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The NFL season is here, and if you don’t have the biggest cable package around, you might think you’re out of luck, doomed to miss out on live game coverage. But with a little poking around, I found that isn’t necessarily true. At all.
More people are ditching their cable and satellite packages. I don’t blame them. I’m one of them. About two months ago, I could no longer justify spending money on content I could easily access online. And I haven’t looked back.
So when tasked with trying to watch some NFL games, I had to get a bit creative. Not illegal, mind you. Rather, I had to brainstorm some legal but out-of-the-cable box ways to get access to NFL game livestreams.
Here’s what I did.
Since Monday Night Football plays on ESPN, you’d think you’d need a cable package to watch it. But actually, all you need is Internet service. Well, service from a few select IPs, that is. If you get your Internet service through Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, or AT&T U-verse, all you have to do is go to WatchESPN.com, input the name of your Internet provider, and a livestream of the game currently playing on ESPN will pop up. I didn’t even have to input my Time Warner account information to make this happen. It streamed automatically and cleanly and included the regular commercial breaks, just as though I were watching it on television.
But if you have Verizon or another ISP, sorry, dude. This little trick won’t work for you. For the rest of youw, this step will save you from subscribing to cable just for ESPN.
NFL Sunday Ticket
For Sunday’s out-of-market games, you’re going to have to shell out some cash. You can’t find a better way to have an NFL Sunday than by signing up for NFL Sunday Ticket. Yes, it’s pricey, but when you think about it, a cable subscription can easily set you back $100/month at least. So the $200 season pass is worth about two months of cable. And if all you’d be subscribing to cable for is football, that’s a pretty good savings. Plus, you can get DirecTV Sunday Ticket through game consoles and other streaming devices so there’s a definite convenience factor there.
Get an appropriate HD Antenna
Many NFL games are over-the-air on NBC, CBS, and Fox. If you want to catch most of the in-market games, you just need to equip your home with a high-quality antenna. But you don’t necessarily need the best (or expensive) antenna, either. You just need one that’ll do the job for your location. I came across a site in my research called AntennaPoint that shows you how far away the major network broadcast towers are from your TV. The farther away, the stronger the antenna you need, obviously.
If you get this configured properly, you can easily watch all the in-market games that CBS, NBC, and Fox air. After a quick check, I’m about 36 miles from each of these towers. I’m also using the Mohu antenna, and the major networks all come in clear in HD with only the occasional pixelated blip. The audio is a bit wonky at times, as in broadcasts are very quiet and commercials are very, very loud, but that’s really my only complaint. So far, this option is worth the cost savings.
Again, watching in-market games over the air is as simple as turning on your TV. Thursday night’s game came in just fine on CBS. And on Sunday, I was able to watch the two in-market games for my area on NBC.
And what about Sunday night football? Well, I was able to watch my in-market game on NBC, of course. It’s available on NBC Sports Live Extra, too. Now, this streamed just fine for me, but most viewers receive a prompt at some point during the livestream to input their cable provider information, including username and password, so it’s definitely not going to work for everyone.
Cord-cutting and the NFL do play together — with some work
So, can you be an NFL diehard and cut the cable cord? The answer hinges on how much effort you want to put into it. It depends on your current Internet provider, your budget, and the quality of your over-the-air antenna. But you can watch most of this season’s football action without a cable box or DVR in tow.
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