Five best internet media streaming devices
Will the New England Patriots win the Super Bowl again? Can the Dallas Cowboys win despite Ezekiel Elliot's suspension? Will my Pittsburgh Steelers make a come back? The football season starts on Sept. 7. Are you ready to watch some internet football?
DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket
- $69.99 a month
- Available only if you can't get DirecTV satellite service
Hard-core fans in the right places can pay $69.99 a month for DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket to see how the games turn out. For most cord-cutters, you can't simply give DirecTV your credit card and wait for the opening whistle.
NFL Sunday Ticket is only available for cord-cutters if they can't get DirecTV satellite service. There aren't that many places where that's true. You can see if it's available for your address -- or, if you're a student, for your school address for $24.99 a month -- but don't count on it.
- $99.99 a season
- Watch all NFL games the day after they air
Another all-football, all-the-time option that's a lot easier to get is NFL GamePass. For $99.99 a season, you can watch all NFL games... the day after they're played. You also can't watch local games on it. So, for instance, I can't watch the Carolina Panthers. To sweeten the deal, GamePass includes live NFL game radio broadcasts.
- Cheapest cord-cutter option
- Local channels play local games and big-name games
The cheapest cord-cutter option is to get an over-the-air antenna (OTA). Your local CBS and Fox TV channels still carry a lot of the games. Unfortunately, this only gives you the local games or the big-name games of the week. So, for example, in Asheville, NC, I'll be able to watch almost all the Carolina Panther games with my HD Stacker TV Antenna and a Channel Master Titan 2 High Gain Preamp. But, as good as that gear is, it still can't get me Green Bay Packer games.
Verizon's NFL Mobile app
- $1.99-a-month in-app purchase for NFL RedZone
- Can't use Chromecast to cast to a bigger screen
Another inexpensive way to watch pro football, if you have a Verizon Wireless smartphone, is to use Verizon's NFL Mobile app on your Android smartphone or iPhone. With that, you can watch live regular season games, the playoffs, and the Super Bowl. For a $1.99-a-month in-app purchase, you can watch every touchdown from every game on Sunday afternoons with NFL RedZone. The Verizon service also now includes the NFL Network.
But you can't use Google's Chromecast or other casting devices to cast the game to a bigger screen. On the other hand, you might not be missing much. Verizon recently reset their "unlimited" plans so you can only get, at most, 720p video. The lowest plan limits you to 480p video.
- Watch Thursday night games on Prime Video
- But you have to be a paid Prime subscriber
If you're an Amazon Prime customer, you can watch the Thursday night games on Amazon Prime Video. In the past, Yahoo showed Sunday night games, but there's no sign they'll be broadcasting them this year.
CBS All Access
- Starts at $5.99 a month; carries local affiliate's games
- NFL games will come with advertisements
CBS All Access, which is available in many, but not all, markets, will carry your local affiliate's games. This network from CBS, ZDNet's parent company, carries online-only CBS content, such as the forthcoming "Star Trek: Discovery," live CBS network shows, and 9,000 older CBS episodes. This online streaming service costs $5.99 a month. There's also a version without advertising for $9.99. NFL games, however, will come with advertisements on both streams.
You can watch CBS All Access on Apple and Android smartphones and tablets, Apple TV, Chromecast, PlayStation 4, Roku, Windows 10, and Xbox.
- Some plans include channels like ESPN, ESPN 2, Fox Sports, etc
- Doesn't offer NFL Sunday Ticket, NFL Network, or RedZone
DirecTV Now offers four channel plans: Live a Little for $35 a month (60+ channels), Just Right for $50 a month (80+ channels), Go Big for $60 a month (100+ channels), and Gotta Have it for $70 a month (120+ channels) -- but none of them offer NFL Sunday Ticket. For football fans, DirectTV Now offers Fox, NBC, Telemundo (if available in your market as a live local broadcast channel), ESPN, ESPN 2, Fox Sports 1, and NBCSN for all plans and Fox Sports 2 for the top two plans. It doesn't offer CBS, NFL Network, or RedZone.
DirecTV Now supports Android and Apple smartphones and tablets with beta software. On PCs, it works best with the Chrome and Safari web browsers. You can also watch it with newer Amazon Fire TV devices, Apple TV, Chromecast gadgets, and Roku. This service doesn't work with PlayStation or Xbox game consoles.
Hulu with Live TV
- Starts at $39.99 a month; offers CBS Sports, ESPN, Fox Sports 1, etc
- Your local affiliates may be available to you, too
Hulu with Live TV's basic plan is $39.99 a month. It comes with 50+ live channels. Depending on your market, your local NBC, ABC, Fox, and CBS live broadcast affiliate channels may be available to you. You must check to make sure. For example, I get all the major networks over my antenna, but Hulu with Live TV only offered me Fox.
As for sports, Hulu offers CBS Sports, ESPN, Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2, and NBCSN. Neither NFL Network nor RedZone are available. The Hulu service supports Apple and Android smartphones and tablets, the Amazon Fire family, and Xbox One and Xbox 360. Oddly, it doesn't yet support the gold standard of internet streaming devices: The Roku device family.
- Starts at $39.99 a month; offers ESPN, NBC Sports, NFL Network, etc
- Also offers Sports Pack add-on package for $10 a month
Despite its name, PlayStation Vue doesn't require a PlayStation. PlayStation Vue starts at $39.99 a month for the Access package and goes up from there. The Core package costs $44.99 a month, while Elite costs $54.99 and the Ultra costs $74.99. Starting in July, Sony no longer offers its "Slim" packages.
Vue's programming includes ESPN, NBC Sports, the NFL Network, and "TV Everywhere" credentials for WatchESPN, NBCSN, and Fox Sports Go. PlayStation also offers Sports Pack add-on package for $10 a month, which includes RedZone and multiple Comcast Sports Network Channels.
NFL watchers can find FOX Sunday afternoon games; NBCSN Sunday night games, ESPN Monday night games; and NFL Network for Thursday night games. If you have CBS as a local station, you can watch CBS' games as well.
You can watch PlayStation Vue on Amazon Fire devices, Android TV gear, Apple TV, Roku, and PlayStation 3 and 4. You can also view games on Android and Apple smartphones and tablets and any computer that supports Flash.
- Get both Sling TV packages for $40 a month
- GameFinder feature lets you search for specific games
For NFL fans, Sling TV has two packages you'll need. These are Sling TV Orange for $20 and Sling TV Blue for $25. The better deal is to get them both for $40 a month. The Orange package has ESPN 1 and 2, while FOX, FS1, FS2, NBC, and NBCSN live on the Blue package. NFL Redzone is available on Sports Extra Pack Blue, which costs $5. CBS games are not available.
Sling TV also boasts a unique feature: GameFinder. This allows you to search for broadcasts featuring specific teams, locations, and games near your home. So, for example, I now know I can watch Duke's first game of the season on Sling Orange.
Sling TV supports more devices than any of the other streaming networks. These include Amazon Fire, Apple TV, Android TV, ChromeCast, Roku, Xbox One, and its own Android TV-based AirTV player, which all support OTA TV. The AirTV costs $50 and comes with three months of Sling TV play.
It also supports Android and Apple smartphones and tablets, Macs and Windows, and a new beta feature that enables you to watch Sling TV content inside any Chrome web browser.
Google's YouTube TV
- Costs $35 a month, but it's only available in major US cities
- It carries NBC Sports, NBC, ESPN, Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2, CBS Sports, etc
Google's YouTube TV single plan has a $35 monthly subscription fee. It comes with over 40 channels and is only available in major US cities. For sports fans, it carries ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC Sports, NBC, ESPN, Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2, CBS Sports, and Comcast SportsNet. It doesn't carry the NFL Network or RedZone.
You can watch games on any computer; Google naturally recommends the Chrome web browser. You can also watch it with Android and Apple devices. If you want to watch it on a television, you must use either an Apple TV, a Chromecast, or a device that's compatible with Apple AirPlay or Google Cast.
One feature YouTube TV has over its rivals is that you can use it to stream to up to six devices at once. So, if your relatives would rather be watching The Property Brothers or Doctor Who, while you're sweating over the last two minutes of the game, YouTube has you covered.
The bottom line
- Cord cutting is still much cheaper
- You will have to mix and match your services
It's still not as easy to watch the NFL over the internet as it is with a cable or satellite package. You can watch most of the games you want, but no single streaming package will give you everything you want. Still, cord-cutting is much cheaper. I, for one, will be mixing my services together to root my Steelers on to victory.
Previous and related coverage
These internet-based TV systems face a hostile market since they must compete with ISPs.
Internet streaming services, such as Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, and DirecTV Now are getting to be almost as expensive as cable services, but Amazon Video, Netflix, and Hulu are still bargains.
A new generation of streaming devices give cord-cutters a wider away of good choices than ever. Here are the best of the best.