How to Customize Your Olympics Viewing Experience

Roku and Comcast/NBCUniversal have created the best Olympics streaming experience so far. For those who remember having to wait hours to catch a specific swim heat or track-and-field event, customized viewing now lets you stream live coverage, replays, background documentaries, and athlete profiles from an Olympics submenu on the Roku or Comcast Xfinity X1 home screen. It's not perfect, but you won't have to miss the best moments or the sports competitions you like.

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which run through August 8, were postponed until this year and have (confusingly) retained the 2020 moniker. In addition to streaming on the Peacock app, coverage of the games are available via NBC Sports, the Olympic Channel, and USA Network. Because coverage is spread across services and channels, Roku has added a handy submenu to its home screen, which provides easy access to highlights and live coverage even if you don’t know which channels are streaming which events. If you missed the Opening Ceremonies, which took place on July 23rd, no worries: you can watch a replay.

Clicking on the Olympics submenu brings you to a medal tracker that shows how many medals each country has won to date. Navigating to the right displays a list of videos. Daily Highlights are displayed in the top row. The free highlights are typically less than five minutes and show a race, a heat, a medal ceremony, news, and essential moments such as Australia’s women's swim coach celebrating the team’s win over the USA. Previous days are available by clicking on Daily Highlights Recap.

Roku’s Olympics hub also has a section for extended highlights, which run about 10 minutes and show full recaps of specific events. These longer videos are available to stream via Peacock. If you don't have the Peacock channel on Roku, you'll be prompted to install it. Peacock offers a free tier for watching Olympics-related content with commercials, including the aforementioned extended highlights and Tokyo Now, Great Moments, Must-See Moments, and the documentaries Team USA, Tokyo Flame, and Meet the Olympians.

The next row in Roku’s Olympic hub is “Live Now” for curated live coverage. Live broadcasts on NBC Sports, the Olympic Channel, and USA require a TV provider subscription — satellite, cable, telecom, or online live TV streaming. You will be prompted to sign in on a web browser. If you don't have a TV provider, you can still watch up to 30 minutes of live video.

The Roku home screen also offers quick access to live broadcast coverage through Hulu, Sling, AT&T TV, Fubo TV, and Telemundo. YouTube TV also carries NBC but it is not currently available on the Roku platform.

One of the benefits of the multi-sport live coverage has always been the athlete interviews. When you opt to watch a specific competition, you can find related interviews listed under Athlete Profiles.

Roku also provides a list of all Olympic sports. When you click on a sport, replays are listed along with a schedule of upcoming events. You can tag an upcoming competition for viewing by adding it to "Follow this movie on Roku" and, when it’s time for the event to start, it will appear under the "My Feed" submenu.

The NBC Sports channel also has an events schedule, replays, and highlights that can be filtered by sport. The app also provides a search option so you can find the exact video you want. This is where I found a replay of the Opening Ceremonies.

Many videos are available from the Roku Tokyo Olympics screen. Certain videos are available only with a premium ($10/month) subscription to Peacock (which you could sign up for and cancel when the Olympics are over). The subscription provides access to video replays by sport and Peacock original productions, including For Ball and Country about the U.S. basketball team, Golden: The Journey of USA's Elite Gymnasts, and Olympic Highlights with comedian Kevin Hart and Snoop Dogg.

Peacock sub-channels include Tokyo Tonight, a fast-paced highlights channel with news and interviews, Team USA, Meet the Olympians, Great Moments in Olympic History, Must See Moments, and the Tokyo Olympic Flame cam.

Highlights on the Peacock channel include Gold Medal Moments, Olympic News, Olympics Interviews, Get to Know the Olympians, and On Her Turf, featuring women in the Olympics.

Watching the Olympics
While Roku put a lot of thought into the menus, there were issues with the video playback. Most annoyingly, even if you have a paid subscription to Peacock, you can't bypass the commercials in live feeds and in some replays. A single ad appears at the beginning of short videos but longer competitions string eight ads together. More than once, a glitch caused a second set of ads to play, which you can’t fast-forward through! Talk about frustrating. And if you try to skip through a video, an onscreen timeline indicates that you are fast-forwarding or rewinding but there are no thumbnails to show where you are in the video.

I also noted problems with video production. During a few of the outdoor events, the sound mix was screwed up: Background and street noises were so loud that I couldn't hear the announcers. I tried adjusting my TV's sound settings to favor dialogue, but it didn't work. There were also mistakes in the closed captioning used during live events, which were compounded by foreign accents. When the Australian triathlon announcer said "bike", the caption read "bag."

It may be easier to find videos on a Roku device, but you can stream the Olympics on any device that has Peacock and NBC Sports. Unfortunately, I found that the playback issues noted above happen on all devices. It was impossible to fast forward on Apple TV without the video stopping at each commercial break.

Despite these shortcomings, the best moments of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games are easy to find in the Roku hub so you won't have to plan your day around the events you want to watch.

Comcast is offering its customers a similar experience that offers aggregated and curated access to 7,000 hours of NBCUniversal's live and on-demand coverage. What's more, users can access the content with voice commands using the Xfinity Voice Remote. The Opening and Closing Ceremonies and some of the more popular sports are available live in 4K HDR with Dolby Atmos audio.