This football season, various streaming platforms are delivering brand new ways to watch every NFL game without cable. The question is: are their much-hyped plans really worth the money you have to pay to subscribe? Continue on to find out the answer and learn:
- Which new cable replacement service is best for NFL fans
- A new way to DVR locally broadcast NFL games
- What to do if you’ve moved and you want to watch your hometown team
- Whether NFL Game Pass is worth it
The Best Cable Replacement Service for NFL Fans
You’ll miss a few games if you rely solely on your TV antenna for NFL action. To make sure you catch all your local team’s games, you have to find a way to access two cable channels: ESPN and the NFL Network.
The NFL currently broadcasts nationally televised regular season games on Sunday and Monday nights via NBC and ESPN. CBS, NBC and the NFL Network share Thursday night games.
Here’s a rundown of how much NFL action you can get with the major cable replacement services.
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- Local broadcasts: Yes, depending on your location and local affiliate agreements.
- ESPN: No
- NFL Network: Yes
fuboTV is an oddball compared to other major cable replacement services. Fubo lacks ESPN, but it does have the NFL Network.
The service will cost you $45 for the base-tier fubo package, or $50/month for the 100+ channel fubo Extra package. You may be able to get a discount on your first month of service, but even with the discount, fuboTV is not a good deal for NFL fans overall because of the absence of ESPN and limited local broadcast availability.
fuboTV also struggles when it comes to local broadcast coverage, but it has more availability compared to Sling TV.
- Local broadcasts: FOX, NBC available in some areas. CBS and ABC are not available in any market.
- ESPN: Yes
- NFL Network: Yes
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1 simultaneous stream.
Free Roku Deal$25.00/ month
Free Roku Express
3 simultaneous streams
|Sling Orange + Blue|
Free Roku Deal
Free Roku Express
4* simultaneous streams
Sling TV’s $40 “Orange + Blue” subscription bundle and the $5 “Sports Extra” add-on gets you all the cable channels you need to watch your local NFL team play every single game.
Sling TV has horrible local TV coverage, but that’s not a big problem if you want to watch your local NFL team play because you can just use an OTA antenna setup to fill in Sling TV’s local TV coverage gaps.
If you get just Sling Orange or just Sling Blue, your monthly fee drops to $25 – but you have to settle for incomplete NFL coverage.
With Orange alone, you get ESPN – but you can’t get the NFL Network. With Blue alone, you can get the NFL Network with the Sports Extra – but you can’t get ESPN.
- Local broadcasts: Yes, from CBS, NBC, and FOX in most areas
- ESPN: Yes
- NFL Network: No
YouTube TV has best local TV broadcast coverage right now – and at $40, it’s the same price as than Hulu with Live TV, for a similar package of channels. However, you may still miss out on some games if you get YouTube TV because YouTube TV still lacks the NFL Network. However, YouTube TV does offer ESPN.
- Local broadcasts: Yes, with FOX, NBC and CBS available in most areas.
- ESPN: Yes
- NFL Network: No
Like YouTube, Hulu has a deal with Disney – so with a $40 subscription to Hulu with Live TV, you can catch NFL coverage on ESPN. However, you may miss a few games because Hulu doesn’t have the NFL Network either.
On Hulu with Live TV, you can tell Hulu which teams you follow. Once you enter in your favorites, upcoming games you may want to check out will appear in your recommended list.
Hulu with TV’s local coverage is okay, but not as good compared to YouTube TV.
A Better Way to Watch Local NFL Broadcasts
Everyone knows that you can use an ordinary TV antenna to watch locally broadcast NFL games – but here’s the catch: NFL fans have to sit through about 70 commercials per game. If the trend continues, even more annoying ads will be shoved into NFL games next season.
If you attach a TV tuner and a TV antenna to your computer at set up a software DVR, you’ll be able to fast forward through bothersome commercials and schedule recordings of locally broadcast games with ease.
Here’s a basic overview of all the equipment you need to capture and record OTA broadcasts with your computer.
Believe it or not, the 1080p picture quality that you can get via a digital OTA antenna is much better compared to cable.
Digital TV antennas from Amazon and Mohu are cheap (typical prices range from $15 to $20) and strong enough to pick up TV signals from up to 60 miles away. You may not need a super powerful antenna if you live near a TV tower, though. (Check AntennaWeb.org to find out how far away you are from your local TV stations before you buy.)
In my opinion the best TV tuner brand out there right now is HDHomeRun. HDHomeRun devices are affordable (the cheapest model is $79.99) and easy to use. All you have to do is plug your antenna into your HDHomeRun and connect it to your local network.
Once you’re up and running, you can access OTA TV channels from any HDHomeRun app. HDHomeRun makes apps for pretty much every platform, including Mac, PC, Xbox One, PS3 and PS4, Android, Kodi, Plex and more.
You can access live TV feeds and use HDHomeRun’s EPG (Electronic Program Guide) for free, but you have to upgrade to a paid subscription to unlock its DVR features. The price of HDHomeRun’s DVR service is super cheap, though, at just $35 a year.
Once you get HDHomeRun’s DVR service, you can just use your computer’s hard drive to save recorded TV shows. Alternatively, you can buy a NAS (Network Attached Storage) device if you’re running low on hard drive space.
Streaming TV Stick
If you want to watch DVR’d NFL games on your living room TV set and you don’t have an Android-powered smart TV, you’ll need some type of streaming TV stick or box to make the magic happen.
One of the most popular streaming sticks out right now is Amazon’s Fire TV Stick. An Amazon Fire TV Stick costs $39.99 on Amazon and is super easy to use. Once you connect your Amazon Fire TV Stick to your TV and enter your WiFi password, just download the free HDHomeRun app from the Amazon App Store.
After you have the HDHomeRun app on your Amazon Fire TV Stick and sign up for HDHomeRun’s DVR service ($35 per year), you’ll be able to zoom through all the local broadcast commercials.
Total cost: between $135 and $175
To set up a DVR for NFL games using the setup described above, you’ll need to spend about $20 for a TV antenna, $80 for an HDHomeRun and $35 to subscribe to HDHomeRun’s DVR service. That brings the total cost of turning your computer into a DVR to around $135. (To watch HDHomeRun on a non-smart TV, you’ll need to pay about $40 more for an Amazon Fire TV Stick.)
Tablo and Tivo both make physical DVRs that come with built-in TV tuners. However, physical DVRs are about twice as expensive as HDHomeRun ($200+). Once you pay for the equipment, both Tivo and Tablo require you to pay a monthly fee (about $5 – $10) to unlock additional features.
HDHomeRun is better because it’s cheaper and works on any device that can run apps. You still have to pay a small yearly fee ($35) for DVR functionality, though.
How to Watch Out-of-Market NFL Games Via the Web
If you moved across the country and want to watch your hometown NFL team play, an OTA antenna setup won’t do you much good – and neither will a cable replacement service.
DirecTV’s new internet-based NFL Sunday Ticket plan and Verizon’s NFL Mobile app are your only options for tuning in live if you want to catch out-of-market NFL games.
DirecTV’s “NFL Sunday Ticket TV” plan provides the best way to watch all the out-of-market NFL games that your local broadcaster doesn’t carry.
Of course, there is a catch.
Only students, people who live in a townhouse, condominium or an apartment can sign up for the web version of Sunday Ticket.
DirecTV won’t let you pay for their internet-based version of NFL Sunday Ticket if they think they can sell you a satellite dish instead.
- Note: If you liv in a private home and for some reason can’t install a satellite, DirecTV may grant you an exception. Contact DirecTV for more details.
If you can come up with an excuse for getting the web-only version of DirecTV’s Sunday Ticket, it’s not a bad deal – especially now that the satellite TV company has dropped their prices.
Now, you can stream any NFL game on all your devices for 3 monthly payments of $70. If you can prove you’re a student, you can get “NFL Sunday Ticket U” for 3 monthly payments of $23. For a few extra bucks, you can upgrade to the “Max” plan and get NFL RedZone and DirecTV’s Fantasy Zone channel.
Verizon’s NFL Mobile App
If you get cellphone service through Verizon, you can catch live streams of every NFL game (including out-of-market games) through the NFL Mobile app.
The NFL Mobile app is free and it provides access to all games broadcast on CBS, NBC, ESPN, FOX, and the NFL Network.
Another nice perk: the data you use to stream NFL games won’t count against your monthly data usage limit.
However, there is one huge caveat:
“Live games, NFL Network 24/7, NFL RedZone, and NFL Game Pass content cannot be screencast from a smartphone. As such, AirPlay, Chromecast and other services and products designed to cast video to television will not function.” – NFL Mobile App Support
In other words, you can watch any NFL game you want via the NFL Mobile app – but only on a small screen, and only over Verizon’s mobile network. Additionally, your video quality is limited to 720p when you use the app.
To get NFL RedZone you have to pay $2 extra per month.
Miss a Game? Catch Up With Game Replays
If you don’t mind waiting until the game is over to watch your team play, you have two main options: NFL Game Pass and the NFL’s YouTube channel.
If you’re a casual NFL fan…
If you like to watch NFL games every once in a while but you’re not a hardcore fan, the NFL’s totally free YouTube channel may have all the NFL content you need.
The NFL vastly improved its YouTube channel this season. After a game, you can now watch a surprisingly in-depth YouTube highlight reel that shows all the big offensive plays and defensive stops that occurred during the game.
The NFL YouTube channel is the very best way to find out what happened during an NFL game in 10 minutes or less. The highlight reels you’ll find on the channel contain zero commercial breaks (aside from YouTube’s embedded ads, which you can block with Adblock Plus) and offer up nothing but pure NFL action.
If you’re a hardcore NFL fan…
A subscription to NFL Game Pass is too expensive for the average casual NFL fan, but if you’re a fantasy football geek it may be worth a look.
NFL Game Pass allows you to see every play of every game without commercials. Though Game Pass is pricey ($74.99), it does give you access to both full and edited replays of all 256 regular season games, all the playoff games and the Super Bowl.
If you’re on a free trial, you have to wait 72 hours to see the game. Otherwise, you can view a game replay shortly after the live game ends.
The edited replays that you get with NFL Game Pass are superb. Each edited replay is condensed down to a 45 minute video of every single play that took place during the game. All the commercials and “standing around” moments between plays get cut out.
In addition to replays, you can also watch the full game in its entirety or listen to a local radio broadcast of the game.
Cord-cutting the NFL In a Nutshell
For whatever reason, the “powers that be” are still making it very hard to watch every single NFL game. Even if you have cable, it’s nearly impossible to watch out-of-market games without an expensive NFL add-on package.
Cord-cutters do have more options this year compared to last, though. If you give $45 per month to Sling TV, you can get access to ESPN and the NFL Network. A Sling Orange & Blue subscription with the Sports Extra add-on plus some type of TV antenna setup will allow you to catch all your local NFL team’s games.
Additionally, this season the NFL partnered with DirecTV and Verizon to bring NFL fans two new options for tuning into out-of-market NFL games. DirecTV now has an internet-based version of NFL Sunday Ticket and Verizon is offering the NFL Mobile app. Unfortunately, both new plans are extremely limited. DirecTV won’t let you sign up for its new NFL Sunday Ticket platform if it thinks it can sell you a satellite TV subscription – and only Verizon subscribers can use the NFL Mobile app.