The NFL remains a powerful reason why football fans may be better off sticking with a traditional pay TV operator. Even then, they may need to change wireless providers!
It remains frustratingly difficult for online video viewers to watch all broadcast NFL games in the upcoming 2017-2018. While there has been some progress, the committed football fan will need to deal with multiple services if they are to catch every game they want live online. Moreover, they may even need to switch their wireless provider if they want to watch on mobile devices.
Local weekend games
This season, as in past years, local games will be carried by CBS, Fox, and NBC. There are far more online options this season than last, because of the growth in virtual MVPDs. However, it is difficult to figure out which one has the right local TV channel available.
The easiest solution could be YouTube TV. By mid-September two-thirds of U.S. consumers can sign up for the $35-a-month service. It promises to carry all four of the major local broadcast networks, although it is not clear if the service will follow through with this pledge. If YouTube TV is not available or doesn’t have the right local station, a viewer will need to check each of the services to see if it carries their station.
One thing to note: DirecTV Now and Sling TV do not carry any CBS stations. However, a consumer can subscribe separately to CBS All Access for $6.99 a month for access to their local affiliate.
However, the cheapest and simplest option for local TV channel access remains the oldest. For those lucky enough to live in an area with good over-the-air coverage, a rooftop antenna will get you all local games for free.
Monday night football
ESPN retains the rights to Monday night football in 2017-2018. All the virtual MVPDs have the channel except FuboTV. The cheapest way to watch ESPN is with a $20 Sling TV orange subscription.
Thursday night football
This season there are several ways online viewers can watch the Thursday night games. Amazon will stream ten games this season. However, only Prime members will be able to watch. CBS will also broadcast Thursday night games. Subscribers to CBS All Access should be able to watch, as will vMVPD customers if the service carries the local CBS station.
There is one more option. NFL Network will also carry Thursday night games. The only vMVPD that carries this channel is Sling TV. It is part of its $10 per month Sports Extra Pack.
Playoff and Super Bowl
Broadcast networks and ESPN will carry the playoff games. The 2018 Super Bowl, to be played in Minneapolis at the U.S. Bank Stadium, will be broadcast by Fox. The game has been streamed for free for the last several years. We assume Fox will continue the tradition.
Hail Mary option
Some apartments and homes have been verified as unable to receive DirecTV satellite service. People living in those homes can sign up for Sunday Ticket from DirecTV and stream out-of-market games live. Packages start at $69.99 a month.
Mobile access restricted
Verizon Wireless has the exclusive right to stream NFL games to mobile devices. What does this mean? A subscriber to Sling TV and, say, T-Mobile cannot watch Monday night football on a smartphone. Even pay TV customers that aren’t Verizon Wireless customers cannot watch games through TV Everywhere apps on their mobile devices.
All Verizon wireless customers can watch the games through Verizon apps, and streaming them does not count against their data cap. Committed fans can subscribe to NFL RedZone for $1.99-per-month and watch every touchdown from every game.
Why it matters
It remains frustratingly difficult for football fans to watch all the major NFL games online.
They will need to cobble together several services and then still may miss one or two games they wanted to view.
Streaming live games to mobile devices remain the exclusive right of Verizon Wireless customers, regardless of the streaming services a consumer may have.