After being postponed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan will finally be held from Friday, July 23rd through Sunday, August 8th. Even though the games are being held in 2021, they are still referred to officially as the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. Watching the Tokyo Olympics in 4K will have to suffice this year.
Unfortunately, physical attendance at the games is highly restrictive (especially for those living outside of Japan), and for those in Japan, many venues will only allow 50% seating capacity.
Of course, even in “normal” years, tickets are in high demand, with travel and accommodation costs being very high. However, that doesn’t have to stop you from getting a front-row seat to almost all the action at home on your TV.
Let’s find out what is being offered to TV viewers and how to access it all.
In the U.S., Comcast/NBC Universal will be providing the most coverage and accessibility to the Tokyo Summer Games through its Xfinity X1, Flex, and Stream App platforms.
For subscribers of Xfinity X1’s 4K services (XG1v4 or Xi6 TV Box, or Flex Xi6 or XiOne media streamer), a significant amount of Olympics content will be available to watch in 4K/HDR video and Dolby Atmos immersive audio (4K/HDR equipped TV and Dolby Atmos-enabled sound bar or home theater audio system required). As a bonus, HDR will be provided in Dolby Vision for those that have TVs that can decode that HDR format – if not, HLG or HDR10 will also be provided.
Here are additional highlights of what Xfinity provides:
- 7,000 hours of live, on-demand, and streaming coverage across TV and mobile devices with the Xfinity Stream app.
- For those that have the Xfinity Voice Remote, the trigger word “Olympics” takes users directly to the main X1 Olympics category. Additional voice commands provide information on athletes, sports, teams, and featured nations.
- X1 viewers get easy access to live coverage, highlights of their favorite sports and will be able to create their own Olympics coverage playlist. The playlist is also accessible on the companion Xfinity stream for additional convenience.
- Notifications can be set up for favorite events, sports, and important life moments as they occur.
- In addition to personalized playlists and notifications, Xfinity provides curated categories such as Trending Videos, Gold Medal Moments, Best of Team USA, Record-Breakers, and Celebrations.
- Although not all events will be provided live (there is a 13 hour or more time difference between Tokyo and the U.S.), live coverage of significant events should be available in most TV markets, such as the Opening/Closing ceremonies, Gymnastics, Track/Field, Swimming, Diving, Beach Volleyball, Golf, Tennis.
- Live event coverage will be available in most markets. This includes the nightly NBC primetime show, the Opening, and Closing Ceremonies, along with popular sports like gymnastics, track & field, swimming, diving, beach volleyball, golf, and tennis.
- Every sport, top athlete, and major nation will have their own voice-enabled X1 destination page, blending live, on-demand, and short-form programming to keep viewers up to date on the sports, personalities, and teams they like best. Content will be refreshed/updated daily and showcase programming currently airing, upcoming coverage, as well as highlights and replays.
- Spanish-language on X1 and Stream will be provided. NBC Universal is providing 300 hours of Spanish-language coverage to customers at home or on the go, and special in-language voice commands, such as “Olimpiadas,” “Natacion” and “Medallero,” will help customers navigate the Games in Spanish.
- Audio Description will be available on key broadcasts such as the primetime show and Opening and Closing ceremonies. This enables visually impaired users to enjoy the Olympics with friends and family.
Other cable/satellite channels owned by NBC Universal will offer non-4K content. NBCSN will offer over 440 hours, USA Network more than 380 hours, and CNBC over 100 hours of Olympic coverage. The Olympic Channel will show Team USA competitions, including wrestling and tennis. The Golf Channel will show golf events, and Telemundo Deportes will air competitions in Spanish.
NBC Broadcast/HD Cable/Satellite
For those that don’t subscribe to Comcast Xfinity X1, you can also watch a lot of Olympics coverage through your local NBC broadcast TV affiliate or another HD cable/satellite service.
Unfortunately, even if you have a 4K/HDR TV, broadcast TV and HD cable/satellite service is, for the most part (see exceptions below), provided in 1080i resolution and standard dynamic range.
However, if you own a 2020 or 2021 high-end Samsung, Sony, or LG TV that has an ATSC 3.0/NextGen tuner built-in and you live in a market that has implemented broadcasting in that system, an NBC affiliate may opt to provide broadcasting in 4K. However, you should contact your local NBC affiliate directly for any details, as it may not be promoted or provided in TV listings.
Optimum/Altice Cable will provide 4K Olympics coverage through its Channel 200. DirecTV will provide access to 4K feeds on Channel 105. Dish Network is providing 4K coverage on Channels 540 and 148 and HD coverage on channel 389.
If you don’t have Comcast Xfinity or subscribe to cable or satellite, you can get access to NBC and content from related channels with the YouTube TV streaming app. In addition, YouTube TV now offers a 4K upgrade package that will provide access to some Olympic content in 4K and HDR.
Although YouTube TV doesn’t provide access to Dolby Atmos, you can still get the benefit of the increased picture detail offered by 4K resolution and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound.
Fubo TV is another streaming service that provides access to NBC and offers an Olympics Channel. As to how much will be offered in 4K/HDR is still not known and what is provided may be limited to the New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Boston, and Manchester, NH markets.
Select events in 4K on Fubo TV should include Opening/Closing ceremonies and some high-profile sports competitions. Fubo TV doesn’t support Dolby Atmos.
Flex and other Media Streamers
For those that have the Xfinity Flex or other media streamer (Roku, FireTV, Apple TV, Android/Google TV), Comcast/NBC Universal will provide Olympics content through the Peacock streaming service as well Olympic-related content through YouTube, HBO Max, Prime Video, and others.
Flex can also upgrade to Xfinity TV via the Stream app for NBC’s live coverage of many events such as the Opening/Closing Ceremony, nightly Primetime Show, and Spanish language content via Telemundo and Universo.
Olympics in 8K
In Japan, NHK (Nippon Hoso Kyokai – Japan Broadcasting Corporation) will be providing some coverage in 8K HDR and multi-channel surround sound. However, this is limited to public viewing venues and those that own and subscribe to a special 8K satellite TV service that is available only in Japan.
Japan has been providing limited 8K TV broadcasting since December 2018. When it will be available in the U.S. is anybody’s guess as 4K TV broadcast implementation is still in progress and 8K probably won’t be a significant factor until 2025 (most likely via streaming). Perhaps 8K TV broadcasting in the U.S. will be available in time for the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
No matter what options you have available to you, the Olympics always has some historical TV viewing moments. Keep in mind the event times and coverage access are subject to change, and several of your favorite events may be scheduled at the same time. There will be a lot to watch, which begs the question: Who has time to watch it all?