Home & Office
Why you can trust ZDNET : ZDNET independently tests and researches products to bring you our best recommendations and advice. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Our process

'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?

ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.

When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.

ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.


How to stream NFL football

This year there are more ways to stream NFL football games than ever.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor
DirecTV Stream | Four tiers, multiple streams
DirecTV Stream
Four tiers, multiple streams
View now View at Directv
FuboTV | For serious sports fans
For serious sports fans
View now View at Fubo
Hulu with Live TV | Easy to use
Hulu with Live TV
Easy to use
View now View at Hulu
Sling TV | Channels ala carte
Sling TV
Channels ala carte
View now View at Sling
YouTube TV | Excellent but expensive
YouTube TV
Excellent but expensive
View now View at YouTube TV
Amazon Prime | All devices and PCs
Amazon Prime Video
Amazon Prime
All devices and PCs
View now View at Amazon
NFL+ | NFL games for smartphones and tablets
NFL Plus
NFL games for smartphones and tablets
View now View at Nfl
Paramount Plus | Formerly CBS All Access
Paramount Plus
Formerly CBS All Access
View now View at Paramount+
Peacock Premium | Online NBC streaming
Peacock Premium
Online NBC streaming
View now View at Peacock
Show more (4 items)
Roomies watching a football game
(Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Are you ready for some football? I am, even if I can't expect much from my Pittsburgh Steelers this year. 

With 17 NFL games, fans will have a lot of football to watch during the 18-week, 272-game regular season. The 2022 NFL regular season kicks off Sept. 8. Televising of the regular season games will be divided among CBS, Fox, ESPN, NBC, Amazon Prime Video, and the NFL Network.  

The prices of streaming services vary wildly depending on the type of subscription and package. Be sure to shop around. If you don't, you can waste a lot of money. But if you shop smart, you can find some real deals, like this free trial and 50% off subscription to NFL+

That said, in just the past year, most of the full-service live TV offerings have increased their prices by $10 a month. It's getting to where full-service streaming services are almost as expensive as the cable and satellite TV packages they replace. 

The easiest way to get most games is by subscribing to a live TV streaming service. Of these, you want services that carry local CBS, NBC, and Fox channels. Not all of them do. For example, while I like Philo, it doesn't have any local stations. Others only have local stations for some areas. Before subscribing to any service, check the fine print and make sure you'll get your local stations. 

Also: The best sports streaming services

You'll also want the NFL Network and ESPN's national feeds. Again, not all packages include these by default. Make sure the one you choose includes these networks.

By and large, Sunday NFC games are on Fox, Sunday AFC games are on CBS, and Sunday night football is on NBC. Monday night football is only on ESPN. Fox has the most Thursday night games, with some streamed on Amazon Prime Video, but a few games are only available on the NFL Network.

Over-the-air TV


Good old antenna TV

Antennas Direct DB8-E review | Best TV antenna

Before talking about streaming services, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that you can still get games for free over-the-air (OTA) with a good ol' antenna. With an antenna, even rabbit ears from the 1960s, you can get your local CBS, Fox, and NBC games. You can't, however, watch out-of-market games, Monday Night Football,  Thursday Night Football, or NFL Network games.

Still, OTA games are free, so you can't beat the price!

Live TV streaming services that include NFL games

Despite the confusing name changes, the service and offerings remain largely the same. Previously known as AT&T TV, AT&T TV Now, and DirecTV Now, DirecTV Stream's offerings remain good. Unfortunately, the service is expensive.

DirecTV Stream has four tiers: 

  • Entertainment offers more than 65 channels and 40,000 Video on Demand (VoD) titles for $69.99

  • Choice offers more than 90 channels and 45,000 VoD selections for $89.99 

  • Ultimate offers more than 130 channels and 55,000 VoD selections for $104.99

  • Premier offers more than 140 channels and 65,000 VoD shows for $149.99 

New subscribers get $20 off the first two months of their subscription.

All include your local ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC channels in most areas. Except for the bottom-tier Entertainment offering, all packages come with the NFL Network, more regional sports networks than any other service, and HBO Max.

DirecTV Stream recently started offering unlimited DVR storage. You also can record multiple shows at once. So if you want to catch the Green Bay Packers while your significant other loves the Chicago Bears -- hey, it could happen! -- you can record both games. 

You also can stream to an unlimited number of devices simultaneously on your home network. However, outside your home, you can only use up to three devices. 

The NFL RedZone Channel, which shows you every touchdown from every Sunday afternoon game, is no longer available. You also can't get NFL Sunday Ticket, which offers all live out-of-market Sunday games.

By Tada Images shutterstock

Are you a serious sports fan? And when I say "serious," I mean besides watching the US holy trilogy of football, basketball, and baseball, do you want to watch the English Premier League, F1 racing, and cricket? Yes? Then, you should check out FuboTV

Getting back to American football, FuboTV does offer, in many areas, CBS, Fox, and NBC. Besides sports, FuboTV is a full-fledged streaming service with all the usual stations. It comes with three English-language plans. 

All of its three tiers offer 1,000 hours of video DVR storage, and you can stream on up to 10 screens at once on your home network.

  • Pro has 126 channels for $69.99 a month. 

  • Elite offers 108 channels for $79.99 a month. 

  • Ultimate offers over 220 channels for $99.99 a month. 

All tiers include ESPN and The NFL Network. With the Sports Plus package, you can get the NFL RedZone package for an extra $11 a month. Another nice feature is you can fast-forward or skip commercials in your recorded shows.  

Put it all together, and you can see all local games, Sunday and Monday night games, and NFL Network games. What you can't get are the Thursday night games or out-of-market games.

By AFM Visuals shutterstock

Hulu with Live TV's big selling point is it's the one service, which combines both live TV and a video-on-Hulu with Live TV's big selling point is that it's the one service that combines both live TV and a video-on-demand (VoD) service in one enjoyable package. Besides great original content such as Only Murders in the Building, it also has a large catalog of other on-demand shows and movies. On top of that, you get over 75 live and on-demand channels. 

Hulu also offers a bundle with Disney+ and ESPN+. Disney+ offers Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar, and Disney movies for members of your family who couldn't care less about sports. ESPN+ offers a variety of sports but not NFL games. 

Basic sports are well covered with the ESPN and Fox sports networks. Like most of the other services, it gives you access to local CBS, Fox, and NBC channels in most areas. If you want NFL RedZone, it's available now with its Sports Add-on.

As for NFL games in general, you can catch all your local games, Saturday and Monday Night games, and NFL Network games. You won't, however, be able to get Thursday Night or out-of-market games. 

Hulu with Live TV's interface and performance has been consistently improving over time. I find it the easiest live TV service to use. 

Its combination of on-demand video and live TV costs $69.99 a month. For that, you also can stream two sessions at once and get unlimited cloud DVR storage.

For another $10 a month, you can play as many streams at once as you like. But unlike the other services, you can't easily stream outside your home. As Hulu put it, "Our Live TV plans are intended for single-home use." You can stream away from home on your smartphone, but if you try to stream on, say, your dad's Roku, it won't work.

By Ralf Liebhold shutterstock

Sling TV has an a la carte approach to channels that separates it from its competitors. Sling TV offers two basic packages: Blue, with 43 channels for $35, and Orange, with 32 channels for $35. You can get them both as a package deal for $50, and you can add small packages of other channels, called Sling Extras, for small additional fees.

For NFL fans this is a mixed blessing. I like it because it lets me get the channels I want, but it's also a tad confusing. Some channels are available on both Sling Orange and Sling Blue. Orange is basically an ESPN/Disney package, while Blue offers a Fox/NBC package. Blue also includes The NFL Network. Your best deal, if you want a broad selection of channels, is to subscribe to the combo for $50.

Sling TV's Extra packages, besides such common offerings as Showtime channels, cost from $6 monthly. For pro ball fans, the $11 Sports Extra comes with 15 channels, including NFL RedZone. 

What you won't get, though, is your local CBS affiliate. For that, Sling TV urges you to use an over-the-air antenna. Sling TV offers its own streaming device, the $99.99 AirTV 2, which I've used and liked. This lets you watch both Sling TV and your local channels. Sling frequently offers deals on the AirTV 2 that cut its price down considerably.

Sling TV's cloud DVR gives you 50 hours of recording time, and you can record as many shows as you want at once. If you want more, you can add up to 200 hours of storage for an additional $5 a month. You can fast-forward through commercials with this service.

Your streaming options are ... interesting. Sling Orange only lets you stream one channel at a time, while Sling Blue allows you to stream three. If you combine them, you can stream four shows at once. 

Personally, I've liked Sling TV ever since it pioneered live TV streaming back in 2016. I like the interface, I like its speed, and I like that I can pick and choose my channels, so I get just what I want. Its combined Blue and Orange price is still below those of its main competitors. But without CBS, you can't stream AFC games. For NFL streamers, Sling TV is a second-choice service.

Besides CBS, you can't watch Thursday Night or out-of-market NFL games.

On the other hand, Sling TV gives you the cheapest way to watch RedZone. You do this by subscribing to Sling TV Blue for $35 per month and adding the $11 per month Sports Extra add-on.

By Funstock shutterstock

There's a lot to love about the $64.99 a month YouTube TV. With over 85 channels, it offers more of the most popular channels than its competitors. It also enables you to watch your local ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC channels in most areas and your local PBS stations.

Even so, pro football fans also will need the $11-a-month Sports Plus package. This includes NFL RedZone, Fox College Sports, GolTV, and Fox Soccer Plus. However, you still can't watch Thursday Night or out-of-market games. 

YouTube TV unquestionably has the best cloud DVR. It comes with unlimited storage and a generous nine months to watch recordings. You can stream up to three simultaneous shows at once. And, yes, you can zoom by commercials on your recorded shows. 

If it weren't for the price, I could easily recommend YouTube TV to everyone. As it is, if you're not hurting for money, it's an excellent choice.

Streaming services with limited live NFL action

This year if you want to watch Thursday Night NFL games, Amazon Prime is your only choice. These games start on Sept. 15. Amazon Prime Video is available on essentially all streaming devices and PCs. It costs $14.99 a month, in addition to the required annual Amazon Prime membership, which costs $139 but gives other benefits.

NFL+ sounds good, but a closer look reveals it's really just a repackaging of the old NFL Game Pass. For $5 a month, or $30 annually, you can watch out-of-market preseason games; local and primetime games, including Thursday night games; and replays of games. 

But, and this is the sticking point, you only can watch them on your smartphone or tablet. You also can listen to live local games and national radio games. For me, who grew up in rural West Virginia, where the radio was the only way I could "watch" the games I cared about, that's still an attractive feature. There's also NFL+ Premium, for $9.99 a month or $79.99 a year, which lets you watch full ad-free game replays and see Coaches Film.

Hard-core NFL fans will like this offering, but casual fans can do better.

By viewimage shutterstock

CBS was the first of the big broadcast networks to go into streaming in a big way, with CBS All Access. Its biggest selling point is the huge CBS catalog of past and new shows as well as live CBS news and sports content. That's still true of the service's recent rebrand as Paramount Plus.

For football fans, this means Paramount Plus includes CBS' Sunday AFC games for $5 a month with commercials or for $10 per month without commercials. Make sure before signing up that your local CBS station is available. If it's not, you won't be able to watch those games.

By monticello shutterstock

Peacock will show all of NBC's Sunday Night Football games. But while you can watch highlights with the free version of the service, you'll need either the limited ad-supported Premium plan for $5 a month or the ad-free Premium Plus plan for $10 a month if you want to watch the full games or reruns. There also are annual plans for both: Premium for $49.99 and Premium Plus for $99.99.


How much internet speed do you need for streaming?

To make use of any of these services, you'll need broadband internet. If you're living on your own, you may be able to get by with as little as 10 megabits per second. However, if you're sharing your home with others or you want to watch 4K videos, I recommend getting at least a 25Mbps internet connection. 

Not sure how fast your connection is? Try one of these Internet speed tests.

Will choosing streaming instead of cable TV save you money?

Back in 2009, when I first cut the cable cord, I saved over $100 a month and still got to watch all my shows. But now, my internet video streaming bills are closing in on cable TV-level bills. Why? Internet streaming is copying the tired, old cable business models. As a result, almost all the live TV services have been seeing price increases, and they'll probably go up higher.

So, be picky about what services you get. I subscribe to pretty much all of them, but then I get paid to watch them. Chances are, you don't.

You should also check to see if your video needs can be met by one or more of the excellent free video-streaming services. In addition, some paid services, such as Peacock, offer a free tier with advertising.

What hardware or gear do you need for streaming?

You might think, What do I need a streaming device for? Can't I get all the streaming services I want from my smart TV? Well, actually, no, you can't.

I wish you could, but generally speaking, TV manufacturers are still doing a lousy job of supporting streaming services. For example, in 2019, older smart TVs from Samsung and Vizio stopped supporting Netflix. If they can do that to Netflix, the most popular of all subscription-based video streaming services, no service is safe.

Besides, some smart TVs also don't support newer channels. So, for example, if your kids are demanding Frozen 2 on Disney+ and you have a non-supported Vizio Smartcast TV, you'll have to explain to your 5-year-old why they can't watch Anna, Elsa, and Olaf. Good luck with that.

That said, newer smart LG TVs, like the heart of my home theater, an LG OLED77C1 4K TV, do an excellent job of supporting even obscure streaming networks. 

There are a lot of streaming devices out there. Personally, I recommend any of the Roku devices. They don't cost much, they support pretty much all services, and they're easy to use. If you're looking for the best possible one, I recommend the Roku Ultra for $88. If you want to save your pennies, get a Roku Express 4K Plus for $30.

Finally, to make the most of these services, you need a television that's up to managing 4K and high dynamic range (HDR) movies and TV shows. If you're a home theater nerd like me and you've been saving up your bucks, get an LG OLEDG1P series. The 65-inch model lists for $1,800. If you want OLED goodness without a premium price, check out the 48-inch LG A1 OLED UHD 4K Smart TV for $697. 

For the best pairing of price and quality, check out the TCL 6-Series. Here, the TCL 55-inch Class 6-Series Smart Google TV only costs $700. Finally, you don't have to pay a ton of money to get a great TV. The TCL 4-Series works well, and the 65-inch version of that model only costs $448. No, it's not as good as the 6-Series, but it's more than good enough for cheering on your favorite team. 

Finally, keep your eyes open for Labor Day sales. You may be able to save a few hundred dollars on a TV.  And that, in turn, can pay for your entire streaming football season.

So are you ready for some football? I know I am, although, depending on how my Steelers do, I may be regretting that in a few weeks. But that's life as a fan, isn't it?

Editorial standards