2018 is shaping up to be a great year for NFL fans, both on and off the field. The big news running up to the new season is that NFL authorities have dropped the requirement for online viewers to sign in via their CBS, Fox, ESPN or NBC subscriptions.
The NFL has dropped a requirement for online viewers to sign in with cable or satellite subscription.
Subscription-free streaming is now on the way, opening up a whole new range of possibilities for football fans. This is particularly good news for people who want to watch games on computers, tablets or smartphones, which the NFL realized was a rapidly growing segment of the sports market.
However, there are still some issues for fans to think about in the subscription-free era. For example, blackouts could still make some games unviewable until after they have finished. And finding free streams still takes a bit of research.
Blackouts could still make some games unviewable until after they have finished.
All of this means that football fans should get to know the many ways to watch their favorite game. From Kodi and International Game Passes to using Virtual Private Networks, the answer to how to watch NFL games online is surprisingly complex. Let’s have a deeper look, to help you catch every touchdown as the season gets underway.
What’s the deal with NFL streaming blackouts?
We’ll discuss other ways to watch NFL live in a moment, but for many people the first option will be a live TV stream from providers like ESPN, CBS, Fox or NBC. And here’s where things can get complicated.
For years, blackout rules governed what could be shown, and where. From 1973 till 2014, the NFL forced broadcasters to blackout games featuring local teams, with the aim of maximizing attendances at NFL stadiums. If a game wasn’t sold out 72 hours before kick off, it wouldn’t be on TV in the nearby area. This was reformed in 2014-15, and since then the NFL has operated a “blackout suspension.” But this could be rolled back at any point if the league feels that attendances are suffering.
The NFL forced broadcasters to blackout games featuring local teams, with the aim of maximizing attendances at NFL stadiums.
Another controversial policy regards showing teams from outside the local “home market” area. For instance, rules apply which make sure that local teams have their games screened in their entirety. If you’re watching a cliffhanger between San Diego and the 49ers in Green Bay, you could miss the last 5 minutes of the match if it overruns and the Packers are scheduled for the next TV slot. And the local network will always show the local team, potentially leaving fans of teams outside the area they live out of luck.
Blackouts also apply to recent innovations like NFL Game Pass – a streaming package available to fans located outside the USA which allows fans to watch NFL live in HD. Well, in theory. In practice, even Game Pass blacks out the two games screened in the UK by Sky Sports, posting live footage 24 hours later.
When systems like this are in place, it can be a pain to watch NFL online, and following your favorite franchise can be tough. Thankfully, there are ways around this, and they don’t require in-depth technical knowledge.
How to watch NFL games online without worrying about blackouts
If blackouts are ruining your football watching experience, one great solution is to us an NFL Game Pass International package with a Virtual Private Network (VPN). The trick is to use a VPN to access a server where blackouts don’t apply. Here’s how it’s done:
#1 Firstly download a VPN that delivers excellent streaming speeds and has a wide choice of servers (pretty much any provider from the best VPNs list will do great).
#2 Create your VPN account and log on. You might also want to install clients for your smartphone or tablet, to give you the chance to watch NFL online, wherever you go.
#3 Now, select an NFL Game Pass International package that you like the look of and use your VPN to route your data through a server in that country. India is a popular location to buy a pass due to its low prices and full schedule of matches.
#4 If you buy an Indian Game Pass, you don’t need to use an Indian server. Instead, choose a fast server in a location where blackouts don’t apply. Your data will be routed through that server and, as far as the NFL Game Pass team know, you are a resident in the same jurisdiction. So if you’ve been struggling with blackouts in the UK, you can pose as a German fan and get full access.
This work around is especially useful for those in the US. That’s because the American version of Game Pass is heavily restricted. It doesn’t feature any live feeds, limiting itself to delayed feeds, highlights and audio content. The trick is to access the International Game Pass, which can only be done by hiding your American identity. Pretty neat, huh?
The American version of Game Pass is heavily restricted.
Not all International Game Passes are equal, though. The price and range of games available varies depending on where you purchase your pass, so be careful about which package you buy.
How to watch NFL on Kodi with your Game Pass
If you choose to go down the NFL Game Pass Europe or Asia route, it’s definitely a good idea to check out what Kodi has to offer. If you aren’t familiar with this service, Kodi is an open source media player, which streams content directly from the internet onto home TVs. It works via an app which is totally free to download.
Learning how to watch NFL on Kodi isn’t hard. Here’s how to get the game on-screen in minutes:
- Use your VPN to purchase a Game Pass subscription as described above, and download the Kodi client.
- When you fire up Kodi, go to the “Add-ons” section and choose the “Package Installer.”
- Now, choose the “Install from Repository” option and scroll until you find the NFL Game Pass add-on.
- Choose the install option. You’ll be asked to supply your NFL Game Pass Europe password, and after that’s done the add-on should be installed onto your Kodi client.
- You should receive a notification telling you that your NFL Game Pass has been activated. To access games, just head to the Video Add-Ons menu to the left of your Kodi user interface, and any ongoing matches should be available to watch.
The great thing about Kodi is the ability to watch NFL online, while casting this stream to a standard TV. However, always remember to engage your VPN to avoid blackouts, as these will still apply whether you’re using Kodi or not.
Other ways to watch NFL games online for free
The only problem with using the method above to find an NFL Game Pass VPN is the cost. Even the cheapest Game Pass package available will cost over $100, which isn’t great if you only want to watch a couple of matches every season (or just the Super Bowl). So what are the options for finding an NFL live stream free of charge?
In this case, you’ve got a few other options:
1. Use a streaming service from your smartphone network
In the USA, some cellphone companies like Verizon Wireless offer free NFL streaming thanks to agreements with Fox, CBS, NBC and ESPN. In this case, if you sign up for the right tariff, you can download their streaming app and watch NFL games for free wherever you like. But blackouts will still apply as usual.
2. Use Amazon Prime to catch the game
These days, NFL isn’t restricted to old-school TV or Cable networks. Amazon has also entered the fray, screening Thursday Night Football matches for free to all Amazon Prime subscribers. So if a big game is coming up, triggering a free Prime trial could be the ideal way to watch it.
3. Find a reliable Flash stream
Almost all games in the NFL will be streamed by some site or other, and all you need is a browser to access these feeds. A good place to look is the Reddit NFL Streams site, with aggregates streams that people are watching. But don’t expect fantastic resolution and a silky smooth viewing experience. These streams tend to be a little rough around the edges. And if you use them, be sure to apply your VPN to keep your identity safe and sound.
What about new subscription-free streaming services?
If you aren’t keen to watch NFL games on anonymous streams or Amazon’s selection of matches isn’t broad enough, there may be other paid services to think about. So far, we’ve focused on using an NFL Game Pass, but it’s not the only game in town. Here are a few others:
Run by communications giant AT&T, DirecTV Now carries the NFL Sunday Ticket. This service includes all of the televised Sunday matches, regardless of where the viewer is located, making it handy for getting around local affiliate restrictions.
Unsurprisingly, streaming giant YouTube has tried to muscle in on the NFL action, streaming almost all of the League’s games (two Thursday matches are scrubbed) for around $40 per month.
Another streaming specialist, Hulu’s LiveTV service offers a similar spread of matches as YouTube, at roughly the same price
A relative newcomer to the streaming scene, FuboTV includes all Thursday matches but misses games screened by ESPN, while keeping all of the other match-ups. It’s a bit more expensive as well.
This streaming TV start-up offers two limited packages (their Blue and Orange plans), and a beefier main package which features every match.
PlayStation 4 owners can use their cutting edge console to stream NFL matches, charging around $50 per month for pretty much every game.
You can probably see a pattern emerging here. These streaming services tend to offer almost all of the games available, although a few games might be missed out here and there.
The key thing to remember is that with an NFL Game Pass VPN combination fans can access every catch, and every turnover, every week of the season. So if you are a true football fan, it’s a good idea to find the right VPN and Game Pass subscription. That way, you won’t miss a thing.
Getting to know the NFL’s leading teams
The NFL is divided into two Conferences, the American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (the NFC). In turn, both of these conferences are divided into 4 Divisions, called the North, South, East and West. Here’s how the teams shaped up for the 2018-2019 season.
Firstly, the AFC East:
The AFC West:
The AFC South:
And the AFC North:
And the NFC East:
The NFC West:
The NFC South:
And the NFC North:
In total, this works out at 256 regular season games, with each team playing 16 times over a period of 17 weeks. After that comes the post-season, with the wild card matches, divisional playoffs, followed by the AFC and NFC Championship games, then the Super Bowl itself.
That’s a lot of sporting action for fans to enjoy. However, with the price of game passes or access to live channels rising all the time, it’s definitely worth asking how to find an NFL live stream free. And there are a number of ways to do so (as you’ve already learnt)!