCU paid top dollar for its broadcast exclusivity doesn’t mean you don’t have other options out there. There are dozens of other international feeds available. Some will come in the form of straight-up illegal streams, which will get shut down with a speed that sprinter Usain Bolt might envy. For savvier users looking for a more stable viewing experience, IP proxies will be an invaluable resource. Either way, no matter your tech IQ, you should have little problem accessing secondary feeds if that’s a course of action you decide to take.

Before the proliferation of illicit streams, setting up an IP proxy was the preferred technique for penetrating international firewalls that prevent non-residents from accessing localized programming. With this approach, users need to set up an IP proxy that is particular to that country, so it “recognizes” them as a resident. Sites like Proxify and Hide My Ass! assist with that, usually on a freemium basis. (In other words, basic usage is free but services are enhanced for a nominal fee or contribution.) You would also need to dig into your browser settings a bit, but it doesn’t take a comp-sci PhD to do the deed. And websites that assist in setting up IP proxies often provide tutorials. With an IP proxy in place, it’s just a matter of finding a source for Olympics viewing, and the IOC provides links to every Olympic TV, cable, and online video provider in the world. Of particular interest is the IOC’s list of 2012 broadcasters.

For expert coverage of all things London, the BBC has committed more than 700 journalists to cover every angle. The BBC has been streaming Olympic content online since 2004, and it’ll supply some 2,500 hours of video streaming for the London games—1,000 more hours than four years ago; the BBC will also supply up to 24 HD streams at once via its video player. (It’s technically available only to UK residents.) If you want to catch local TV broadcasts, your main destinations will be BBC One and BBC Three, which should be available on any number of international video-streaming sites. (More on those later.)

CTV has an excellent (and free) iOS app that promises live video streaming of multiple Canadian TV broadcasts. Again, it’s technically available only to people accessing Wi-Fi in Canada.

In an extraordinary move, YouTube will offer live HD streaming for free to people in those countries who aren’t signed up with a major international broadcast partner. About 64 countries throughout sub-Saharan Africa and Asia—that means India, Nigeria, Kenya, and dozens others—will get free access, across mobile and PC, to as many as 10 HD feeds at youtube.com/olympic. As long as you’re in one of these countries (or YouTube thinks you are), you’ve got an incredible amount of video at your disposal. YouTube.com/olympic will also host extensive 2012 Olympic highlights once the Games conclude.

Sites like LiveTV offer illicit streams from overseas for sports fans who don’t mind dropped signals and can steer clear of shady pop-up ads.

If paying for and maintaining IP proxies are above your pay grade, you could check one of the many video-streaming sites that deftly evade international prosecution. What you’re sacrificing here is a certain amount of flexibility. However, tracking down illicit international streams is easier and faster than setting up IP proxies, and there’s no shortage of places to pick from. AtdheNet.TV, FirstRow Sports, SportLemon.TV, LiveTV, Livebox7, and MyP2P are all pretty reliable. As much as major broadcast entities would love to shut these sites down, they always re-emerge. Watching illicit streams, though, carries other risks, as these kinds of sites are often brimming with malware and viruses. Make sure your pop-up blocker is enabled and don’t click on any messages that seem especially shady.

Once you find a site that suits your needs—AtdheNet.TV has always delivered for me in a pinch—feel free to check out channels such as Sky Italia (13 channels alone) and Eurosport (seen in 20 languages across 59 countries) to try and experience the wealth of perspective that the Olympics can provide. For a truly personalized experience, you might want to search for videocasters on the scene. Four years ago, certain members of the video-streaming masses used Justin.tv to stream footage straight from the Beijing Olympics. NBC put a fierce smackdown on those illicit, on-the-ground feeds in 2008, but that doesn’t mean they won’t pop up again this year. With more than 3,700 live channels, it’s a good bet there’ll be no shortage of people either streaming live from London or broadcasting their own non-NBC feeds from their homes. Again, check back often, as these feeds have a way of returning once they’ve been booted.

For the casual Olympic fan, social media is going to be the fastest and easiest to gain access to realtime coverage. Sports Illustrated has compiled a convenient and comprehensive list of media, athletes, and experts who’ll be on the scene in London. (In typical SI style, it purposely didn’t include any SI staffers on the list, although you can find them amid the magazine’s always-excellent Olympic coverage) Twitter, for its part, will be manning an ops center in Colorado where a team of people will work some 20 hours a day to promote all things Olympic on Twitter.com.

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