NFL streaming alternatives and other viable options to keep you in the game
In personal finance, perhaps no money-saving tip is echoed more than cutting cable. The commitment to cut the cord can be daunting to anyone who finds solace in Sunday’s NFL slate.
Where to watch NFL games without cable is a bit of a mystery, but can be solved with a little creativity.
Cable service is oftentimes bundled at $50 or more, and is commonly considered the first expense to trim among those balancing a budget. With the rise of streaming services and network-sponsored on-demand options, there’s more reason to cut out costly cable box.
The equation is simple: Cutting out cable often frees up $50 or more each month. That’s extra change that can quickly give you a leg-up on your money-saving goals — whether that be debt consolidation, an emergency fund, or savings for a major purchase. But the equation takes on a different element for the committed sports fan.
The NFL, MLB, NBA and others all in full-swing make for a can’t-miss, sports-packed fall. While responsibly saving money should be a priority, budgeting shouldn’t strip you of things you enjoy. Fortunately, if you’ve cut cable, there are options to add sports – like NFL Sunday – back into your life.
First, outline a framework
If you’re going to ratify your budget, you first need to consider how much you’re willing to spend. For instance, through my apartment, my internet expenses are covered. That saves me, at minimum, $40 per month plus equipment fees. Therefore, my tolerance to spend $40 on a cable alternative is likely higher than most.
If that much weren’t true, having a commitment to pay $40-60 or more for internet would inherently drive down my total I’m willing to spend to watch sports. To get started, establish a framework based on your current expenses and how much you’re willing to spend. Once you have this, you can start looking at services to see what best fits your needs.
How’s your equipment?
It’s 2020 and it seems like every household has a smart TV ready to accept streaming options, but that doesn’t speak for everyone. What if you’re still watching on your older 35-inch Toshiba that cannot access the internet? You may need to look into adding a device to your TV to equip it for streaming. You may look to options such as an Amazon Fire TV Stick, Google Chromecast, or Roku Stick (Disclosure: I rely on Google Chromecast. Others have more bells and whistles. This one works best for me).
What’s a must?
In terms of streaming options, the market is flooded with more than enough choices to pick from. To best narrow the field, determine what’s most important for you.
If you’re satisfied with the main slate of NFL games Sunday afternoon, you may be able to get by with a package that includes CBS, FOX, and NBC. Afraid of missing Monday Night Football? You’ll need ESPN. That’ll likely mean spending a little more. Once you have your list of priorities, then you can start looking at specific services.
Not your grandparents’ TV antenna
You know this by now, but the major broadcast networks – ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC – carry most national sporting events. Satisfied with having football of any kind? If you can get by with the Sunday main slate, a streaming alternative may not be all that necessary.
An option you may consider is purchasing an HDTV antenna, which can be as inexpensive as $15 and range up to $65 or more for models equipped with 4K capabilities and extended range. Forget the bunny ear antennas your grandparents had. These antennas have stepped into the 21st Century – their minimalistic designs and quick set up can become a viable option to giving you fast access to live TV. Plus, they’re available for sale in Walmart and Target, and can be in your mailbox in one or two days via Amazon or another online retailer.
A couple universal truths about HDTV antennas:
- You get what you pay for. While inexpensive $15 options exist, their range may be limited, thus limiting channel availability, picture quality, and reliability. Consider that spending up as little as $10-15 could be a major upgrade in the quality of device you have.
- Your signal will vary based on location. An HDTV antenna is not a solution for everyone. Nothing can put a damper on your Sunday afternoon quite like a weak signal that cuts out right in the middle of the big play. Your signal is mostly dependent on the distance between you and the broadcast tower – and anything that stands in between can degrade your reception. Before you buy, you may review the FCC’s site for a reception map to get an idea of what signal you may draw and what stations will come through.
Time to choose your service
Depending on your entertainment needs, you may be able to get by with very little. A general tip is to consider all options and don’t be afraid to get creative. You could consider subscribing to a service and then canceling after the end of season.
With zero commitment options, it may be worthwhile to consider adding CBS All Access for $5.99 per month with commercials, $9.99 no commercials. This plan will unlock all CBS broadcast NFL games as well as college football, college basketball, and other nationally televised sporting events.
For Sunday Night Football, broadcasted exclusively through NBC, you could consider NBC streaming service Peacock. Plans start at $4.99 per month or $49.99 annually.
Thursday Night Football, which airs on the NFL Network and FOX, will be streamed via Amazon Prime in week five through the end of the season. Prime members can stream the games at no additional cost.
Monday Night Football is the flagship of ESPN. Sadly, Monday Night Football cannot be streamed via the outlet’s premium streaming service, ESPN . At least not yet. Limited live sports are available through ESPN , and the service ranks quite affordable at $5.99 per month. Disney, who owns ESPN, ABC and Hulu, also offers a bundle package that includes ESPN , Disney and Hulu for $12.99 per month.
If you’re in search of one house for all streaming, options are abundant. You’ll be charged a fee for convenience, but spending up for simplicity isn’t anything to be ashamed of. Services like Fubo TV and YouTube TV, each $64.99, are comprehensive and packed with features such as DVR and the ability to add services like NFL Redzone ($11 per month extra) for a small fee. But those services can do some damage on a budget. Hulu Live TV at $54.99 per month comes in slightly below the competition but could also be more than you’re willing to spend. After all, you cut cable for a reason.
OK, we’re getting somewhere, but let’s trim a little more. A leader among budget options is Sling TV, which gives three package options. Sling Orange ($30) has ESPN, while Sling Blue ($30) has the NFL Network, plus Fox and NBC in select markets. Unfortunately, neither option has CBS. You can get both Sling Blue and Sling Orange for $45.
Why getting creative is never a bad idea
YouTube TV is the industry leader for a reason – the simplicity coupled with features show cord cutters what they’re missing. For me, the cost is too much for comfort, especially if I’m only utilizing it for four days per month to get my NFL fix.
A little creativity can go a long way in satisfying your needs. You might consider an HDTV antenna, and that may be enough. Though understand that reception and quality are no guarantee. With risk can come reward.
There’s comfort in knowing you’ll get the big game – without interruption – with a streaming service. Sling TV offers two split packages that narrow the selection and the cost. With CBS All Access ($5.99 per month with commercials), you can package the two and get back in the game.
It’s important to remember to identify your needs and consider all options. Personally, I researched an HDTV antenna (Disclosure: I’ve owned three in the past and had limited success) and found one that was likely to work for me ($39.99). I then wanted to insure my NFL Sunday experience with the reliability of a streaming service, so I added a CBS All Access ($5.99 with commercials) that gives me assurance that I’ll have the big game if I have friends over.
Budgeting isn’t intended to strip you of things you enjoy. Follow these tips to get you in the game and put money back in your pocket.
You have options. Which is better for you – cable or streaming services?
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