How to watch the Oscars online for free

Spoiler alert: that's gonna be a tall order

  • Update: The 2016 Oscars are over, but the after-party is just getting started. Stay tuned for all the highlights from last night's four-hour event, including the opening speech and full list of winners. For now, though, check out all the awards Mad Max won.

The 2016 Academy Awards are almost upon us. All the laughs, tears and long-winded speeches will broadcast online to the world – for free – on Sunday, February 28.

Is this the year Leo takes home a trophy at long last? Will Spotlight beat out both The Martian and The Big Short for Best Picture? Will Mad Max win Best Costume Design … wait, you probably don't need to watch the Oscars to know the answer to that one.

But, should you want to watch them anyway, we have the answer to the one question you really want to know: Where can I watch the Oscars live stream online?

(As for that "free" part, watching without paying for something is going to be tough, unfortunately. But, if you go a little old school, you'll get more than just the Oscars on your TV for free – read on.)

Start on the Red Carpet

The Red Carpet rolls out at 7pm ET, 4pm PT or 12am GMT – or 8am AWST Monday morning – with the awards ceremony to follow immediately after everyone's outerwear is thoroughly discussed and dissected.

If you've never watched one of the previous 88 Academy Awards, the Red Carpet is the time where the industry's brightest stars stroll to their seats. I know, I know. It sounds boring, but, in reality the Red Carpet is actually hysterical, thanks to a running gag by E! called "Fashion Police."

While Joan Rivers won't be there to take her traditional role as lead troublemaker for E!'s Fashion Police, her daughter, Melissa Rivers, will likely take the reins and guide us through the do's and don'ts of celebrity fashion.

How to watch the Oscars online

Image courtesy of NBC

Should you want to follow along with the fashion carnage, simply head on over to E! Online's Livestream site and laugh, "ooh" and "ah" until the stars take their seats.

And the winner is...

Unfortunately, this year streaming the Oscars is going to be as tough – if not tougher – than snagging a seat in the audience. The only in is via the Watch ABC app or the Oscars website, which, for whatever reason, requires you to to log in using your cable provider account.

Supported US providers include Comcast, Cablevision, Cox Communications, Charter Communications, DISH, DirecTV, Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-verse.

If you're watching from the UK, the show will stream live exclusively on the Sky Movies Oscars channel. So, you either need a Sky Movies subscription or have a Now TV Sky Movies Pass to watch it on its Roku-powered little box.

In Australia, the country's Nine Network will live stream the ceremony through its new 9Now online service for the first time on Monday morning.

But, even if you're a proud cable subscriber (boo!) in the states, you're not out of the woods yet. ABC is only allowed to stream it online in select US cities: Chicago, Fresno, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, Raleigh-Durham and San Francisco. Yikes.

What's worse, even if you jump on the streaming bandwagon and buy a subscription to PlayStation Vue or Sling TV, which both now offer ABC in addition to more than 25 other channels, you'll still need be located in one of the aforementioned cities.

How to watch the Oscars online

If you've got cable and live in a major metropolitan area, you're all set. For everyone else, however, there's always another alternative – a digital antenna.

Digital antennas, if you've never heard of them, are like the 21st Century's answer to bunny ears. The antenna – generally a flat piece of plastic that has been modified to receive over-the-air TV signals – plugs into the back of your set via a coaxial cable.

They'll grab you the basic channels – NBC, ABC, CBS and FOX – and won't charge you a monthly subscription, like cable does (but offer fewer channels, of course).

The backstage pass

OK, so you couldn't get in through the front door. No big deal. It happens to the best of us. We've all been to a show, pretended we were on the list and were met with the cold, dead eyes of the bouncer who is absolutely not buying it.

Should you want to get around the security, there's two additional ways to see the show, social media and ABC's Backstage Pass.

The Oscars Backstage is a unique second screen experience from ABC that allows you to watch the stars as they move between the stage and the dressing rooms in the back. It might not be the optimal viewing experience, but hey, it can't be any worse than the GrammyCam.

If all else fails, you can always follow along on Twitter and Facebook. Just search #Oscars on any social media platform to see the latest happenings.

The 88th Academy Awards start 8:30pm ET, 5:30pm PT and 1:30am GMT – don't forget 9:30am AWST – and will be hosted by Chris Rock.