With the 2020 NFL season now into week 7, there are plenty of options for following the most popular sport in the US. Paying up for a cable subscription is the simplest solution. It allows you to watch your local team and a bunch of other teams without worrying about which channels are available.
For cord-cutters who want to save some money, however, NFL football streaming options get a bit more complicated. Your best bet is to subscribe to a live TV streaming service but the sheer number of channels that carry live games — local CBS, NBC and Fox channels, as well as the national feeds of NFL Network and ESPN — means you’ll either have to get a relatively expensive service or make a compromise and miss some games every week. (Editors’ note: Bioreports and CBS are both owned by ViacomCBS.)
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The only way to get a full football experience is to have a whole litany of channels from your TV provider. Sunday NFC games are largely on Fox, AFC games are on CBS and Sunday night football is on NBC. Monday night football is only on ESPN. Though Fox has most Thursday night games, there are several that are NFL Network-only (and streaming on Amazon Prime Video and Twitch).
With all that in mind, we offer our recommendations for the best way to watch NFL without cable.
Read more: YouTube TV vs. Hulu vs. Sling TV vs. Philo vs. FuboTV vs. AT&T TV Now: 100 channels compared
Best for everything: YouTube TV
Last year our streaming service pick for NFL fans was PlayStation Vue at $55 a month, but Sony shut down its service earlier this year. That leaves cord-cutters with two more expensive options.
At $65 per month each, a FuboTV Family plan and regular YouTube TV subscription check all the NFL channel boxes. Local channels CBS, NBC and Fox are included in many markets, as are ESPN and the NFL Network, so you can watch Monday night, Thursday night and Sunday night.
Want RedZone for following your fantasy team? That’s available on either service as part of an add-on for an extra $11 per month. YouTube TV users can add the Sports Plus add-on by clicking on your profile and going to Settings, then the Membership tab. FuboTV users can go into My Profile and choose Manage Add-ons for its Sports Plus offering.
Both YouTube TV and FuboTV’s Family plan allow for three simultaneous streams, with YouTube offering unlimited cloud DVR and FuboTV offering 500 hours of storage. The two services are widely available too, with apps on iOS and Android, the web and on TVs through Roku, Chromecast, Android TV, Apple TV and Fire TV.
If we had to choose between the two, we’d recommend YouTube TV overall. While FuboTV does get points for broadcasting the Fox Thursday night games in 4K, YouTube TV has access to Turner channels like TNT, TBS and Bioreports, as well as PBS, and a superior DVR.
FuboTV’s base plan, called Standard, is available for $60 per month and offers the same channels as the Family plan, so it may be an option for football fans who want to save a bit. But since it offers a paltry 30-hour DVR and just two simultaneous streams, we think the extra $5 is worth it.
Many other live TV streaming services carry those local channels and ESPN, but most lack NFL Network and RedZone. Hulu with Live TV and AT&T TV Now (formerly DirecTV Now) lack both.
Sling TV’s Orange and Blue plan for $45 a month gets you ESPN, and, in select major markets, Fox and/or NBC, but you’ll still lack CBS. During Week 1 the streaming service reached a deal with the NFL to restore the NFL Network to its Sling Blue package and bring RedZone back to its $10 per month Sports Extra add-on.
The chart below sums it all up. The base price is listed after the service name, while a dollar sign indicates that the channel is available for an additional fee.
NFL channels on live TV services compared
|Channel||Sling Orange ($30)||Sling Blue ($30)||Hulu with Live TV ($55)||AT&T TV Now ($55)||YouTube TV ($65)||FuboTV ($65)|
Budget alternative for NFC fans in big cities: Sling Blue
Those looking to save some cash might want to check out Sling Blue for $30 a month. While it lacks ESPN, meaning you’ll miss out on Monday Night Football, in select markets you’ll be able to get Fox and NBC. The catch is that those markets are mainly in big cities, so if you live outside one of those areas, Sling Blue might not be for you.
The NFL and Dish agreement during Week 1 restored the NFL Network to the Sling Blue package while allowing sports fans to add RedZone through the company’s $10 per month Sports Extra add-on.
Fox, of course, broadcasts most NFC and Thursday night games (with the others on NFL Network), while NBC has Sunday Night Football. CBS, which broadcasts the bulk of AFC games, isn’t included on Sling at all. Of course, an antenna can fill those local channel gaps.
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Live TV streaming services for cord cutters: How to choose…
Budget alternatives: CBS All Access, Locast or an antenna
There are some apps that offer CBS’ slate of Sunday AFC games live, including CBS All Access for $6 per month. Depending on where you live, however, your local CBS station (and those NFL games) might not be available. CBS offers livestreaming services in many markets; you can check for yourself if your area has live CBS streaming here.
Read more: Best TV antennas for cord-cutters, starting at just $10
Locast, meanwhile, is 100% free. It’s currently offered in only 23 cities, however, and not all will have CBS, Fox and NBC.
And as we mentioned above, an over-the-air antenna connected to your TV provides another free option, no streaming required, as long as you have good reception.
Local and prime-time games will also be available to watch for free on your iOS or Android phone or tablet through the bioreports Sports app. Some games, like next Thursday’s Bengals and Browns matchup on NFL Network, will require you to be on a cellular connection and not on Wi-Fi due to “rights restrictions.” Keep that in mind if you’re on a limited data plan.
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Thursday Night Football: NFL Network, Fox, Amazon Prime and Twitch
Thursday Night Football is probably the most complicated part of the NFL streaming schedule. Most games will be available on the NFL Network, Fox, Amazon Prime Video and Twitch.
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A handful of Thursday games, however, are being shown exclusively on NFL Network, including the Week 15 and Week 16 Saturday doubleheaders.
The Christmas Day matchup (or “Thursday Night Football on a Friday”) between the Vikings and Saints in Week 16, however, will be shown on all platforms: Fox, NFL Network, Amazon Prime Video and Twitch.
As mentioned above, if you want the NFL Network you’re going to need FuboTV or YouTube TV or use the bioreports Sports app.
A frequent fan-favorite method of following all the NFL action, RedZone is a way to catch every big play around the league. The cheapest road to RedZone is through YouTube TV or FuboTV and getting either of their respective $11 per month sports add-ons.
If you’re fine with watching on your phone, the NFL offers RedZone as an in-app subscription for $35 for the season. While one of the cheapest options for getting RedZone, as The TV Answer Man points out, it is a bit tricky to find this option and you will only be able to watch through the NFL app on your iPhone or Android phone.
Once in the app, click on the profile icon in the upper-right corner. You’ll see a section labeled “Subscriptions” with a line for NFL RedZone. Tap “Access” and you should be able to sign up.
With Dish making peace with the NFL, Sling TV Blue and Sports Extra is another option. This will run $40 per month ($30 for Sling Blue plus $10 for Sports Extra add-on), but can be streamed on a host of devices including iOS, Android, Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV and in web browsers.
Sling is currently offering RedZone and Sports Extra for free for one month for new Sling Blue subscribers.
Note: If you only subscribe to Sling’s Orange package you won’t be able to get RedZone in Sports Extra. Your base package needs to be either Sling Blue or its larger Sling Blue Plus Orange bundle to be able to get RedZone as an add-on.
What about Sunday Ticket?
NFL Sunday Ticket is still largely limited to DirecTV satellite subscribers, though those who live in buildings that can’t add a satellite dish can get a streaming version to watch football starting at $294 for its To Go package, or $396 for a Max package that includes the RedZone channel (a student version is also available for $100). You can check your address on the Sunday Ticket site.
The problem here, however, is even if you’re eligible it doesn’t include your local games. You can only watch Sunday games that aren’t being broadcast on CBS, Fox or NBC in your area.