How to watch the NFL in 2018 even if you don’t have cable
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Another NFL season arriving means it’s time to make sure you won’t be missing out on any of the action this fall, even if you’ve cut the cord on cable. Let’s try to help you do that.
One of the tricky parts of getting your complete NFL fix is that the league’s coverage is spread across five networks. The usual Sunday daytime games are broadcast on CBS and FOX local affiliates, while “Thursday Night Football” will be on FOX, “Sunday Night Football” on NBC and “Monday Night Football” on ESPN. The NFL Network also carries various games.
That means the ideal alternative to cable will provide access to all five of those, with maybe a dash of NFL RedZone just to put it over the top. Thankfully, there are options out there assuming you have access to high-speed internet.
So as a service to all the fans who will be spending their Sundays this fall watching the NFL, here’s a guide to all the ways to watch online. This will be a bit Bears-centric but it applies to the league at large.
Free over-air-the broadcast television
Assuming you own a television and live in an area with relatively good reception, you can buy a receiver for your television to watch the over-the-air broadcast networks: CBS, NBC, ABC and FOX. The antennas typically don’t cost more than $30, and all but one of the Bears’ games will be broadcast on one of those channels. However, this won’t get you the nighttime games, and it won’t get you a lot of that sweet, sweet football action that’s shown elsewhere.
There are a large number of online streaming services you can subscribe to that will also get you access to NFL broadcasts. Here’s a quick breakdown of the primary five options, but make sure to double check the specific channel lineup before signing up with any service given they are subject to change.
This service costs $40 per month and will get you CBS, NBC, FOX and ESPN, among other channels. There’s an upgraded service for $55 per month that will also include NFL Network.
Available devices: Android, iOS, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku
Sling splits its channels into two plans, and the unfortunate bit there is that the broadcast networks and ESPN are in separate plans. Having them bundled together costs $40 per month, and there’s a special sports package including NFL RedZone for another $10 per month.
Available devices: Android, iOS, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, Xbox One, certain smart TVs
No, you don’t actually need a PlayStation 4 in order to subscribe to Sony’s streaming service. The cheapest plan that provides CBS, NBC, FOX, ESPN and NFL Network is $50 per month. There’s also a special sports package including NFL RedZone for another $10 per month.
Available devices: Android, iOS, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, PS4, PS3
Hulu’s live TV service doesn’t include NFL Network but it gets you the other four big networks for $40 per month. Double check which channels are actually available via the service in your area here.
Available devices: Android, iOS, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Nintendo Switch, certain smart TVs
YouTube has the same deal as Hulu – $40 per month but no NFL Network. However, this one isn’t available for everyone yet anyway, so if interested, you’ll need to check if you’re in an area where they’re up and running.
Available devices: Android, iOS, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, certain smart TVs
This won’t help Bears fans necessarily, but in addition to Fox’s coverage, Amazon Prime is streaming the 11 “Thursday Night Football” games on its service and Twitch, the video game-related streaming service that it owns.
Available devices: Android, iOS, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Roku, PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Nintendo Switch, certain smart TVs
Verizon users are no longer getting the exclusivity to streaming games on the NFL’s official app, which means you’ll be able to access broadcasts for certain games there. However, watching football on a smartphone isn’t exactly ideal, especially if you have a data cap and can’t use WiFi. Consider this is a nice stopgap of sorts if you’re stuck away from the house.