How to Watch The NFL Without Paying for Cable TV


We are only a few weeks away from the NFL preseason kicking off. What is even better is the fact that you do not need to pay the high cost of cable with long term contracts to enjoy it.

The NFL is most commonly asked about when it comes to sport coverage questions. The good news is with an antenna, 90% of Americans will be able to access their local CBS, FOX, and NBC stations. Add in a streaming service such as Sling TV or PlayStation Vue for ESPN and the NFL Network and you have the same coverage your local cable TV company can give you.

Step #1: CBS, FOX, and NBC

In 2017, most NFL games will be aired free over the air on ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC. The best part is many of the biggest games every week will be free over the air.

If you have the option, an antenna is always the best way to watch college football to avoid the delay or the risk of the stream crashing out. Streaming is great, but you will find a 30 second or so delay on average. Sometimes more if you are seeing a lot of buffering.

If you need an antenna or want to see what channels you can get where you live, check out AntennaRecommendations.com.

Over 90% of Americans have access to some or all of these channels; however, that still leaves 30 million Americans who struggle to get one network or another over the air. For them, a growing number of services, such as DIRECTV NOW, Hulu, and PlayStation Vue, all offer locals. We recommend you check out each site to see what locals they offer in your area. CBS All Access now streams in-market Sunday games through its streaming service.

You can also watch Thursday night games from CBS and NBC on Amazon Prime this year. You will need to be an Amazon Prime member to watch them. (Unless you use an antenna.)

Step #2 NFL Network Thursday Night & ESPN Monday Night Football

An antenna won’t give you every game, as some Thursday night games and all Monday Night games air on a cable network. The good news is Sling TV and PlayStation Vue have you covered.

At this time only two live TV streaming services offer both ESPN and the NFL Network; PlayStation Vue and Sling TV. What is even better is they both offer a free trial so you can test it out before you pay.

Bonus NFL Redzone

NFL Redzone allows you to bounce around from game to game so you never miss the biggest plays happening at that moment. Both Sling TV & PlayStation Vue offer it as a add-on to their streaming services. With Sling TV it is part of the Sport Add-on for $10 a month. PlayStation Vue last year they charged $39.99 and I would expect it to be the same this year.

Step #3 Enjoy Some Football

Well there you have it- you now have the same access to the NFL that you would get if you paid for Comcast or Spectrum.

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  • Marc Shaffer

    You did not even mention the Sunday Ticket from DirecTV. You can get the internet version if you live in a condo that doesn’t allow dishes. Many people don’t know this.

    • Jared Cheeseman

      nfl sunday ticket may come to direct tv now im not joking

      • Jared Cheeseman

        stay tuned

      • We are watching that very closely if that happens we will update the guide.

    • Kirk Sharrar

      No mention of NFL Game Pass either. I spend my day with my family and watch my football game after 4pm when it posts to NFL Game Pass.

      • John Smith

        In recent years, I’ve been subscribing to Game Pass (they keep fiddling with the actual name) every year. It’s great. Unfortunately, I used to be able to usually get it for around $50 a year with some promotion for existing subscribers. Then last year the promo rate went to $70+. Now this season, I see the NFL is asking for $99+tax to start the season, though I assume some discount will apply once the season gets underway. I miss the $50 promo Game Rewind package.

  • stumpy579

    For those of us without locals access to the Fox sports go,NBC sports and ESPN apps is essential. Also CBS all access as of 12/16 is now providing NFL in most markets. When I dropped cable I had to be sure I would get the same NFL games with streaming that I got with cable. Vue gives me my local CBS plus access to all the apps needed to get the NFL games I would get with cable. If you don’t get the local channel and your streaming service does not provide access to the app you won’t be able to watch the game. Redzone may be the greatest thing in the history of television.

  • Skip Rose

    OTA FTW!

  • NCAviator

    Luke;
    You are like a broken record with your 90% of America gets OTA. What is your source for that statement? Even if true, that does not help the 10%. I would hope that as a blogger/journalist you would educate the public and the government to the challenges the 10% have. I have asked you repeatedly for your source or FCC regulation that streaming services much have servers in the local markets to stream them. Please put your footnotes and references in your articles. I would like to see the journalist gather the facts and help to reform the FCC if that is true. Are there any Cord Cutting Lobbying groups?

    • The official number is 97% for the big 4 and 95% for the CW. I round that down down for many but here are the numbers.This number comes from the claimed number of households that can get over the air TV claimed by each network. Round down a bit for over optimistic claims. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_over-the-air_television_networks#cite_note-1940s-television-networks-2

      • NCAviator

        Luke;
        Your reference has NO source for that column. No footnote. Wiki should not have allowed the column to be posted. You can do better as a Journalist. So please do not use sources that you can not back up. Data with no source is not a source. It is not a fact. See my post to Vegas Steve. What is your reference for the FCC comments you make on local stations?

        • NCAviator if you read that story you are talking about you would see right at the top of the story that we talked with a employee of a live TV streaming service who asked to remain unnamed. That is our source for that story. I also suggestion this conversation would be better over there for less confusion.

          As far as the 90% number that is based on statements from the networks. I only linked to the Wikipedia story as it puts all of them in one spot vs 5 different links.

    • Vegas Steve

      It sounds like you don’t believe Luke. Do a little fact checking, Google ‘over the air tv coverage’ and you’ll find nocable.org has a map. Sure looks like 90% coverage is conservative. Like any site, take the info you get, do a little confirming on your own and you just might become a better consumer.

      • NCAviator

        Your map does not take in to any account the terrain. The link Luke sent for Wiki has NO source for the column in the table. So as far as I am concerned both sources are not valid. This is what is wrong with journalism today. They just source bad info and call it fact.

        The real source I want is for Luke’s statements that the FCC regulations require streaming companies to have servers in the geography of the local channel to stream the channel. I have searched the FCC site and can find no regulation. I understand that we have to balance the consumer choice issue with the economic viability of local stations. That is why the FCC has rules on mergers of stations. On how many stations one company can own, etc. If there were such a rule as Luke claims, then the satellite companies would have to have equipment in all the local markets which they do not. So would cable companies. Which they do not.

        Having been a streamer for about a year, the big missing link is getting broadcast stations live. I can not receive them OTA. Have tried. If the streaming companies could offer those stations, the subscribers would go up substantially. The locals would be happy because they would get subscribers they can’t reach today. The cable companies would not be happy. That is called competition. Something the FCC has been trying to encourage for decades.

        Here is a question; how many cable companies had a monopoly of service in a particular geography before streaming services?

        I love Luke’s blog. I think he captures most of the new announcements. His reviews and comparisons are good. I do think he needs to fact check better and not re-communicate company press releases.

        IMO, the streaming companies need to improve on local channels and customer access. Too many do not have telephone support. Email, chat, and forums are not a way to help customers. Especially AT&T.

        I request the FCC link to their regulation.

        • Hang in there I expect that OTA TV will become a lot easier over the next year.

          Now as far as sources etc that you want us to list. If you go back and reread that story you are talking about you will see we clearly stated we talked to a employee of a live TV streaming service. That employee asked to remain anonymous.

          So you take our word or not its all up to you. Yet we feel very confident in our source.

        • stumpy579

          I can’t get locals with a wall,attic or roof antenna. If I would put a 300 foot tower beside my house with an expensive antennal and signal boosters and other technology I have no doubt I would be able to receive at least the locals for the four major networks. I also have no doubt that my residence is included in the ninety plus percent who can receive locals. The number does not take into account what level of cost and difficulty it would take to receive these channels. It only assumes that if you are within a certain distance then you can pick them up. What percentage would need at least a high quality roof antenna mounted at least 2 1/2 stories high with amplifiers etc.? Most people do not want that hassle and cost but they are in the ninety percent. When I tell people about the live streaming services they are very interested until they hear no locals. You are correct that streaming services adding locals will substantially increase subscribers. Most people want the cost of streaming with the ease of cable so anything above a wall antenna and they will stay with cable until streaming gives them locals. Hopefully Luke is right and OTA will become easier soon. When you say cable companies would not be happy with competition that is an understatement. Cable’s goal,including the ones who have streaming services is and always will be to eliminate competition whenever possible by what ever means possible.

  • Craig W

    The one major knock against Sling is it’s lack of CBS. If Sling were to work out a deal with CBS they would win hands down. Until that happens I’ll keep looking at my options.