As a journalist who’s been to the Super Bowl three times, I can tell you the best place to watch the game: on the couch in your living room, surrounded by family, friends, and plates filled with nachos. Not only does this spare you the headache of fighting through the traffic and jawing with the fat cat stadium crowd but it also lets you catch every delicious moment of the game (halftime show included).
But sometimes there's no TV in sight. Hey, I know things come up—things that can’t be avoided. Business trips, youth soccer tournaments, cousin Larry’s 25th wedding anniversary dinner. In that case, you'll be forced to watch the game on a laptop or, even worse, your phone. So if you find yourself outside the warm glow of the living room this Sunday, when the Broncos and the Panthers meet up in Levi's Stadium for Super Bowl 50, here’s what you need to do.
Streaming the Game on a Laptop or a Tablet
CBSSports.com will stream the game live. For free. No login credentials required. That means you can watch on a laptop or tablet anywhere in the U.S. as long as you have access to Wi-Fi. (Fans overseas must sign up for NFL GamePass, which is now offering a 7-day free trial.)
Just keep in mind that live doesn’t mean the moment it happens. When I watched the CBS stream of the playoff game between the Chiefs and the Patriots, for instance, the action on my laptop was nearly two full plays behind the action on my TV set, which was itself delayed by a few seconds to accommodate network censors watching for wardrobe malfunctions. (The latency on your TV can stretch up to 30 seconds longer, depending on your cable provider. By comparison, the expected latency for computers is more like 35 to 45 seconds, an NBC spokesman told us last year; for tablets, it's 45 to 55 seconds.)
Once you're caught up in the game, though, you don’t really notice the lag—so long as you resist the temptation to see what your football-fan friends are saying on Facebook and Twitter.
For extra protection against spoilers, you might want to buy yourself a pair of noise-canceling headphones: Slate writer Will Oremus watched last year's Super Bowl on NBC’s stream and learned about New England’s unforgettable, game-saving interception not from his computer screen, but the Patriots fans in the apartment above him, who erupted in celebration two minutes before he witnessed the play himself.
If you ask me, though, the more vexing problem is the occasional mid-play halt in the feed that leaves you wondering if the receiver streaking downfield caught that pass or not. When that happens, there’s not much you can do but take a deep breath and wait for the stream to resume or stop and restart the feed.
Despite the bugs, though, I have to say I still enjoy watching football on a laptop when I don’t have access to a TV.
I can’t say I’ve ever watched a football game on a smartphone, but last May my wife and I did pull the car over halfway to a dinner date to watch American Pharoah race in the Kentucky Derby on an iPhone 5s. I have to admit, for those few minutes, the experience was kind of thrilling—especially when the horse broke away from the pack in the final turn and streaked toward home. We had a clear picture, full audio, and NBC’s instant replays—albeit all squeezed onto a four-inch display.
To give the option a try on Super Bowl Sunday, you must be a Verizon customer with the NFL Mobile app on your phone. (If not, you're out of luck.) If the app isn't pre-loaded, you can download it for free on iOS, Android, and Windows devices. There's no in-app fee to access the broadcast.
On the day of the game, you simply launch NFL Mobile and look for the Watch Live prompt. Press that button and you're off and running. Just keep in mind that data usage restrictions apply, so if you’re planning to watch all four quarters, you might want to find a comfy chair in a Wi-Fi hotspot.
When you’re on the road, seated behind the wheel of a car, the radio is your best bet. Panther fans can hear the game on WBT in Charlotte. Broncos fans? Dial up any station in the team's network. But what about the rest of us?
If you’re a SiriusXM subscriber, you can find Super Bowl 50 on NFL Radio Channel 88. Westwood One Sports has a list of affiliate options. And the American Armed Forces Radio will carry the broadcast for the men and women on military bases and ships worldwide.
If you want to hear the game on your cell phone (without gobbling up your data allowance on NFL Mobile's video feed), download the TuneIn app and choose premium service. It's generally $7.99 a month, but, here again, this week you can take advantage of a free seven-day trial. I used this option to catch the Penn State-Michigan State football game in November while driving home to New York from North Carolina. Aside from the final score—Spartans 55, Nittany Lions 16—I was really happy with the result.
If I can offer one more piece of hard-earned advice, it would be this: Don't wait until the last minute to set up the feed on your laptop, tablet, or phone. In my experience, there's often a glitch or two that crops up to delay the process. Better to tackle those at 5:30 pm ET, when you're calm and collected, than at 6:25 when you're counting the minutes until kickoff.
The idea is to enjoy the game, not lose your head.
Streaming Recap: How to Watch the Game
- Kickoff: 6:30 p.m. ET
- TV: CBS
- Online: CBSSports.com
- Mobile: NFL Mobile (only on Verizon)
- Radio: SiriusXM and Westwood One (for more options, see below)
- Note for cord cutters: Got a TV and broadband but no pay-TV package? You can stream Super Bowl 50 using the free CBS Sports app on Roku’s set-top boxes, AppleTV, Google Chromecast, Microsoft’s Xbox One, and Amazon Fire. (Or, make this the weekend you set up an antenna—just be sure to leave yourself enough time to determine if your house gets decent reception.)
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