How to watch the Super Bowl online, for free

Americans can watch for free on their iPads, but not iPhones.
Americans can watch for free on their iPads, but not iPhones.
Image: AP/Matt York
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

The biggest event in American television could also break records for live streaming video this year. Super Bowl XLIX, which begins today at 6:30 pm Eastern Time, will be freely available to watch online in the United States and some other countries.

How to watch in the US

NBC is broadcasting the game. You can get NBC with any pay television subscription or for free over the air with an HD antenna. But if you want to stream the Super Bowl, instead, here are your options:

  • On your PC: NBC Sports Live Extra will stream the game—and endless hours of pregame coverage—for free. Unlike prior years, you won’t need to prove that you pay for TV. NBC is taking the opportunity to promote its “TV Everywhere” services, which do typically require authentication with a pay-TV subscription, a process that many people find arduous enough to consider this Super Bowl offer an attractive promotion. Consider that irony during the game.
  • On your tablet: The same stream will be available for free on the NBC Sports Live Extra apps for iOS, Android, and Windows tablets. But it will only work on tablets.
  • On your phone: The reason NBC’s stream will only work on PCs and tablets is that Verizon owns the rights to broadcast this and other National Football League games on smartphones in the US. To watch the Super Bowl on your phone, you’ll need to be a Verizon Wireless subscriber and pay $5 through the NFL Now apps for iOS, Android, Windows, or BlackBerry.

Note, however, that the commercials, considered by some to be the real attraction of the Super Bowl, will not be the same across NBC’s traditional television broadcast and its online stream. Live streams also tend to run about a minute behind TV, so if the game goes down to the wire, you’ll have to do your best to avoid spoilers of the outcome.

How to watch outside the US

This being an American phenomenon, the simplest and most enjoyable, though legally dubious, solution is to use VPN software to pretend you’re in the United States and take advantage of any of the options above. Barring that, here are some solutions for people in other large, English-speaking countries:

  • Canada: CTV will simulcast NBC’s broadcast on traditional television, its website, and mobile apps for iOS and Android. (It’s one of the last years that CTV will be able to substitute its own commercials.)
  • United Kingdom: Channel 4 will broadcast the game on TV and its website. To watch on mobile devices, you can’t use Channel 4’s app, but TVCatchup, which streams free-to-air television channels, should work. Sky customers can also get the game on Sky Sports or the Sky Go apps for iOS and Android.
  • Most anywhere: Other countries will have similar options for watching the game online. (There’s a decent list here.) If all else fails, outside the US and Mexico, you can pay $10 to stream the Super Bowl with NFL Game Pass.