The first Digital Olympics: why new technology means you can watch what you want

Let RadioTimes.com be your guide to 24 live channels and 2,500 hours of coverage

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The first Digital Olympics: why new technology means you can watch what you want
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Picture the scene. You're at home watching Athens 2004 or Beijing 2008 on the telly. The canoeing is on. You don't normally watch canoeing, but you're starting to get quite into it - just then, Sue Barker or Gary Lineker pipe up to say, we're crossing over to the hockey now. Grrr. Or, you're a huge table tennis fan but the only coverage on the TV is half an hour here and there, and most of the time you miss it. Gah.

At London 2012, those days are over. The BBC's commitment to comprehensive coverage has been seven years in the making and has been matched by crucial advances in digital technology, meaning this is the first Games where you at home are in complete control of what you see… 

What coverage can everyone watch?
The main Olympics channel is BBC1, which will show live coverage of the Games all day, every day from 6am, with highlights running until after midnight. There will only be breaks for news, at which point BBC2 will show the Olympics.

What's on Freeview and Freeview HD?
BBC3 will also dedicate itself to the Olympics, and will broadcast from 9am rather than just in the evening. There's high-definition coverage on BBC HD (which mirrors BBC3) and BBC1 HD. Freeview homes will get two further Olympics channels, showing the pick of the action not covered on BBC1 or BBC3. They're available on the red button and on channel 301 (304 in HD) and 302 (from 7pm, not HD). You may need to retune your digibox to pick these up. So that's not one but four Olympics channels on Freeview. BT Vision homes can access this content, too.

OK, but it doesn't sound like I'm in control yet. I thought there were 24 new live channels?
There are - on Sky, Virgin and Freesat. The BBC calls them "Red Button" content but this undersells them a bit: they're proper channels accessible via the electronic programme guide, which means you can record from them. They’re free, and should by now have appeared automatically: Sky channels 450-473; Virgin 574-597; Freesat 150-173. All are available in either HD or standard definition. Between them they offer coverage of every Olympic sport - if it's happening on any given day, it'll have its own channel showing all the action, live and uninterrupted. You can flip between them at will. (If you watch Freeview via a connected TV wired up to your broadband, some models will be able to access the 24 new channels via the new BBC Sport app.) 

I haven't got fancy satellite or cable, though. Are the 24 Olympics channels online?
Yes. If you don't have satellite or cable then, assuming your broadband speed is up to it, you needn't worry because the BBC website is the most comprehensive service available. You can watch the 24 streams there on the Interactive Video Player, in HD. But here's the really amazing thing: if you get in from work, check your Olympics Radio Times special issue and find an event you wanted to see is already under way, you can go online and simply rewind the live coverage on any of the 24 streams.  

Can I keep tabs on the 24 Olympics channels using RadioTimes.com?
Of course. Add the new channels to your RadioTimes.com channel list by clicking on our TV tab at the top of the page, selecting ‘TV Listings’ and clicking ‘My Channels’ from the top of the listings grid, where you’ll find all 24 new streams plus their HD counterparts ready to select. 

Can I see all this on my smartphone/tablet?
Yes. There’s a mobile-optimised version of the website and free BBC apps for Android and iPhone/iPad users that are already getting rave reviews.

How about radio?
Extensive coverage on three channels: BBC Radio 5 Live and 5 Live Sports Extra, plus a temporary, dedicated digital radio channel, BBC 5 Live Olympics Extra. Overseas listeners can't stream the radio coverage, however.

And 3D?
Yep. Eurosport is showing eight hours of live action a day, plus four of highlights. There’s a limited offering from the BBC on the BBC HD channel: nightly highlights once the live action has finished. The only event shown live in 3D by the Beeb will be the men’s 100m final on 5 August. The Opening and Closing Ceremonies will also be in 3D.

What will happen to the programmes I normally enjoy on BBC1 and BBC3?
Many of them will take a break, but some will move to BBC2 - EastEnders, for example. Check our listings!

Where can I watch the Opening Ceremony?
On BBC1 and BBC1 HD. Coverage starts at 7pm on Friday. Satellite/cable viewers can watch with audio description or, if they prefer, with no commentary at all: for that option, press the red button from any BBC channel or, on a Virgin TiVo box, use the BBC Sport app.