I didn't really expect there to be an NFL season in 2020. It seems only the NBA, with its much smaller teams and a highly restrictive bubble, has mastered playing their game while staying safe. But, here we are -- for a while at least -- with America's favorite sport, professional football, back on the field and our TVs.
It used to be a real pain to stream NFL football games. Now, it's easier than ever, but there are still some problems to avoid to make sure you'll get to enjoy your game instead of wanting to throw your TV on the street.
These days most of the services will work with any streaming device. Many, however, aren't all. Before putting your money down for any streaming service, make sure it will work with your device of choice.
The prices of streaming services vary wildly depending on how you subscribe to them. Be sure to shop around. If you don't, you can waste a lot of money. But, if you do you can find some real deals.
This year, we're scheduled to have 256 regular-season games. Of those, 232 of those games will be aired on CBS, FOX, or NBC broadcast networks. With an antenna, most of us will be able to watch these Over-The-Air (OTA) games for free.
That leaves 7 NFL Network games, and 17 ESPN exclusive Monday Night Football games, which can't be watched OTA. Depending on your team and where you live you may be able to watch some Monday Night Football games on local OTA channels. You'll need to check with your local channels to see what, if any, games are available
Thursday Night Football games are, well, confusing. The NFL Network offers all 14 of them, while you can watch 11 of them on the Fox broadcast network, Amazon Prime Video, the NFL App, and the Yahoo Sports App.
The main football games are, of course, played on Sunday. CBS shows six to seven AFC games every week, while Fox presents six to seven NFC games. All of CBS's games are available on CBS All Access streaming service. ZDNet is also a CBS company.
NBC broadcasts the 18 Sunday night games These are, depending on your market, also steamed to the NFL App and Yahoo Sports App.
ESPN presents all 17 Monday Night Football games. Like the Sunday night games, these are also available, in some cases, via the NFL App and Yahoo Sports App.
Finally, many, but not all, streaming services offer NFL RedZone. With this when a team reaches the 20-yard line, the "red zone", the service cuts to the local broadcast of that game. It also shows all scores, turnovers, and game-changing plays. With this service, you can keep an eye on the action of up to eight games at a time. This service almost all comes with a sports package with an additional fee
- Watch Thursday night games on Prime Video
- Amazon Prime membership costs $119 per year
This year you can watch 11 Thursday night NFL games beginning on October 8th. You will not be able to watch the earlier games. Amazon Prime Video is available on essentially all streaming devices and PCs.
- No longer offers NFL Sunday Ticket, RedZone, or NFL Network
- $55 for a minimum package, which includes ESPN and local network stations.
AT&T Now comes with two different service levels. The entry-level package is $55 a month. It includes ESPN and some local network channels. But, depending on where you live, you may not be able to get every broadcast network. Check to see what channels are available before subscribing to the AT&T Now service.
You will not be able to get the NFL Network or RedZone on AT&T Now. The service is widely supported by streaming devices. You can watch it on Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV devices, Google Chromecast, Roku devices, or on a web browser.
- Starts at $5.99 a month; carries local affiliates' games
- NFL games come with advertisements
CBS All Access is available in many, but not all, markets. It carries CBS's Sunday afternoon games, a traditional Thanksgiving Day game, the AFC Playoffs, and the AFC Championship Game. It costs $5.99 a month. There's also a version without ads for $9.99. NFL games, however, come with ads on both streams. CBS All Access is available on essentially all streaming devices.
- Watch Fox live games -- if you already pay to watch Fox.
If you already have a pay-TV subscription, like cable, satellite, or some of the streaming services mentioned here, you can watch the game with the Fox Sports Go app or from your web browser. This is ideal when you want to catch a game away from your home.
- Base price: $59.99
- NFL RedZone and other sports networks: An additional $10.99.
FuboTV, as the name hints, carries a lot of sports networks and depending on where you live, your local broadcast affiliates. To get RedZone, you'll need to also subscribe to the $10.99 a month Sports Plus package.
You can watch FuboTV on most streaming devices. These include Amazon Fire, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, and web browsers.
- $54.99 a month
- Games on local network affiliates may be available
Hulu with Live TV's plan is $54.99 a month. It comes with 60+ live channels. Depending on your market, your local NBC, ABC, Fox, and CBS live channels may be available to you. You must check your live channels to make sure. It does not, however, offer the NFL Network or RedZone.
You can watch Hulu on most streaming devices. These include Amazon Fire, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, and web browsers.
- Requires Android or iPhone device and Yahoo account.
The NFL app or Yahoo Sports app for Android or iOS gives you a free way to watch your local team's broadcast games. Besides live regular-season games, you can also watch the playoffs and the Super Bowl with it. However, you can only view the games on your phone or tablet. You can't screencast from your device to your television. Darn it!
- Requires Android or iPhone.
The NFL Network app, like the name says, enables you to watch NFL Network programming and NFL RedZone on your tablet and mobile device. The big win here is it covers the Thursday night NFL Network games. To watch the NFL Redzone you'll need a subscription to a programming package that includes NFL RedZone
- $99.99 a season
- Watch all NFL games... the day after they air
NFL GamePass is an all-football, all-the-time option. 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, where I live, I can't see the Carolina Panthers.
To sweeten the deal, GamePass includes live NFL game radio broadcasts and access to NFL Originals, with football shows such as previous seasons of Hard Knocks, A Football Life, and Mic'd Up.
- $73.49 a month, $293.94 for the season.
- Available only if you can't get DirecTV satellite service
The most comprehensive package for Sunday NFL games is DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket. It doesn't show every Sunday afternoon game, but it comes close. You can't watch your local team games. And, there's a catch: NFL Sunday Ticket is only available for cord-cutters if they can't get DirecTV satellite service.
Sunday Ticket comes in two forms: NFLST.TV To Go and NFLST.TV Max.
The To Go package shows live games. It costs $48.49 per month for the four months of the regular season, or a single payment of $293.94. With Max, you also get NFL RedZone and DirectTV Fantasy Zone for an additional $100. Fantasy Zone, like the name suggests, provides fantasy football stats and analysis.
Max will cost $395.99 for the season or $99 per month. For an additional $50, you can get an NFL Game Pass. This service offers reruns of regular-season games if you missed your favorite team. If you're a college student, you can get a great deal with the NFLST.TV U package. For $24.99 per month for four months or $99.96 for the season, you get the full Max package.
Maybe it's time to go back to school?
- Requires both Sling Blue and Orange TV packages for a combined $45 a month.
- GameFinder feature lets you search for specific games
I really like Sling TV, but it's not ideal for football. First, you can't get CBS. NFL fans need at least two packages. These are Sling TV Orange for $25 and Sling TV Blue for $25. The better deal is to get both for $45 a month. The Orange package includes ESPN 1 and 2, while FOX, FS1, FS2, NBC, and NBCSN are on the Blue package. To see exactly what channels are available on which of Sling TV's many packages use Sling TV's Explore Channel page.
Until recently, Sling TV didn't offer the NFL Network or RedZone, but after the first week of the season, these are now available. Here's how it works:
- Sling Blue ($30/mo.): Get access to NFL Network and games on NBC and FOX (in select markets). Add Sports Extra ($10/mo.) to get NFL RedZone.
- Sling Orange + Sling Blue + Sports Extra ($60/mo.): For the most football, subscribe to Sling Orange and Sling Blue ($45/mo.) and Sports Extra ($15/mo.) to also get all the Monday Night Football matchups on ESPN.
- Football Bundle (savings of $144.94): Watch Free OTA channels like ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX on SLING with an AirTV 2 and HD Antenna when customers prepay 3 months of SLING (starting at $30/mo.).
Sling TV also boasts one unique feature: Game Finder. This allows you to search for broadcasts featuring specific teams, locations, and games near your home. If you can't see the game on their services, it'll tell you that, too.
This streaming network is available on pretty much all streaming devices.
- Costs $64.99 a month.
- It carries CBS, NBC, ESPN, and Fox games.
- $10.99 Sports Plus package includes NFL RedZone
Google's YouTube TV now runs $64.99 a month, which makes it currently the most expensive streaming network. On the other hand, it comes with over 85 channels. For NFL fans, the good news is it includes CBS, ESPN, NBC, NFL Network, and Fox. For RedZone, you'll need to shell out an additional $10.99 for the Sports Plus package.
It's available on most, if not all, devices.
- For football, you'll need the $55 a month Plus plan.
New streaming service offers ESPN, Fox Sports, NFL Network, and RedZone. This new service's Plus plan will run you $55 a month. It includes NFL Network, RedZone, and Fox Sports. It does not, however, offer CBS or NBC channels.
Vidgo is available on Amazon Fire, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, and Roku. As a newer service be sure to check to see if your specific device is supported. For example, except for Android, it's not available on most smart TVs.
TWO MINUTE DRILL
If you don't have a streaming network yet and the NFL is at the top of your viewing list, you'll want to subscribe to FuboTV or YouTube TV. Of the pair, FuboTV is marginally cheaper.
It's not as easy to watch the NFL over the internet as it is with a top cable or satellite package, but we're getting there, and cord-cutting is cheaper than its competition. That said, the streaming services prices keep going up and up. In the past year, most services have gone up in cost by $5 a month. Still, I'll be rooting my Steelers on to victory by streaming the games this fall.