Well, the NFL football season is now underway, and it's not just the game itself that's become more complicated. There are now more options than ever for catching the games we want to see, whether they're the traditional Sunday afternoon matches on CBS and Fox, Sunday Night Football on NBC, the Monday Night Football contests on ESPN, or Thursday Night Football on CBS and the NFL Network. And let's not forget the two Saturday games scheduled for late in the season, and the rounds of playoffs leading up to the Super Bowl itself.
Keeping up with all the ways to watch the games—from new services to the every-growing array of game-ready devices—has also become a formidable challenge. But don't sweat it, we're here to help. Just check out the five game-watching options below, and shift your concern to where it really matters: Whether to go with the chicken wings or pizza as your half-time snack.
1. DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket via Streaming
DirecTV, now part of AT&T, re-upped its deal with the NFL, so once again the satellite company has the exclusive rights to NFL Sunday Ticket, which offers every Sunday afternoon out-of-market game. But one new twist is that even those of us who can't install a satellite dish can still get the football package via a streaming service. That means that those of us living in an apartment, condominium or townhouse, or even a private home with an obstruction that prevents satellite TV reception, can tune into the football action. There are three packages offered: Streaming games to a computer, phone, or tablet, which costs $200 ($50 per month for four months); streaming games via a game console or Roku for $260 for the season; and a combination package of the two, plus the Red Zone Channel and Fantasy Zone, for $360 for the season. Active students at four-year universities nationwide can get a discounted student price of $100—$25 per month—for the season.
Of course, you only get the Sunday games, so you'll need to find a way to get ESPN and CBS for Monday Night Football and Thursday Night Football, respectively.
2. Game Consoles and Sports Apps
- Xbox One. Microsoft is no stranger to the NFL (its Surface tablets are used during every game), so the Xbox One’s deep integration with the NFL’s app is a pleasing outcome from the 5-year partnership between nerd and jock. Through the NFL app and a subscription to NFL Network, you can watch Thursday Night Football, or have your local broadcast pinned to the screen while you check out live scores, stats, and stay on top of your fantasy football team. NFL Sunday Ticket is also available if you want more touchdowns from your Xbox.
- PlayStation 4. Sony’s PlayStation Vue offers a streaming TV package starting at $50 per month, and can function as your cable provider when apps like Fox Sports Go ask for subscription verification. You can get NFL games on the CBS, NBC, and Fox broadcast channels, including Sunday Night Football, but ABC and ESPN are currently missing from the Vue experience. You can also stream out-of-market games using DirecTV’s NFL Sunday Ticket.
- NBC Sports Extra Live. If you want to use NBC’s streaming service to watch a game on the go, you’ll need an existing cable subscription. The app will stream NBC’s Sunday Night Football games, four playoff games, and Super Bowl 50 through your tablet, computer, Apple TV or Roku.
- Fox Sports Go. Yes, Fox’s over-the-air broadcast is free, but just like NBC’s app, you’ll need to prove you have a pay-TV subscription to use the app. What’s worse is that you're limited to streaming local-market games, even though Fox streams 104 games over the course of the season. You can only watch it on your laptop or tablet, leaving phones and consoles high and dry.
- WatchESPN. ESPN’s mobile app brings Monday Night Football, 10 ESPN channels, and shows like SportsCenter to your streaming device. There are a few caveats with getting ESPN wherever you are. For one, Monday Night Football isn’t available for streaming on phones. For another, ABC/Disney is missing on PlayStation Vue, so no ESPN. Finally, you need to prove you have a pay-TV subscription to use the app.
3. Sling TV with ESPN
Getting sports channels such as ESPN used to be one thing that kept people tied to their traditional cable TV Packages. Not any more. Sling TV's $20-per-month subscription includes ESPN and ESPN2, so you can get Monday Night Football. You'll also get a lot of college football games on the channel, plus updates, sports scores, and game highlights from ESPN's Sports Center show. Want more than the NFL? You can sign up for the sports package, which gives you channels like ESPNU and Universal Sports Network for $5 extra each month. Sling TV is available on Mac and PC computers, Android and iOS mobile devices, plus Amazon Fire TV, Roku, and Nexus Player streaming media devices, and through the Xbox game system.
4. NFL Mobile on Verizon
Surely one of the best deals in town—provided you're a Verizon customer—is the company's NFL Mobile service, especially now that Verizon has dropped the $5-per-month fee. Every game isn't available, but the service lets Verizon customers stream many local and national NFL games from Monday Night Football, Thursday Night Football, Sunday Night Football, NFL on Fox, and NFL on CBS, to your phone. You still have to pay $2 a month to add NFL Red Zone, which features every touchdown from every game on Sunday.
5. NFL Game Pass
Can't get free over-the-air TV signals and you've cut the cable cord? No worries if you're a football fan thanks to NFL Game Pass, which lets you watch the games right after the original broadcast ends. Priced at $100 for the season, the streaming service—which basically replaces NFL Game Rewind—lets you watch replays of all the regular season games, plus live, out-of-market preseason games, and games from prior seasons. The service is supported on multiple devices, including Android and iOS smart phones and tablets,computers, Apple TV and Chromecast astreaming media players, and Xbox game consoles.
It's pretty clear there are numerous ways to catch NFL games this season, whether you're nestled comfortably into the cushions on your couch or you're on the move with a mobile device. Let us know how you'll be watching the majority of NFL games this year in the comments section, below. And if you're looking for a new big-screen TV for watching the big games, check back next week for our advice on choosing the right set to enhance your football-watching experience.
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