The Best NFL Streaming Services for 2021 | PCMag

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It's still early in the NFL's regular season, but now is the time to figure out how you will watch games this year. If you've ditched your cable company in favor of one (or several) video streaming services, you can still watch NFL games. On-demand services such as Netflix and Disney+ don't offer live sports though, so you need to subscribe to a live TV streaming service.

Not every live TV streaming service is ideal for NFL fans, though, as some are missing key channels. You should also consider the features and other streaming content a service offers to determine which one is the best value for your household. Check out our guide to the best video streaming services for your budget if you don't know where to start.

What Channels Do You Need to Watch NFL Games?

NFL games generally air during four time slots on different networks throughout the regular season: Thursday Night Football (typically on NFL Network, with most games simulcast on FOX and Amazon Prime Video), Sunday afternoons (CBS and FOX), Sunday Night Football (NBC), and Monday Night Football (ESPN). Broadcasts of playoff games last season were split between CBS, ESPN, FOX, and NBC. US holidays affect the schedule, which means that there may be multiple games on a Thursday or a game on Saturday. Consult the schedule below for details on watching those games.

The NFL recently renegotiated the broadcast rights for games starting with the 2023 season and running through the 2033 season. Under this new deal, the broadcast rights for Sunday afternoons, Sunday nights, and Monday nights remain the same. Super Bowl coverage will rotate between ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC, while NFL Network retains rights to some exclusive games. Both Thursday Night Football and Monday Night Football games are subject to flex schedules with this new contract; in other words, the NFL can change which games air during these prime-time slots based on what will make for more entertaining matchups.

However, the agreement also signals a dramatic shift in the NFL's support for streaming services. One major change is that Prime Video will become the exclusive broadcaster of Thursday Night Football starting in 2022. Some changes take effect this year. For example, NBC will begin streaming Sunday Night Football games this season on Peacock, much like CBS does for Sunday afternoon games on Paramount+. We hope ESPN+ starts to carry NFL games that air on ABC or ESPN.

DirecTV's rights to the NFL Sunday Ticket package are set to expire at the end of the 2022 season. Amazon, Apple, and Disney are all reportedly interested in securing these rights going forward, so NFL Sunday Ticket could very well shift ownership to one of these streaming giants.

Which NFL games you can watch on Sunday afternoons depends on where you live. These games are carried on local CBS and FOX affiliate channels and are subject to the same blackout rules as cable broadcasts. You will get other games on Sunday afternoons in addition to those involving your local team, but how many and which ones is not always easy to determine. Check out 506Sports's regional NFL coverage maps each week for all the details.

The NFL matchups on Sunday nights and every other day of the week are national broadcasts, so everyone will see the same game regardless of where they live. Playoff games and the Super Bowl are also televised to national audiences. NFL fans don't have to navigate the mess that is regional sports network (RSN) broadcast rights; all these channels are available in the vast majority of broadcast markets and on most live TV streaming services.

Even with the upcoming changes, the NFL's current streaming strategy still isn't ideal. It puts the burden on fans to pay for and manage multiple streaming services at a time. The NFL also doesn't seem to recognize the reality that a location-based strategy is ineffectual at reaching modern audiences, especially those who don't live in their favorite team's home market.

Many of the major NFL commentary shows air on channels we already mentioned, but some do not. For example, Nickelodeon now offers a weekly, family-friendly NFL highlights show, called NFL Slimetime, that's hosted by Nate Burleson and Young Dylan, alongside correspondent Dylan Schefter. DirecTV Stream, fuboTV, Hulu, Philo, and YouTube TV all offer Nickelodeon. Eli and Peyton Manning will also call some Monday Night Football games on ESPN2 this season. DirecTV Stream, fuboTV, Hulu, Sling TV's Orange Plan, and YouTube TV all have ESPN2 in their lineups.

The NFL RedZone channel is another option for people who want to watch scoring highlights on Sunday afternoons or keep up with fantasy football stats in real time. FuboTV, Hulu, Sling TV, and YouTube TV offer add-ons with this channel.

How to Watch Week 2 NFL Games

The 2021 NFL regular season starts is now fully underway. This season, each team will play 17 regular-season games (up from 16 games last season). Below is the schedule for Week 2 of the regular season per the NFL's official site. We will update the schedule every week throughout the NFL season. All times listed are Eastern Standard Time (EST).

Thursday (9/16)

Sunday (9/19)

Buffalo Bills vs. Miami Dolphins at 1 p.m. (FOX)

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Chicago Bears at 1 p.m. (FOX)

Denver Broncos vs. Jacksonville Jaguars at 1 p.m. (CBS)

Houston Texans vs. Cleveland Browns at 1 p.m. (CBS)

Las Vegas Raiders vs. Pittsburgh Steelers at 1 p.m. (CBS)

Los Angeles Rams vs. Indianapolis Colts at 1 p.m. (FOX)

New England Patriots vs. New York Jets at 1 p.m. (CBS)

New Orleans Saints vs. Carolina Panthers at 1 p.m. (FOX)

San Francisco 49ers vs. Philadelphia Eagles at 1 p.m. (FOX)

Atlanta Falcons vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 4:05 p.m. (FOX)

Minnesota Vikings vs. Arizona Cardinals at 4:05 p.m. (FOX)

Dallas Cowboys vs. Los Angeles Chargers at 4:25 p.m. (CBS)

Tennessee Titans vs. Seattle Seahawks at 4:25 p.m. (CBS)

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Baltimore Ravens at 8:20 p.m. (NBC)

Monday (9/20)

Cable and Over-the-Air Options

One of the easiest ways to ensure complete coverage of national and in-market games is to sign up for a cable plan. Note that if you go this route, you will likely pay more than any video streaming service and will lose out on other conveniences, such as better-designed interfaces and support for more platforms. NFL Sunday Ticket is one of the few legitimate options for watching out-of-market regular-season games live. This service is available as a cable add-on or online for people who are unable to get DirecTV cable.

Streaming cable over the air via an antenna is another option for watching broadcast channels (such as CBS, FOX, and NBC), though your success may vary depending on your location and the strength of the signal in your home. You also need to buy and set up an antenna for this method. Sling TV is the only video streaming service on this list that integrates with over-the-air channels.

Other Ways to Stream NFL Games

Paid services are not your only option to stream NFL games. For instance, you can watch in-market NFL games on Sunday afternoon as well as prime-time Sunday Night Football, Monday Night Football, and Thursday Night Football broadcasts via the free Yahoo Sports app or NFL app for iOS and Android. Note that neither app supports casting of any kind and that some games require you to stream them over a cellular connection. The streaming quality of both apps was excellent in testing over Wi-Fi. The Yahoo Sports App even includes a co-watching feature that allows you to watch the game with up to three friends.

Consider setting up a digital antenna to watch games on the major broadcast channels. These devices are relatively cheap and don't require a monthly subscription. Locast used to be a cheap way to get local channels over an internet connection, but that the service has since shut down.

The Best Sports Streaming Services

If you are looking to watch sports other than the NFL, check out our roundup of the best sports streaming services. We also have roundups of the best MLB streaming services, best NBA streaming services, and best NHL streaming services. We cover everything you need to know about RSNs in these roundups, since many MLB, NBA, and NHL games don't air as national broadcasts.

Our 10 Top Picks

Starts at $64.99 per month

Hulu + Live TV features all the channels you need to watch NFL games, including CBS, ESPN, FOX, and NBC. Hulu recently added the NFL Network channel and now offers a Sports add-on ($10 per month) that includes NFL RedZone. Other sports channels on the service include BTN and the Golf Channel. You can also subscribe to the Español add-on ($4.99 per month) to get international sports coverage from ESPN Deportes.

Hulu + Live TV is an excellent choice for general audiences with coverage of most popular news and entertainment channels. A subscription unlocks Hulu's expansive library of on-demand shows and movies, too.

You can improve Hulu's technical capabilities with the Enhanced Cloud DVR (which increases the available DVR storage to 200 hours from 50) or the Unlimited Screens (which increases the number of simultaneous streams from two to an unlimited number in your home and up to three outside of it) add-ons. Each option costs $9.99 per month on its own, but you can get both for $14.98 per month. Note that while Hulu's on-demand content is available in 1080p, a few on-demand originals support 4K streaming on select platforms. The service supports 1080p/60fps live streams on some platforms, too.

Hulu Review

Starts at $4.99 per month

If you subscribe to Peacock's Premium or Premium Plus plans, you can watch every Sunday Night Football game this season and the Super Bowl. Anyone can watch the season's first game between the Cowboys and the Buccaneers for free, too.

Aside from its NFL coverage, Peacock has streaming rights to Indy Car events, Premier League soccer matches, PGA Tour golf, and WWE content (including PPV events). Peacock is also home to a substantial library of popular on-demand shows and movies, including some original titles. You won't get any additional sports coverage by paying for the $9.99-per-month Premium Plus tier, but you will gain the ability to download titles for offline viewing on mobile platforms and to watch most on-demand content without ads.

Peacock Review

Starts at $64.99 per month

For NFL coverage, YouTube TV offers CBS, ESPN, FOX, and NBC in its lineup. It even includes the NFL Network, which is great for die-hard NFL fans. If you want the NFL RedZone channel, you can pay for YouTube's $10.99-per-month Sports Plus add-on.

As for other national sports, the service includes the Golf Channel, MLB Network, NBA TV, Olympic Channel, and Tennis Channel. You can pay an extra monthly fee for the FOX Soccer Plus ($15 per month) and NBA League Pass ($39.99 per month) add-ons. YouTube TV also includes top news and entertainment channels.

With YouTube TV, you get unlimited cloud DVR storage (recordings are kept for up to nine months), up to three simultaneous device streams, and support for six user accounts. All those features are useful for when family members want to watch different programs that are set to air at the same time. YouTube TV is notably one of the few services that streams live channels in 1080p. A new 4K Plus add-on lets you stream select live channels in 4K, watch DVR recordings offline, and stream from an unlimited number of devices on your home network.

YouTube TV Review

$8.99 per month

Although Amazon Prime Video will hold exclusive rights to Thursday Night NFL games in 2022, it shares those rights with NFL Network and FOX this season, which means it's not essential for NFL fans.

That said, Prime Video has added some other live sports to its lineup most notably WNBA games and select MLB games. You can also pay for sports-focused channels for the platform, including Paramount+ (and its Sunday NFL coverage), NBA League Pass, and PGA Tour Live. Amazon also produces the All or Nothing series, which offers a behind-the-scenes look at various professional sports teams. Amazon Prime's on-demand library of TV shows and movies (and especially its originals) make it an excellent choice for your on-demand streaming needs as well.

Amazon Prime works on the web, mobile platforms (Android and iOS), media streaming devices (Apple TV 4K, Chromecast, Fire TV, and Roku), game consoles (PlayStation, Wii, and Xbox), and smart TVs. With Prime Video, you can stream content on up to three devices at the same time.

Amazon Prime Video Review

Starts at $64.99 per month

FuboTV is an excellent option for NFL fans; it includes CBS, FOX, NBC, and the NFL Network. FuboTV recently added Disney channels (including ESPN) to its channel lineups, which considerably improves the service's NFL coverage. You can also get the NFL RedZone channel via the $10.99 per month Sports Plus with NFL RedZone add-on.

FuboTV excels in its other sports coverage though with the Golf Channel, MLB Network, and NBA TV. International sports channels on the service include beIN Sports, GOL TV, and TUDN. FuboTV's news and entertainment offerings are strong especially with the addition of Viacom and Discovery channels, even though it no longer has A&E or Turner channels.

All of fuboTV's plans let you record up to 250 hours of DVR content, which it keeps forever. The Cloud DVR 1000 add-on ($16.99 per month) increase that limit to 1,000 hours. All plans also let you stream on three screens at once, but the Unlimited Screens add-on ($9.99 per month) increases that limit to 10 devices on your home network and two off of it. Other cool features of fuboTV are Lookback, which lets you watch select sports programs up to 72 hours after they aired, and Startover, which enables you to restart certain live events from the beginning.

FuboTV is available on the web or via dedicated apps for Android, iOS, Apple TV, Fire TV, Chromecast, and Roku devices.Note that while most of fuboTV's live streams are limited to 720p, it does air select programming in 4K. Most of its on-demand content can be streamed in atleast 1080p.

fuboTV Review

$99.99 per year

NFL Game Pass gives NFL fans access to replays of every NFL game (including playoff matchups and the Super Bowl) each season regardless of their location. No other streaming service offers that capability, which makes NFL Game Pass one of the best options for people who do not live in their favorite team's local market. Although some football fans might not like the prospect of watching games after they air, game replays are typically available shortly after the live broadcast concludes. The service also includes live audio feeds of games and, depending on your market, select live preseason games.

Although NFL Game Pass only supports streams up to 720p, it does offer some genuinely useful playback features, including a condensed replay mode, a slow-motion playback button, and the ability to watch up to four games simultaneously. We would like to see the service add an option to download audio or game replays on mobile devices so that subscribers can access them without an internet connection, however. You can watch NFL Game pass on the web; mobile platforms (via the NFL Mobile app for Android and iOS); media streaming devices (Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, and Roku); and game consoles (Xbox One and PlayStation 4).

NFL Game Pass Review

Starts at $4.99 per month

Paramount+ enables Premium subscribers ($9.99 per month) to stream a live feed of local CBS broadcast channels, which means you can watch live NFL games. Other sports on this service include the NCAA March Madness tournament, select PGA Tour events, and lots of national and international soccer (Campeonato Brasileiro Série A, Concacaf, Liga Profesional de Fútbol, National Women’s Soccer League, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, and UEFA Europa Conference League). Paramount+ includes access to a decent library of on-demand network TV shows and original too, such as The Good Fight, Star Trek: Discovery, and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.

In addition to watching Paramount+ on the web, you can download apps for mobile platforms (Android and iOS), media streaming devices (Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, and Roku), gaming consoles (Xbox and PlayStation 4), and smart TVs (LG, Samsung, and Vizio). The service supports up to three simultaneous streams per account on all plans, but the ability to download titles for offline viewing and access 4K content is restricted to the more expensive ad-free plan.

Paramount+ Review

Starts at $35 per month

Sling TV splits its sports coverage across its Orange and Blue plan, with ESPN channels on the former, and NFL Network and NBC on the latter. You have to pay for the combined Orange & Blue Package ($50 per month) to get its complete NFL coverage. NBC and FOX affiliates are available in select markets for those with at least a Sling Blue plan, but if you want to watch games that air on ABC, you need to set up an antenna, which partially defeats the purpose of getting a video streaming service in the first place. Sling also lacks CBS affiliate channels.

Sports fans may want to subscribe to the Sports Extra add-on ($10 per month) to get beIN Sports, ESPN U, Golf Channel, MLB Network, NBA TV, and NHL Network.

Sling's Orange & Blue plan allows you to stream on up to four devices simultaneously. Sling includes 50 hours of DVR storage for free, with an optional upgrade to 200 hours for an extra $5 per month. You can watch Sling TV on your mobile phone, streaming device, Xbox console (but not PlayStation), and the web.

Sling TV Review

Starts at $69.99 per month

NFL fans should consider the Entertainment plan from DirecTV Stream (previously AT&T TV), which includes CBS, ESPN, FOX, and NBC. You need to pay more (the Choice Plan is $84.99 per month) to get the Golf Channel and RSNs, however. Another disadvantage of DirecTV Stream is that no package includes the NFL Network channel.

DirecTV Stream offers 20 hours of DVR storage and keeps recordings for up to 90 days. Most other services let users save more hours of programming and for longer. Sports fans will appreciate DirecTV Stream's Lookback and Rewind capabilities, which respectively allow you to watch previously aired content (up to 72 hours in the past) and restart live streams from the beginning of the broadcast. Note, however, that these features are only available for select channels and programs.

DirecTV Stream supports an impressive 20 simultaneous streams per account on your home network and up to three outside it. The service is available on media streaming devices, mobile platforms, and the web, but not for gaming consoles.

DirecTV Stream Review

$73.49 per month (with total subscription length dependent on remaining months in the regular season)

NFL Sunday Ticket is the only service we've reviewed that enables fans to watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on Sunday. It's the best option for football fans who don't live in their favorite team's broadcast market. However, NFL Sunday Ticket is very expensive and does not include live Thursday night, in-market Sunday afternoon, Sunday night, or Monday night football games. We tested out the non-cable version of the service, but know that this package is only available to select customers (you can check your eligibility on the site).

We like NFL Sunday Ticket's customizable closed captions and its innovative playback modes that let you watch multiple games at once. However, we would also like to see it add support for more than one simultaneous stream and DVR recordings. In testing, we did not experience any streaming performance issues even when streaming several games on the same device at the same time. You can download the NFL Sunday Ticket app on mobile platforms (Android, Fire OS, iOS), media streaming devices (Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, and Roku), game consoles (PlayStation and Xbox), and select smart TVs.

NFL Sunday Ticket Review

The Best NFL Streaming Service Deals This Week*

*Deals are selected by our partner, TechBargains

Disney+ — $13.99 per Month With Hulu and ESPN+ Bundle Hulu — 1-Month Free TrialSling TV — First Month for $10 on Blue or Orange PlanParamount+ — 7-Day Free TrialfuboTV — 7-Day Free Trial