How to Watch the Rio Olympics in 4K

Given the well-publicized concerns about crime and the Zika virus, watching the 2016 Rio Olympics from home may actually be the best way of catching the action this year. And for a select few who have both a 4K UHD TV and a TV service provider offering 4K broadcasts of the Games, the experience could be the best ever.

This year, NBC will be offering 83 hours of the 2016 Rio Olympics in 4K high-resolution video, starting August 6 and running through August 21. But watch out for spoilers: There's a one-day delay between each event and its 4K broadcast in the U.S. The network's broadcasts will also include high dynamic range, or HDR, technology.

Just having a 4K TV doesn't mean you'll be able to watch the action in all its ultra high-def glory, since right now only a handful of TV services say they'll provide 4K broadcasts of the Games. Comcast customers with LG and Samsung UHD smart TVs, DirecTV and Dish satellite subscribers with the right hardware, and Chattanooga, Tennessee, residents who get the city’s EPB municipal broadband/TV service will be able to enjoy the higher-quality broadcasts. Everyone else is out of luck.

And that's too bad, since many of us with 4K UHD sets have been clamoring for more 4K content, in addition to what's currently available from streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon.

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The bright colors and explosive action of the Rio Olympics should be a good showcase for 4K technology. With more than eight million pixels (3840 x 2160), 4K TVs offer four times the resolution of regular 1080p (1920 x 1080) sets.

Throw HDR into the mix and you also get images with greater contrast and intensity, as well as a wider and richer range of colors. The broadcast will also include Dolby Atmos, an immersive multi-channel sound technology found in newer receivers and speakers that should add some sonic oomph to viewers who have Atmos-capable gear.

According to NBC, the 4K programming will include both the opening and closing ceremonies, select events in swimming, track and field, judo, and basketball, plus the men's soccer final as well as video scenes shot around Rio. NBC promises that at least one event from the previous day’s competition will be shown in 4K each day.

One interesting note is that the Rio Olympics games are actually being shot in 8K, then down-converted to UHD for U.S. broadcasts. Some Japanese viewers may be able to watch the games in 8K.

Where to Watch

Listed below are the TV service providers that have signed on to deliver the Rio Olympics in 4K. It's possible that additional cable and telco TV services could join in before the Games start.

Comcast: Comcast will be delivering 4K Olympic programming only to those customers who have the Comcast Xfinity UHD app on a Samsung or LG 4K UHD TV. That means the programming is being delivered via streaming rather than over regular cable. The company is currently testing both an 1080p set-top box with HDR (the Xi5) and a 4K box with HDR (Xi6), but neither will be available in time for the Olympics.

DirecTV: AT&T’s DirecTV satellite service has been leading the 4K charge with three dedicated 4K channels. To get the Olympics in 4K, which will be sent via channel 106, you'll need to be a DirecTV customer with an Ultimate programming package or higher, plus the company's HR54 or newer Genie DVR, and either a compatible 4K TV or a 4K TV connected to a 4K Genie Mini.

Dish: Dish will be delivering 4K coverage of the Olympics on channel 146 and in its on-demand library. To receive the 4K broadcasts, you'll need to be a Dish subscriber with a Hopper 3 or 4K Joey set-top box. Based on what we've read, Dish won't have the opening ceremonies in 4K with HDR, but it will have all the other 4K programming. You can expect to see one event from the previous day’s competition each day, which will be looped on the channel in three-hour intervals. The programming will also be available as a part of Dish's on-demand offerings.

One side note: Both AT&T/DirecTV and Dish will also offer multi-view options, though they won't be in 4K. AT&T U-verse and Dish will both offer a single-screen view of four channels of Olympics, while DirecTV will cram up to eight live channels at a time as part of a mosaic view.

EPB-Chattanooga. Residents of Chattanooga, Tennessee, who get EPB Fiber Optics, the city’s public broadband/TV service, will be able to watch the Olympics in 4K on channel 803 as part of its Fi TV Select package. EPB-Chattanooga, which offers 1GB fiber service, is the highest-rated company in Consumer Reports’ TV and broadband services Ratings. You’ll need one of the company’s newest set-top boxes to watch in 4K.

We're hoping to check out some of the Olympic events in 4K with HDR, and we'll be offering up our impressions in a separate article. If you're able to get 4K broadcasts and will be tuning in, let us know what you think in the comments section below.

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