How to watch NFL without cable

Here is a concise guide on how to watch the NFL without cable.

  • Sunday Day games (FOX and CBS)
  • Sunday Night football (NBC)
  • Monday Night football (ESPN)
  • Thursday Night football  (FOX, NFL Network, Amazon Prime Video)
  • Superbowl (NBC)

The channels you will want to have to watch the NFL without cable are as follows:

  • CBS
  • NBC
  • FOX
  • ESPN
  • Amazon Prime video (optional: they will broadcast all the Thursday night games that are also broadcast on FOX)
  • NFL Network (there are 3 Thursday night games broadcast exclusively on NFL Network and the Sunday game in London and 4 Saturday games)
NFL without cable
Channels provided by streaming services that you’ll need to watch football without cable

Note: Philo and AT&T Watch TV aren’t included on this chart because they don’t have any of the channels listed.  They aren’t good options if you like to watch sports.

Analysis

You have lots of options for streaming football.

If you want the NFL Network:

  • $40 – Sling TV (Orange and Blue packages) – you won’t get CBS with this option, but you can watch CBS on your antenna
  • $45 – Fubo TV – does not include ESPN
  • $50 package or higher – Playstation Vue
  • $55 package or higher – DIRECTV NOW

If you don’t need the NFL Network, these packages have all the other channels listed:

  • $35 – Skystream TV
  • $40 – YouTubeTV (this is our favorite streaming company for sports)
  • $40 – Hulu Live
  • $40 – DIRECTV Now
  • $45 – Playstation Vue

Watch Football on your antenna

If your favorite NFL team is from your local area, you willl be able to watch their games on OTA (over the air) channels, CBS, NBC and FOX.

Read all about antennas here.  If you are getting rid of cable and want to watch sports, you are going to want an antenna!

NFL Game Pass

Get 5% cash back from NFL Game Pass with Ebates.

Replay every game from the season with NFL Game Pass.  They have full broadcast replays, games condensed to 45 minutes and coaches film (shows all 22 players on the field).

Notice that it says replay.  This is not for live games.

7 day free trial

One payment of $99 OR

Four payments of $29.99

NFL Sunday Ticket

This is only available to DIRECTV Customers OR non-DIRECTV customers who live in select multi-dwelling buildings where DIRECTV is not available.

College students – check and see if you are eligible for NFLSundayTicketTV U

NFL Sunday Ticket is available for out of market games only.

Understanding Blackouts and Out of Market Games

Sports blackouts come into play when a game is broadcast on a regional sports network.

Out of Market Games

Out of market games are games in which neither team playing is from your local area.  For example, if you live in Chicago and are trying to watch a Miami Dolphins vs. San Francisco 49ers game.

Location Blackouts

This means that, if you live outside the area local to your favorite team, you may not be able to see the game.  If you live near Indianapolis but want to watch a Chicago Bears game, you might not be able to view the Bears game, as you are outside the regional network.

Sometimes a game may be blacked out on a regional channel if it is being broadcast on a national network. Channels like ESPN or TNT may have exclusive rights to a game, so the game will not be broadcast on other channels.

Also, some professional sports choose to blackout games if a certain percentage of tickets to the game hasn’t sold.  They want to “encourage” fans to attend the game instead of watching at home.  (I think this just pisses fans off instead of encouraging them to do anything).

College sports are going to be the biggest issue with location based blackouts.

Device Blackouts

Some channels or events can be blacked out on streaming devices or streaming through mobile devices.  Most streaming companies will reference this, but there are few concrete examples given on their websites.

We watch a lot of sports at my house and haven’t run into this problem.  However, we live in a local area to (most) of the teams we watch.  Also, we don’t watch Pay Per View events or (many) boxing events.

According to DIRECTV Now’s FAQs, NFL games cannnot be streamed on mobile devices.

Streaming Companies

Here are links for different streaming companies and how they address blackouts. It’s important to realize that streaming companies don’t have control over blackouts.  If it was up to them, they would give you all the content all the time.

SkyStream TV claims that it doesn’t have sports blackouts EVER.

Sling TV

FuboTV

Playstation Vue

Hulu Live

DIRECTV Now

YouTube TV

Alright, that’s it!

If you want to learn about watching ALL THE SPORTS, I’ve got you covered.

Hopefully I’ve convinced you that watching football without cable is totally doable and you’re ready to cut the cord!  Head on over to Living the Stream for our step by step guide to getting rid of cable.

If you want more help, check out my Services page.  I can create a personalized streaming plan for you or we can have a one on one consultation to talk through all  your options.

Lastly, get answers from me and other people in our Facebook group, Living the Stream: Help Desk

National Cut the Cord Day!

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July 7th is National Cut the Cord Day!

Note: this page contains affiliate links.  That means if you buy something using one of the links, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.  They help pay for my Netflix.  

 

Let’s celebrate with some FREE TV from Prime Video Channels.  You do need to be an Amazon Prime member to enjoy.  You can always sign up for a free 30 day trial of Amazon Prime and enjoy Prime Video Channels as well.

Free 7 day trials of :

HBO

Showtime

Britbox

CBS All Access

Amazon Channels is launching stand alone channel subscriptions. Some of the top channels are mainstream premium channels.  However, Amazon Channels also gets into more niche markets like Best Westerns Ever and Screambox.

After the free trial, your Amazon account will be billed for each channel subscription that you decide to keep.  Like most streaming services, you can easily cancel online at any time (yay!)

Enjoy!  Happy National Cut the Cord Day!

If you’re ready to take the plunge, Let’s Get Started

 

Pros and Cons of getting rid of cable

Note: This page contains affiliate links.  If you click on a link and buy something, I receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you.  It helps pay for my Netflix.

Pros: You will probably save money.  

Most people will save around $100 per month when they get rid of cable.  You can see the comparison here .  If you’re able to get inexpensive, fast internet, choose to subscribe to Netflix and find all the channels you want in one streaming service, you will pay just over $100 per month.

  • Internet – $60
  • Hulu Live – $40
  • Netflix – $12

Total – $112/month

Con: You might not save that much money.

Some people may be stuck paying more for their internet package.  Other people may want certain TV channels that are only available with higher priced streaming packages.  Once you add in premium channels like HBO or Showtime, your monthly expenses could be climbing up near what you paid for cable.

  • Internet – $80
  • Playstation Vue Ultra – $75 (includes HBO and Showtime)
  • Playstation Vue Sports add on (for NFL Red Zone) – $10
  • Netflix – $12

Total – $177/month

Pro: Streaming TV is more flexible than cable

My house has been cable free for about a year and a half.  During that time we have used Sling TV, Hulu Live, DIRECTV Now and YouTubeTV.  We have also had HBO Go and Starz intermittently.  Turning these subscriptions on and off is extremely easy.

First, we had Sling TV Blue for $25/month but it didn’t have ESPN.  My husband loves sports so we decided to switch to Hulu Live because it has ESPN.  I was able to cancel our Sling subscription online, and our service stopped on the last day of that billing cycle.  It just so happened that we had a very busy weekend immediately following our Sling subscription ending, so we actually didn’t have any streaming service for a few days. One day there was a game that my husband wanted to watch, so he signed up for Hulu Live and was watching the game within minutes.

There was no customer service to call.  We didn’t spend any time on hold.  We didn’t have to wait for someone new to come out and install a new service or pay a service fee. We didn’t have to return any equipment or wait anxiously for a final bill with mystery charges on it.  It was easy and pain free. We repeated the process when we switched to DIRECTV Now…and then again when we switched back to Sling.

We also turn our premium channels on and off frequently.  We get HBO when Game of Thrones is airing.  When it’s off the air, we cancel HBO.  I will sign up for Starz once the new season of Outlander is out.  At some point, I will pay for a month of Hulu so I can watch the new season of the Handmaid’s Tale.

The only catch is that you will have to wait until the end of your billing cycle before your service ends.  They won’t give any refunds if you cancel part way through the month. Also, if you prepay for 2 or 3 months to receive a special offer like a free Roku or Apple TV you will have to keep your service that entire time.  Still, 2 or 3 months is nothing when you think about cable contracts of 1-2 years.

Honestly, this is the biggest pro besides saving money.  We started streaming TV because I wanted to save money.  But now, even if we weren’t saving money, I would still stick with streaming TV.  

Con: you’re still paying for lots of channels that you don’t want

This was my biggest surprise when we switched to streaming. The channel count for lots of streaming services is much lower than cable but there are still so many channels that I have never heard of and will never watch.  It seems like a waste.

Hulu Live offers about 60 channels.  I have never heard of 10 of them.  My family only watches about 15 of the channels. So, we only use 25% of the channels that we pay for.

Sling is probably the most versatile when it comes to customizing content. They offer some of the lowest prices ($25/month for Orange or Blue packages, $40 for both) plus lots of add ons for $5 or $10/month. They also offer a DVR option for $5/month.

Pro: Streaming is very portable

Lots of cable companies are now offering apps for watching TV while you are on the go.  Streaming takes it a step further.  When we travel, we bring our Roku Express with us.  If we are in a hotel room or an Airbnb, we can hook it up (assuming we have internet access) and watch TV like we would at home.  We also bring our Roku when we rent a lakehouse with our friends.  There was one disastrous weekend when the Blackhawks were in the playoffs and we couldn’t watch the game on the TV in the house we rented.  Never again!  Now, our Roku comes with us.

Con: streaming TV isn’t as mindlessly easy cable

Watching TV with cable is easy.  You turn on your TV (and cable box) and something is on.  It’s easy to switch back and forth between channels quickly.

Streaming TV isn’t quite as easy.  Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t hard. But it isn’t as mindlessly easy as cable.

At my house, I have to turn on the TV, then the screen saver for my Roku will be on, so I have to press a button to wake it up.  Then I have to choose what app I want to use (probably Netflix) then I choose what program I want to watch.  This whole process takes about 15-20 seconds.

My husband wanted me to make sure I put this in here because it is more difficult to switch between different sporting events.  The ESPN app is especially time consuming to switch between games.

Edit: We now subscribe to YouTubeTV and I find it to be the best for sports.  They have an option to see the last 5 channels you’ve viewed, so it makes it easy to switch between games!

Con: not all streaming services offer DVR or live TV pausing

So you’ve gone through all the trouble of figuring out which of the live TV streaming services has all the channels you want. You narrowed it down to one. But then you realize that it doesn’t have a DVR option.  You love your DVR.  So, what do you give up?  Do you chose a service that doesn’t have all the channels you want, but does have a DVR? Or do you go with all your channels but lose the DVR?  That’s a tough choice.

My advice would be to do a free trial of the service without DVR.  See if you miss it.  Almost everything is available On Demand, I think you will be surprised (I was! We have a DVR with YouTubeTV and I don’t even use it).

Pro/Con: you might start watching less TV

I’m not here to tell you that you have to watch less TV or even that watching less TV is better.  No judgments here.  I love watching TV (I even started a website to help people watch TV).

Once we got rid of cable, we started watching less TV.  This could be because we just had our third child and our lives were getting progressively busier. I think it was because it wasn’t quite so convenient to turn on the TV.  That slight bit of extra work sometimes just made it not worth it to turn it on at all.

Bottom Line: For me and my family, the pros of saving money and the flexibility of streaming services far outweighed the cons of getting rid of cable.  You have to determine what trade offs are worth it to you.  Is it worth $100/month to keep cable for you to switch seamlessly between sports games?  Is it worth even $50/month to keep cable so you can keep your regular DVR?

If you’re on the fence and want to experience streaming for yourself before committing: buy a Roku Express (you may even be able to rent one from your library!), pick a weekend where you don’t have a lot going on.  Start a free trial of a streaming service. Don’t use your cable and see how it goes!

If you know you’re all in with streaming and want a little more in depth information on getting started  – First things first

 

 

 

 

 

How do I watch sports without cable?

Sports are, by far, the biggest concern that people have when looking to cut the cord.  It was our limiting factor when we were looking at getting rid of cable.  If we couldn’t watch our sports, we had to keep cable.

Good news: there are A LOT of options for watching sports. There is a learning curve but it’s still relatively easy and completely doable.  Stick with me, I’ll try to outline the easiest options first, then get more complicated towards the bottom.

Something to take into account:  my husband is a sports purest.  He will only watch sports live.  He will never watch a DVRed game.  He doesn’t even like to pause a game for a few minutes to grab snacks from the kitchen.  So DVR and Live TV pausing were not important to us.  

Note: this page contains affiliate links.  If you click on a link and buy something, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.  It helps pay for my Netflix.

The Cons

There are a few drawbacks to watching streaming sports. Even if you choose a streaming service that has a DVR and the ability to pause live TV, some streaming services state that these features aren’t available for some live sports because of licensing rights.  That isn’t to say that it’s impossible (cable companies don’t seem to follow the same restrictions…) it just isn’t 100% guaranteed.

My husband was also adamant that I let you know, it is not easy to flip between games on most cord cutting options. For example, during college football season, if you’re trying to watch a game on ESPN through your streaming service and want to jump to a network game through your antenna, there is no one button quick way to flip back and forth.  The ESPN streaming app is particularly bad in that even for multiple games within the app there is no, one click way, to flip between them.

Update:

We are currently using YouTubeTV (fall of 2018) and they have a feature that shows the last 5 channels you’ve watched.  This makes it easy to switch back and forth between games!

Moving along.

The very first thing you need to figure out is which sports you want to watch.  Since we are local to Chicago, I’ve included information for the local teams that we watch.

Sports Channels

See our guide to: How to watch the NFL without cable

  • MLB
    • Check with your favorite team, most MLB games air on either Fox regional sports network or NBC regional sports network
    • Twitter
    • ESPN
    • MLB Network airs some out of market games
    • World Series and All Star Game – FOX
    • Chicago Cubs (WGN, NBC Sports Chicago, ABC, ESPN)
    • White Sox  (WGN, NBC Sports Chicago) – ok so we don’t watch the Sox, but my dad is a Sox fan so I had to include this.
  • NHL
    • Check with your favorite team, most NHL games are televised on either Fox regional sports network or NBC regional sports network
    • Chicago Blackhawks (NBC Sports Chicago, WGN)
    • Stanley Cup Playoffs (NBC, NBCSN, USA, NHL Network)
  • NFL
    • Chicago Bears (NBC, ESPN, FOX, CBS)
    • Sunday Night football (NBC)
    • Sunday Day games (FOX and CBS)
    • Monday Night football (ESPN)
    • Thursday Night football  (FOX, NFL Network, Amazon Prime Video)
    • Superbowl (NBC)
  • NBA
    • Chicago Bulls (NBC Sports Chicago, WGN, ESPN, NBA-TV)
  • College basketball
    • Villanova (FS1, FS2, ESPN, ESPN2, CBSSN, FOX)
    • March Madness (TBS, TNT, TruTV, CBS)
  • College football (CBS Sports Network, ESPN channels, Fox sports channels, more on this below)
  • Premiere League soccer (NBC, NCBSN, CNBC, USA)
  • Track and field events – college and professional (NBCSN, NBC, ESPN)

Most major professional sports are broadcast on regional sports networks. This means that if you live outside that region, you won’t be able to see those games.  However, most of the stand alone sports streaming services (MLB TV, NHL TV etc.) will air live games if you live outside area for your team.

Some teams/sports have a lot of channels listed.  This doesn’t mean that every game is broadcast on all those channels. Each game is broadcast on one of those channels, it changes for every game.  If you want to see every single game, you will need all those channels.

If you want to watch sports without cable, you’re definitely going to want an antenna

We use an antenna. (It’s not that scary, I promise!) to watch lots of sports.  Yes, this is limited to your regional sports.  We use it primarily to watch the Cubs on WGN.  We also watch NFL, NHL and NBA games on our antenna.  It is going to be your best bet for local sports.

You will get ABC, CBS, NBC,  and FOX all completely free with an antenna.

The downside is that you can’t DVR or pause live TV  with the standard antenna set up.  There are products out there that will allow you to do this, you can look into AirTV and Tablo. But we aren’t going to go into those right now  (and we also haven’t personally reviewed them yet).

Sports on Streaming Services

Most people will want to subscribe to a streaming service to ensure that they don’t miss any games.  Watching sports using an antenna is great, but it isn’t going to get you every channel

Regional channels

Some teams air their games on regional channels.  The good news is that some streaming services carry these local channels.  Examples for us would be, NBC Sports Chicago, Comcast Sports Net, Fox Sports Chicago.

If your favorite teams play on regional channels in your area, you will have to look at which streaming services offer local channels in your area. You should be able to enter your zip code on the website of each streaming service to get a list of the local channels they offer in your area.

What streaming service do I want?

This is always the hardest part.  My advice is that the very first thing you should look at when choosing a streaming service is whether or not they have the channels you want to watch.  If you want more information on choosing a streaming service, look at our Live TV Streaming Services page.

I made this handy dandy chart to show which streaming services have the most popular sports channels in their line up.  The second chart shows the league specific channels (NBA, NHL, NFL, MLB and the Olympic Channel).

Sports 1Sports 2

Analysis

YouTube TV ($40), DIRECTV Now ($60 and up), Playstation Vue ($45 and up) and Hulu Live ($40) have all the main channels that I listed.  The cheaper packages for DIRECTV Now and Playstation Vue, don’t include all of the channels that I listed.

Fubo ($45) does not have ESPN but it has lots of specialty sports channels. If you are into specialty sports or international sports, definitely check them out.

Don’t sign up for Philo if you like sports, they don’t have any of those channels, not even the major networks (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC).

To compare other aspects of these streaming services (DVR, pausing live TV, number of screens etc.) check out the Live TV Streaming Services page.

If you don’t plan on signing up for one of the big streaming services (as listed above) you can still get a lot of sports from an antenna and by subscribing to stand alone channels.

Summary

Alternatives

Here’s where it can get complicated.  If you don’t want to subscribe to one of the streaming services above, you still have options to watch sports.

You can look into a stand alone streaming app to download onto your streaming device (all are supported on Roku, Amazon Fire Stick, and Apple TV, plus more)

ESPN +

This is a new,  stand alone streaming service by ESPN.  It allows 5 screens at one time.  Free 7 day trial, then plans start at $5/month.

Their website says that they will include a “selection” of live games.  So, it is not a stand alone way to watch ESPN. It’s meant to supplement ESPN in your streaming package.

Don’t rely on this if you don’t get ESPN in your streaming package.

MLB TV

  • Follow all teams – $116/season or $25/month
  • Follow 1 team – $90/season
  • Students get MLB TV for free
  • 35% discount for members of the military

This might seem like a steep price but if you look at the potential savings of switching to streaming, you could be saving over $100 per month.

It looks like they will prorate the season.  For example, it’s September 1st as I write this.  The current price for the rest of the 2018 baseball season for 1 team (Chicago Cubs, obviously) is $16.

Blackout rules apply for local teams, for home and away games.  If you are streaming a game from your local area, the game will become available 90 minutes after the game’s conclusion.  So, in my opinion, MLB TV is great if your favorite team is not from your local area.  (See above, we must watch all sports games in real time in my household)

CBS All Access

CBS All Access is for CBS only.  It does not include CBS Sports Network.

7 day free trial for CBS All Access for Amazon Prime members

NBA League Pass Digital

According to their website: NBA League Pass Digital allows you to watch live regular season games across all available digital platforms.  NBA League Pass TV allows you to watch live regular season games from all of the available NBA League Pass digital platforms, in addition to your TV. NBA League Pass TV is purchased from your Cable or Satellite provider. Blackout restrictions apply to local and national broadcast games.

Other information and pricing weren’t available at this time because the NBA season is over until the fall.

NHL.tv

  • All Access: $140
  • Single Team Pass: $110
    • You can upgrade your Single Team Pass to an All Access Pass for $30, anytime
  • Monthly pass: $25
  • Student and Military discounts available

NHL.tv offers you the option to choose between the announcers for either team for every game.  You can pause and rewind live games.  They also have an interactive timeline and you can jump back to highlights (cool! If anyone has used this, let me know if it works well!).

You can also watch up to 4 games at once.  You can choose picture in picture or a mosaic view. Each game will have several camera angles that you can choose from, including a first person ref cam at some games.

All of these features sound cool, but games are subject to blackout restrictions.  Meaning, you can’t use NHL TV to watch teams from your local area.

NFL Game Pass

Get 5% cash back from NFL Game Pass with Ebates.

Replay every game from the season with NFL Game Pass.  They have full broadcast replays, games condensed to 45 minutes and coaches film (shows all 22 players on the field).

Notice that it says replay.  This is not for live games.

7 day free trial

One payment of $99 OR

Four payments of $29.99

There is an NFL Game Pass for European viewers that airs all live regular season games.

NFL Sunday Ticket

This is only available to DIRECTV Customers OR non-DIRECTV customers who live in select multi-dwelling buildings where DIRECTV is not available.

College students – check and see if you are eligible for NFLSundayTicketTV U

NFL Sunday Ticket is available for out of market games only.

NFL Network/Fox Sports Go/NBC Sports

These apps require you to sign in with a cable provider. You can use your streaming service as a cable provider log in.  However, your package must include the channel in order to view content.

Other College Sports

If your college team isn’t local to you and isn’t televised in your area, you still have options!

SportsLive is a streaming company that partners with over 70 colleges to provide streaming coverage of over 30 sports.  It is $10/month or $100/year.  With your subscription, you get access to all their streaming content.

The other option that I’ve come across is to visit your school’s website and see if they offer streaming options.  My husband went to West Point, they offer a streaming service called Knight Vision. (West Point football games usually air on CBS Sports Network as well). Knight Vision is powered through a company called SideArm Sports.  You can check here to see the list of schools they support.

Are there other sports you want to know how to watch?  Soccer?  UFC? NASCAR? (I didn’t know NASCAR was all caps until my spelling was corrected when typing this). Please let me a comment and let me know! I’d love to hear from you.

OK so now you know, watching sports without cable is totally doable (even easy!).  So what else is holding you back? Let’s get you started with streaming!  First things first

If you want more help, check out my Services page.  I can create a personalized streaming plan for you or we can have a one on one consultation to talk through all  your options.

Lastly, get answers from me and other people in our Facebook group, Living the Stream: Help Desk

Dreaming the Stream

The website isn’t quite finished yet but almost everyday I run across something relating to streaming TV or getting rid of cable and I think, “that would make a great blog post!”.  So I just need to get started.

My husband and I decided to get rid of cable in the spring of 2017.  At the time, we had 3 kids under 5 and barely had time to watch TV.  Our kids primarily watch PBS kids or Netflix.  We watch a lot of sports and maybe an hour of Netflix a night.  That didn’t warrant an almost $200 cable bill every month.

As long as I could figure out how to watch all our favorite sports (Chicago Cubs, Blackhawks, college basketball, college football, Premiere League soccer, and track and field events) I knew we would be good to go.  It took some trial and error at first. However, I think that even in the past year, streaming TV has gotten much easier.  Streaming companies are figuring things out and making everything more customer friendly.

Years ago, streaming was only for the tech savvy.  Today, as long as you know how to operate a smart phone, I am confident that you can get rid of cable.  My kids are now 6, 4 and 1.5.  Even my 1.5 year old knows how to work our TV (yes, I feel a little guilty about that but it just goes to show how easy it is).

The best way to get started is to just jump right in.  To see all the options and my recommendations, go to First things first.

If you don’t have time for that (we are all busy, right?) go to: Just Tell Me What To Do 

Here are the key things you will need to get started:

  • A fast internet connection
  • A TV with an HDMI port (most have these, my TV from 2007 has one)
  • Streaming Device
    • Many local libraries also now have streaming devices, such as a Roku or Amazon Fire Stick available to check out.  This is a great way to see if streaming is going to work for you.
  • Sign up for a Streaming Service
    • Most have a free trial of 7 days.

You can do this!!

Back Home: Living the Stream

~Katie