For those that don’t want to read a long post and just want the details I summarized the important details below. If you want more information on watching NFL Football without cable, there are more details after the summary.
Update: If you don’t feel like reading this article at all, then you can listen. Check out the episode of the Grounded Reason Podcast where we discuss how to watch the NFL without cable. It’s free! Click this link to listen on iTunes. If you don’t have an iOS device or iTunes installed on your PC check this show notes page for other options.
NFL 2016 Without Cable Summary
1. You can get full access to ESPN online and tons more sports content through Sling TV. This will give you Monday Night football via ESPN without requiring a cable TV or satellite subscription. You can sign up here and get a free Roku, or you can simply try their 7 day free Trial.
Update: Good news everyone. The NFL has made a deal with Sling TV parent company Dish network allowing Sling TV to carry NFL Network and NFL RedZone in time for the 2016 NFL season. This means all Thursday night games not available on Twitter will be available on Sling TV throughout the 2016 season. Due to complicated streaming licensing rights, any game on Twitter won’t be available on Sling TV NFL Network. Twitter will stream weeks 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 11, 13, 14, 15, and 16. Twitter released an app for Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Microsoft’s Xbox One.
2. Your local NFL team’s games will be available for free, over the air. That means you simply need a TV antenna. Furthermore, Sunday Night Football is carried by NBC and 8 Thursday Night Football games are on CBS and NBC.
The Thursday Night games on each of those networks are as follows:
Thursday Night Football On CBS: Week 2, Week 3, Week 5, Week 6, and Week 7
Thursday Night Football On NBC: Week 11, Week 13, Week 14, Week 15, and Week 16
So you’re covered for all but 4 primetime Thursday Night games with a TV Antenna. You can read the first part of the article below for TV antenna suggestions or check out my HD antenna guide for more information.
3. For everything else, there is NFL Game Pass. This provides all games, all season, but there is a catch. You can’t watch live on devices in the United States. However, you can watch every NFL Game live on Game Pass if you are using a device outside of the U.S.
You can simulate your computer being outside the U.S. very easily using a Smart DNS service. I use a service called Overplay to watch baseball online since MLB has similar black-out rules. I also go into a bit of detail on this later in the article.
Here are the delay rules for NFL Game Pass for those living in the United States:
Sunday morning and afternoon games (9:30am ET, 1pm ET & 4pm ET) are available at the conclusion of all Sunday 4pm ET games, and Sunday night, Monday night, Thursday and Saturday NFL games are available following the conclusion of the applicable game telecast. However, if you are accessing NFL Game Pass through a free trial, Thursday night games will not be available until 3 days after the telecast.
Those are the major details, but there are some other possible options for Verizon Wireless customers, and some select online streaming of NFL games. There is also an online option for NFL Sunday Ticket for folks in certain living situations. I cover all of this in the rest of the article.
Are You Ready for Some Football without Cable
The word is out. You can watch TV without cable and still enjoy your favorite shows without paying thousands to cable and satellite TV companies. Watching NFL football without cable is no exception. Your local NFL team can be viewed on TV by simply using an antenna, but there are ways to watch the NFL online as well (which I’ll get to in a moment).
Living just outside Baltimore, I can watch all 16 regular season Ravens games, and their postseason games as well with my Mohu Sky 60 antenna. Whether your local NFL team is playing home or away, on Monday Night Football, Thursday Night Football, or Sunday Night Football, your local affiliate should be broadcasting the game over the air (OTA).
Additionally, since broadcast TV is less compressed, the picture will be of much higher quality than what you are used to with cable and satellite TV. I’d much rather watch football OTA. Watching on cable or satellite just feels grainy by comparison.
Sunday Night Football is carried by NBC and all but 4 Thursday Night Football games are going to be aired on a combination of CBS and NBC for the 2016 NFL season. Therefore a TV antenna will provide you with a means to watch the game regardless of which teams are playing. But what if you want to watch Monday Night Football Online on ESPN and your local team isn’t playing?
What if you want to watch Thursday Night Football Online on NFL network? What if you want to watch every second of every single game involving every team at the same time while juggling chainsaws and riding a unicycle?
While I can’t help with the juggling and unicycle, in this article I’ll cover the available options to watch all the football you want without a cable or satellite subscription.
Thursday Night Football now on Sling TV
In a press release issued on August 3rd 2016, the NFL announced a deal with Sling TV parent company Dish Network allowing Sling TV to carry NFL Network and NFL Red-Zone in time for the 2016 NFL season. All Thursday night games, not available on Twitter, will be available on Sling TV throughout the 2016 season. NFL Network will be part of Sling TVs Blue Package, while NFL RedZone will be part of the “Sports Extra” add-on pack.
NFL Mobile from Verizon Wireless
If you are a Verizon Wireless customer, then you have a way to watch Monday Night Football, and Thursday Night Football online for free. New and existing customers with Verizon’s More Everything Plan have full access to the NFL Mobile from Verizon app. This doesn’t require you to have a cable TV, satellite, or even a Verizon FiOS account.
The NFL Mobile app through Verizon Wireless not only provides a way for those without cable to watch Monday and Thursday Night Football online, but Sunday Night Football as well. It even allows you to watch your local team’s regular season games online.
In addition, you have live full access to the NFL Network. That’s right, you can watch NFL Network Online Free. This includes the ability to stream NFL Redzone, providing live NFL scoring updates for fantasy football fans.
If you are a cord-cutter and an NFL fan, Verizon’s More Everything Plan fills a huge void in your ability to watch NFL without cable. The app is available on iPhone, iPad, and Android devices. Unfortunately this app currently only works on mobile devices. The app shuts down when attempting to mirror your phone to Apple TV or Roku.
Watch Monday Night Football Online
Sling TV is a service that offers live TV online from networks typically found on cable TV. The most important of which is ESPN. This allows subscribers to watch ESPN online without needing a cable TV subscription. If you are interested in giving Sling TV a try, you can sign up and get a free Roku Streaming Device.
While Sling TV customers will have access to Monday Night Football, you won’t be able to watch on mobile devices due to licensing agreements between the NFL and Verizon. However you can watch Monday Night Football on Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Nexus player , Xbox One, and 4th generation Apple TV.
The Sling TV Orange package provides live online access to A&E, ABC Family, AMC, Cartoon Network, CNN, Disney, El, Ray, ESPN, ESPN2, Food Network, Galavision, H2, HGTV, History, IFC, Lefetime, Maker, TBS, TNT, and Travel Channel. For full details check out my Sling TV review.
NFL Game Pass
The NFL announced that is will stream all 256 NFL regular season games, all preseason games, playoffs and Super Bowl for the 2016-2017 season with NFL Game Pass.
Currently NFL Game Pass will be available on iPad, iPhone, Android Tablets and Phones, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Roku, and Apple TV. More devices are to follow.
In the past NFL Game Pass was only open to people living outside the US. Now it appears people living within the U.S. will be able to enjoy NFL streaming as well. Unfortunately there is a slight blackout delay. If you read the fine print on the NFL Game Pass Website . . .
*NFL Game Pass includes live access to most preseason games. Such live preseason games do not include all nationally-broadcast preseason games and any preseason games televised in a user’s local market. Preseason games that are not available live in NFL Game Pass will be made available on-demand in the NFL Game Pass archives shortly after the conclusion of the original telecast. NFL Game Pass does not include live regular season, playoff, and Super Bowl game broadcasts. Access to these games is available within NFL Game Pass on an on-demand basis in the NFL Game Pass archives after such games have aired on broadcast television. Sunday morning and afternoon games (9:30am ET, 1pm ET & 4pm ET) are available at the conclusion of all Sunday 4pm ET games, and Sunday night, Monday night, Thursday and Saturday NFL games are available following the conclusion of the applicable game telecast. NFL Game Pass is unavailable during the telecast of the Super Bowl. Some 2009 regular season games are not available. NFL Game Pass is only available to users within the United States, Bermuda, Antigua, the Bahamas, any U.S. territories, possessions and commonwealths (including American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands), and Mexico.**Some live Preseason games may not be available live on phones, but will always be available in the archives.
Now that we’ve all gone cross-eyed, I’ll sum up what that means in English. Essentially, for the regular season you have to wait until the 4pm EST Sunday games are completed before you can watch the 1pm and 4pm Sunday games.
Any Night games (whether Sunday, Monday, Thursday or Saturday) will be available at the conclusion of the game. Preseason games will be live, except if they are televised in your local market. Then they will be available once the telecast has concluded.
NFL Game Pass will provide the following functionality and more . . .
- The ability to connect to multiple devices
- Turn scores on and off to avoid spoilers
- Condensed game versions that are about 30 minutes long
- Full replay of every game from 2009 until present day
- Coaches Film
- DVR Controls
Getting Around the Black-Out
As I mentioned earlier, if you are in the U.K. you can watch every NFL game live though NFL Game Pass. Therefore, all we have to do is make our computer look like it is in the U.K. and you can stream all NFL Games live as if you are living in the U.K.
To do this you can use a SmartDNS service or VPN to simulate a U.K. based IP address. The details of doing this are described in my article on using a SmartDNS. I personally use Overplay SmartDNS to do this. The basic steps to do this are below. Make sure you set up your DNS before purchasing Game Pass. You will need to purchase it while simulating the foreign DNS.
Setting up SmartDNS for NFL Game Pass
- Sign up for Overplay SmartDNS
- Follow the instructions here to setup your device
- While logged into Overplays website click ” My Account” then click “SMARTDNS”
- Here you can configure your SmartDNS settings for the services you want to use, including NFL Game Pass. Make sure NFL Game Pass is set to “United Kingdom”
Typically, NFL Sunday Ticket is only available to Direct TV subscribers. However, there are situations where NFL Sunday Ticket is available to you online without subscribing to Direct TV.
During last years NFL Season, NFL Sunday Ticket Online was available to people living in select apartment buildings, attending one of the 10 select universities, or living in select areas within the metro areas of New York City, Philadelphia, or San Francisco.
This year they are expanding that offering to “select multi-dwelling unit buildings nationwide.” They have also expanded the offering to more Colleges and Universities. You can verify eligibility on their website.
Black-out rules still apply, so you will still need an antenna to catch games within your local market.
Thursday Night Football on Twitter
Yes folks, that isn’t a typo. Each of the Thursday Night Football games on CBS and NBC this year will also be streamed live on Twitter. So Twitter will stream weeks 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 11, 13, 14, 15, and 16. Twitter released an app for Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Microsoft’s Xbox One that anyone can use to stream the games.
NFL On PlayStation Vue
As of August 25th, 2016 PlayStation VUE joined Sling TV by picking up NFL Network. However, they have to play by the same streaming rules that Sling TV play by. Therefore, any Thursday Night Football games not available on Twitter will be available through VUE. It will only be available on the Core and Elite plays prices at $35 and $45 per month respectively. The VUE also has ESPN rivaling Sling TV when it comes to watching prime time football. NFL RedZone Season pass will be available to core and elite plans as well starting on September 11. It will run a one time cost of $39.99 for the entire regular season.
You Don’t Need Cable to Watch the NFL
That’s the take-away here. There are plenty of ways to watch NFL football without paying an arm and a leg for cable or satellite TV. Your local NFL team’s games can be seen on an OTA antenna along with Sunday and Thursday Night Football.
Set yourself up with NFL Game Pass and you can watch every NFL game online. Verizon Wireless customers can watch Thursday Night Football online for free along with the Sunday and Monday Night Game as well. If you have Sling TV, you have access to Monday Night Football live on ESPN. The options are plentiful.
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