Watch the NFL Without Cable
If you’ve ditched your cable company in favor of one (or several) video streaming services, you can still watch most of the live sports you want, including NFL broadcasts. On-demand services such as Netflix, Disney+, and HBO Max don’t offer live sports though, so you need to subscribe to a cable-replacement service that streams live channels. Not all these live streaming services are ideal for NFL fans, as they may be missing some key coverage networks. You should also consider the features and other content a service offers to determine which is the best value for your household.
The NFL preseason doesn’t start until August 13, so you can’t watch any football now (except for reruns). We will update this roundup with each week’s broadcast schedule, once the regular season starts back up again on Sept. 10. Note that these dates may be subject to change, given the pandemic-related uncertainty surrounding all sports this year.
National vs. Local Broadcasts
NFL games generally air at four time slots on different networks during the regular season: Thursday Night Football (Amazon Prime Video, FOX, and NFL Network), Sunday afternoons (CBS and FOX), Sunday Night Football (NBC), and Monday Night Football (ESPN). Note that some Thursday Night Football games are exclusive to the NFL Network. Broadcasts of playoff games are split between CBS, ESPN, FOX, and NBC. The best NFL streaming services include all of these channels, or at least the vast majority of them.
Not all broadcasts are the same, however. For instance, which NFL games you can watch on Sunday afternoons depends on your local market. These games are carried on local affiliate channels and are subject to the same blackout rules as cable broadcasts. The NFL matchups on Sunday nights and every other day of the week are national broadcasts, so you can watch them regardless of your location. Playoff games and the Super Bowl are also televised to national audiences.
The Best NFL Streaming Service Deals This Week*
*Deals are selected by our partner, TechBargains
Cable and Over-the-Air Options
One of the easiest ways to ensure complete coverage of national and in-market games is to sign up for a cable plan. Note that if you go this route, you will likely pay more than any video streaming service and will lose out on other conveniences, such as better-designed interfaces and support for more platforms. NFL Sunday Ticket is one of the few legitimate options for watching out-of-market regular-season games. With this cable add-on (exclusive to AT&T’s DirecTV cable branch), you can watch every regular-season game on Sunday afternoons, regardless of your geographic location. This is ideal for football fans who live outside of their favorite team’s home market.
Streaming cable over the air via an antenna is another option for watching broadcast channels (such as CBS, FOX, and NBC), though your success may vary depending on your location and the strength of the signal in your home. You also need to buy and set up an antenna for this method. Sling TV is the only video streaming service on this list that integrates with over-the-air channels.
Other Ways to Stream NFL Games
Paid services are not your only options to stream NFL games. For instance, you can watch in-market NFL games on Sunday afternoon as well as primetime Sunday Night Football, Monday Night Football, and Thursday Night Football broadcasts via the free Yahoo Sports app or NFL app for iOS and Android. Note that neither app supports casting of any kind and that some games require you to stream them over a cellular connection. The streaming quality of both apps was excellent in testing over Wi-Fi. Locast is a donations-supported option for streaming local broadcast channels in major market areas, such as Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, and San Francisco. Locast is currently tied up in legal battles with national broadcast channels, so it is unclear how long this will be a viable option.
If you search for any NFL matchup and concatenate “live stream” to your search query, some site likely has a stream, legitimate or not. PCMag does not condone content piracy. Some subreddits also exist solely to provide streaming links for NFL games. Similar reddit communities that curated streaming links for other national sports leagues have been shut down, however. If you do find a reliable stream, make sure to protect yourself with the right security tools, such as ad and script blockers, privacy extensions, and of course, a VPN. Many video streaming services do not allow VPN usage, which prevents you from spoofing your location to get games in a different coverage market.
If you don’t care about watching games live, NFL Game Pass from the NFL Network is an option. You can rewatch any regular-season NFL games after they air with this service and get the benefit of condensed game replays.
The Best Sports Streaming Services
If you really are not interested in the NFL, there are other sports streaming services you should consider. Dazn is an excellent option for MMA and boxing fans. ESPN+, which oddly does not include ESPN’s Monday Night Football coverage, offers a good range of national and college sports. PlayStation Vue no longer exists. We’ve removed it from the chart as well as from the commentary below.
Best NFL Streaming Services Featured in This Roundup:
$54.99 per month
Hulu + Live TV features all the channels you need to watch NFL games, including CBS, ESPN, FOX, and NBC. Like YouTube TV, it is missing the NFL Network. However, this is not necessarily a dealbreaker, since most games on that network are simulcast on FOX. Other sports channels on the service include BTN and the Golf Channel. You can also subscribe to the Español add-on ($4.99 per month) to get international sports coverage from ESPN Deportes.
Hulu is an excellent choice for general audiences too, with coverage of most popular news and entertainment channels. A subscription to Hulu + Live TV unlocks Hulu’s expansive library of on-demand shows and movies.
You can improve Hulu’s technical capabilities with the Enhanced Cloud DVR (which increases the available DVR storage to 200 hours from 50) or the Unlimited Screens package (which increases the number of simultaneous streams from two to an unlimited number in your home and up to three outside of it) add-ons. Each option costs $9.99 per month on its own, but you can get both for $14.99 per month. Note that while Hulu’s on-demand content is available in 1080p (a few on-demand originals even support 4K streaming on select platforms), its live channels all stream in 720p.
$64.99 per month
For NFL coverage, YouTube TV offers CBS, ESPN, FOX, and NBC in its lineup. It does not, however, include the NFL Network, which may give pause to die-hard NFL fans.
As for other national sports, the service includes the Golf Channel, MLB Network, NBA TV, Olympic Channel, and Tennis Channel. You can also an extra monthly fee for the FOX Soccer Plus ($15 per month) and NBA League Pass ($39.99 per month) add-ons. YouTube TV also includes top news and entertainment channels.
With YouTube TV, you get unlimited cloud DVR storage (recordings are kept for up to nine months), up to three simultaneous device streams, and support for six user accounts. All those features are useful for when family members want to watch different programs that are set to air at the same time. YouTube TV is notably one of the few services that streams live channels in 1080p.
Amazon Prime Video
$8.99 per month
Amazon Prime Video only streams Thursday Night NFL games, which likely only makes it a viable option for casual football fans.
That said, Prime video does offer sports-focused channel add-ons for the platform, including CBS All Access (and its Sunday NFL coverage), NBA League Pass, and PGA Tour Live. Amazon also produces the All or Nothing series, which offers a behind-the-scenes look at various professional sports teams. Amazon Prime’s on-demand library of TV shows and movies (and especially its originals) make it an excellent choice for your on-demand streaming needs as well.
Amazon Prime works on the web, Android, iOS, Fire devices, game consoles (PlayStation, Xbox, and Wii), smart TVs, and media streaming devices (Apple TV 4K and Roku). With Prime Video, you can stream content on up to three devices at the same time.
$60 per month
FuboTV is an excellent option for NFL fans; it includes CBS, FOX, NBC, and the NFL Network. FuboTV recently announced that it would soon add Disney channels (including ESPN) to its channel lineups, which considerably improves the service’s NFL coverage.
FuboTV excels in its other sports coverage though with the Golf Channel, NBA TV, TBS, and TNT. FuboTV also features a good range of regional sports networks (RSNs); for instance, MSG, SNY, and YES are available in the New York area. FuboTV’s international sports lineup includes beIN Sports, FOX Deportes, GOL TV, and TUDN. FuboTV’s news and entertainment offerings are strong too, especially with the addition of Viacom and Discovery channels. Many TV shows and movies from those channels are available to stream on-demand.
By default, FuboTV can record up to 30 hours of DVR content, which it keeps forever. The Cloud DVR Plus add-on ($9.99 per month) increases that limit to 500 hours. Other cool features of FuboTV are Lookback, which lets you watch select sports programs up to 72 hours after they aired, and Startover, which enables you to restart certain live events from the beginning.
FuboTV is available on the web or via dedicated apps for Android, iOS, Apple TV, Fire TV, Chromecast, and Roku devices. You can stream on up to two devices simultaneously, but the Family Share add-on ($5.99 per month) increases that to three devices. Note that while most of FuboTV’s live streams are limited to 720p, it does air select programming in 4K. Most of its on-demand content can be streamed in 1080p.
CBS All Access
$5.99 per month
CBS All Access lets you stream a live feed of your local CBS broadcast channel as part of your subscription, which means you can watch live NFL games from your local CBS affiliate. Other sports that stream on this channel include the NCAA March Madness tournament and select PGA Tour events.
CBS All Access grants you access to CBS’s library of on-demand streaming content and original shows too, such as The Good Fight, Star Trek: Discovery, and Star Trek: Picard. You can upgrade to CBS All Access’s $11.99-per-month No Commercials plan to avoid ads during on-demand streams.
CBS All Access is available for your smartphone (iOS and Android), streaming devices (Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, and Roku), and game consoles (PS4 and Xbox One). Subscribers can stream from up to two devices simultaneously.
$30 per month
Sling TV splits its sports coverage across its Orange and Blue plan (both cost $30 per month), with ESPN channels on the former, and NFL Network and NBC on the latter. You have to pay for the combined Orange & Blue Package ($45 per month) to get its complete NFL coverage. NBC and FOX affiliates are available in select markets for those with at least a Sling Blue plan, but if you want to watch games that air on CBS, you need to set up an antenna, which partially defeats the purpose of getting a video streaming service in the first place.
Sling TV often offers promotions that bundle antennas with a subscription. Sports fans may want to subscribe to the Sports Extra add-on ($10 per month) to get beIN Sports, ESPN U, Golf Channel, MLB Network, NBA TV, and NHL Network.
Sling’s Orange & Blue plan allows you to stream on up to four devices simultaneously. Sling includes 10 hours of DVR storage for free, with an optional upgrade to 50 hours for an extra $5 per month. You can watch Sling TV on your mobile phone, streaming device, Xbox console (but not PlayStation), and the web.
AT&T TV Now
$55 per month
NFL fans should consider AT&T TV Now’s (previously DirecTV Now) $80-per-month Max plan, which includes CBS, ESPN, FOX, and NBC. You also get the Golf Channel, Olympic Channel, SEC Network, and some RSNs, though the NFL Network is not available for any package. You could get away with AT&T TV Now’s cheaper Plus package, but that plan doesn’t include RSNs.
AT&T TV Now offers 20 hours of DVR storage and keeps recordings for up to 30 days. Most other services let users save more hours of programming and for longer. Sports fans will appreciate AT&T TV Now’s Lookback and Rewind capabilities, which respectively allow you to watch previously aired content (up to 72 hours in the past) and restart live streams from the beginning of the broadcast. Note, however, that these features are only available for select channels and programs.
AT&T TV Now supports simultaneous streams on up to two devices by default, but you can pay an additional $4.99 per month to increase that limit to three devices. AT&T TV Now is available on media streaming devices, mobile platforms (via the AT&T TV app), and the web, but is not available on either the Xbox One or PlayStation 4 consoles.
Where To Buy
Amazon Prime Video
Pros: Excellent original content
4K and HDR streaming
Supports offline downloads and multiple viewer profiles
Lets you rent or buy movies and TV shows
Cons: Continues to lose third-party content to other services
Not as many high-quality shows as competitors
Bottom Line: Amazon Prime Video hosts lots of prestige content for streaming and also features impressive technical capabilities such as 4K HDR streaming and offline downloads.
Pros: Smooth high-definition video.
Plenty of channels.
Inexpensive premium add-on channels.
Cons: Lacks DVR and rewinding features.
Dependent on network-provided VOD content for non-live programming.
Bottom Line: DirecTV’s streaming service offers dozens of channels of live TV without installing a satellite dish or running cables.
Pros: Tons of live sports and on-demand entertainment content.
Good web and mobile apps.
Capable DVR functionality.
Some 4K content.
Cons: Costly add-ons and packages.
No ESPN or regional Fox sports channels.
Most live streams limited to 720p.
Bottom Line: FuboTV is a particularly good streaming service for sports fans, but its many news and entertainment channels should appeal to general audiences, too.
Pros: Excellent selection of TV series and movies.
Varied channel lineup.
Available on nearly every media-streaming device.
Cons: Price increase for Live TV.
Base on-demand plan includes ads.
Offline downloads feature requires premium account.
Fewer high-quality originals than competitors.
Bottom Line: Hulu is a dependable option for streaming new and classic shows as well as live TV across a wide variety of platforms. It’s a top choice among streaming video services.
Pros: Excellent lineup of sports, news, and entertainment channels
Robust and easy-to-use DVR features
Broad platform support
Only basic parental control options
Bottom Line: YouTube TV offers an excellent variety of channels, top-notch DVR features, and solid performance. It’s a top choice for cord cutters who want to replicate the cable TV experience, provided you are willing to pay its high monthly costs.
CBS All Access
Pros: Huge catalog of current and classic CBS shows.
Live CBS news and NFL games.
Supports many platforms.
Cons: Few exclusive originals.
Offline downloads restricted to commercial-free plan.
No support for 4K or HDR content.
Bottom Line: CBS All Access is mandatory for those who want to watch CBS originals as they air, but its large catalog of past and current shows may not be enough to attract anyone else.
Pros: Good selection of channels.
Flexible subscription options.
Movie rentals available.
Cons: Limited offering of local and regional channels.
Confusing Extra add-ons.
Interfaces and apps lag behind competitors.
Bottom Line: Sling TV is a reliable live TV service with a lot of channel flexibility, but its apps aren’t as intuitive as competitors’ and its cost has gone up.
Bottom Line: Latest software reviews, specification match up, price comparisons, editor and user ratings from PCMag.com. Previously known as PC Magazine.
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