All Olympic Events Will Be Streamed Online – But Only for Pay TV Subscribers

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Tower Bridge adorned with the Olympic Rings is seen on late July 25, 2012 two days before the start of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Archery, badminton, equestrian, judo, sailing, tae kwon do, and table tennis are among the many events that’ll take place during the London 2012 Summer Olympics, but that are very unlikely to be featured for more than a few seconds during NBC‘s presentation of the Games. This year, though, fans will be able to watch even the most obscure Olympic events live—that is, if they’re subscribers to cable or satellite TV.

All rounds of all 32 sports in the London 2012 Olympics, medal ceremonies included, will be streamed live at, the website set up by NBC Universal, which has exclusive U.S. rights to broadcast the Games.

There’s just one caveat, though: To stream events, you must be a subscriber to a pay TV package that includes MSNBC and CNBC. Most services from providers such as Comcast, DirectTV, Dish Network, and Time Warner Cable qualify.

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The “Live Extra” streaming service, as it’s called, can be accessed at the above link. If you don’t have them already, you’ll have to verify your account info and get a username and password—again, the above link will clue you in as to how to get them. The process can take place at any time before or during the Games, and it’ll probably help to have a recent bill (or at least your account number) handy. The same username and password will work on any device of your choosing, including desktops, laptops, and tablets, and an NBC Olympics Live Extra app is available for smartphones. For subscribers with a qualifying pay TV package, there is no charge for these services.

As for non-subscribers, well, this is one of those instances when the downsides of “cord cutting” seem quite apparent. As a very helpful PBS Guide to cutting the cord puts it plainly:

For many people, the biggest barrier to canceling cable is the loss of live sports.

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This doesn’t mean that cord cutters can’t watch the Olympics. The main NBC channel, available even if you’re not a cable subscriber, will broadcast more than 270 hours of programming, though the broadcasts will lean heavily on the usual Olympics fare: popular sports (sometimes tape-delayed), as well as prepackaged features focusing on marquee matchups and tear-jerker back stories about athletes.

It’s also possible for non-subscribers to view quite a bit of the Olympics online, though the events won’t be live, and the options will be limited. NBC’s Olympic website explains:

You will NOT need to verify your TV subscription to view the extensive collection of competition highlights, interviews, athlete profiles, etc., available on

Certain sports leagues and channels have made it possible in the past for consumers to pay extra for live sports content. The Turner channels, for instance, charged non-subscribers $4 to watch March Madness games during this year’s NCAA basketball tournament., meanwhile, sells various packages that allow fans to live stream any and every baseball game of their choosing. People who don’t subscribe to a pay TV package don’t have the option of paying extra to stream the Olympics live, however.

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Folks who are looking to get around the subscriber requirement may be tempted into trying alternative websites. But be warned: The London 2012 Olympics is sure to be a magnet not just for fans, but for hackers and scammers as well. MarketWatch noted that there were 12 million cyberattacks reported per day during the Beijing 2008 Olympics, and London police have already put 30 websites on a “watch list” due to suspicions they’re scams.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.