This post has been updated.
Watching NFL games live somewhere other than on traditional television requires navigating a complicated web of corporate interests. The networks that broadcast games have very specific contracts with the NFL that dictate not only when and how games are televised, but also advertising, packaging, and streaming. The NFL has a lot of leeway to dictate terms with cable networks because its games are among the most-watched broadcasts on US television.
CBS and Fox broadcast the Sunday day games, NBC airs Sunday Night Football, ESPN hosts Monday Night Football, and the NFL Network televises games on Thursday nights (though some will be broadcast on CBS and NBC as well). Check out the full schedule for the 2017-2018 season here.
There a few different ways to watch NFL games live online:
If you have a cable subscription and you aren’t near a TV during NFL games, you can watch them live through the networks’ streaming services, NBC Sports, Fox Sports, and ESPN Watch. Though you’re basically limited to your hometown-team games (if you are a fan of a team outside your local market, you’ll need NFL Sunday Ticket, see below).
CBS will make available all the regular and playoff games it airs in a subscriber’s local market via its $6-a-month CBS All Access subscription.
You can also access local channels, ESPN, and the NFL Network through online TV-streaming services (more on these services below).
Most cable network streams aren’t available on phones because of a deal the NFL has with Verizon. Verizon customers can watch for free on the NFL app for iOS, Android, and Windows, or on Verizon’s go90 app, also for iOS and Android.
You can’t access the NFL mobile app through Roku or Apple TV.
For fans outside the US, NFL Game Pass, which costs $99 per season, provides access to every game. Game Pass will stream all 256 regular season games, the playoffs, and the Super Bowl and offer watch on-demand viewing shortly after each game ends.
Game Pass live streaming is limited to devices outside of the US, but on-demand is available everywhere.
Cord-cutters without a cable subscription can watch on Sling TV. Dish, the cable provider that owns Sling, charges $40 a month for access to Fox, NBC, ESPN, and NFL (known as the ‘Orange + Blue‘ package). CBS limits streaming of its content, including its NFL games, to CBS All Access. Sling costs less with fewer channels, but $40 gets you the major NFL broadcast networks. NFL RedZone, an additional NFL cable channel that switches between games to show highlights in progress, cost $5 more per month.
Fox and NBC local affiliates are only available on Sling in some markets:
- NBC: Boston, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Hartford/New Haven, Los Angeles, Miami/Fort Lauderdale, New York, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco Bay Area, and Washington DC
- FOX: Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Detroit, Gainesville, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Francisco, Tampa, and Washington DC
You can access Sling through your computer, tablet, and other streaming-TV devices, though it’s limited to devices within the US.
Amazon has a reported $50 million deal with the NFL to stream 10 Thursday Night Football games. That’s $40 million more than Twitter’s deal in 2016. The huge deal will likely pay off for Amazon—the tech giant can sell 10 30-second ad spots per game, according to Forbes, and will charge a reported $2.8 million to advertisers for packages that include 30-second spots.
Amazon will stream Thursday night games in weeks 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, and 16. Amazon will also broadcast the Christmas Day game on Monday, Dec. 25.
Viewers this year will need to be Amazon Prime members in order to watch live, so unlike last year’s former Twitter streaming deal, the games won’t be free to anyone with an internet connection.
Sony’s Playstation live streaming service carries NBS, CBS, Fox, ESPN, and the NFL Network in certain markets. Vue costs $45 per month with the NFL Network, and $40 without. For $10 more per month you can add on the Vue Sports Pack, which includes NFL RedZone.
Here are the US markets where PlayStation Vue offers live local affiliates (Updated with additional stations):
- CBS – Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Harrisburg, Hartford/New Haven, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, and West Palm Beach. (Update: Playstation Vue now offers over 100 local CBS affiliates. Check the PlayStation Vue website to see if your CBS station is available.)
- FOX – Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Gainesville, Hartford/New Haven, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Nashville, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Antonia, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, Tampa, and Washington DC
- NBC – Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas, Detroit, Hartford/New Haven, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, and Washington DC
YouTube TV offers access to NBC, CBS, and Fox local affiliates, as well ESPN, in the markets where it’s available. A subscription costs $35 per month.
YouTube TV is available to half of US households, markets including: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cincinnati, Columbus, Dallas-Fort Worth, Detroit, Houston, Jacksonville, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Louisville, Memphis, Miami-Fort Lauderdale, Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Nashville, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Antonio, San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, Tampa, Washington DC, and West Palm Beach.
NFL Sunday Ticket, a subscription service provided by DirecTV, is the big kahuna of football subscriptions, at over $250 per season. Sunday Ticket lets you watch all Sunday games not on your local stations. It’s expensive, but gives you the most live games out of market. (You won’t see games from hometown teams, but you can watch every other game.)
Sunday Ticket was traditionally reserved for DirecTV subscribers, who paid an extra fee. However, DirecTV recently started offering online-only packages if you aren’t able to access regular DirecTV service (i.e. you live somewhere without a satellite signal). You can check your area’s availability on the Sunday Ticket website.
Sunday Ticket To Go is the basic online service and Sunday Ticket Max costs $90 more, but offers access to NFL RedZone, Direct Fantasy Zone (a channel devoted to fantasy football), and Short Cuts (games condensed into 30-minute commercial-free replays). College students can subscribe to Sunday Ticket at a steep discount.
NFL Sunday Ticket is $69.99 per month for four months (or $279.96 up front). There are no mobile restrictions for Sunday Ticket; You can access the service on your smartphone through iOS, Android, or Windows apps. You can also stream it on Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, Xbox, PlayStation, and pretty much any other wifi-connected device.