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Even in the era of streaming, watching out-of-market NFL games still feels like it’s full of bad options. Cough up $300 for DIRECTV’S NFL SUNDAY TICKET or chase down sketchy links on Reddit.
Fortunately, there is a third option. But to be fair, it might give you so many headaches that you decide to go back to the first two.
Let’s start with the most direct route.
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Pay for NFL SUNDAY TICKET
Purchasing NFL SUNDAY TICKET is by far the simplest way to watch out-of-market NFL games, but it comes with a hefty price tag and plenty of caveats.
If DIRECTV is available in your area, you have to subscribe to the satellite TV service to get SUNDAY TICKET. If it’s not available, you can purchase it as a standalone streaming service.
Students get a major discount, too. NFL SUNDAY TICKET costs $99.96 for the entire season if you’re enrolled in a two-year or four-year university. You enter your name, birthday and school, and DIRECTV looks up your student record.
Use a VPN and live TV streaming service
This method of watching out-of-market NFL games will require a lot more legwork than simply paying for SUNDAY TICKET, and we’ll be honest, there’s no guarantee it will always work.
Most streaming services are diligent about blocking VPNs (virtual private networks), so you might have to play some IP-whack-a-mole to access your game, trying various VPNs and servers until you find a combination that works. In our testing, it took us several tries before we were able to stream local channels from different cities.
That said, if you can get it to work, it is a much cheaper way to watch your NFL team than SUNDAY TICKET.
1. Sign up for a VPN
A VPN routes your internet connection through a remote server, adding greater privacy and security to your network. Because you can choose the location of the server you want to use, you’ll be able to connect remotely to the market of your favorite team.
VPNs typically cost around $7/mo., and don’t come with any long-term commitments. (There are plenty of free VPNs available, but your data might not be as secure as with a paid service.)
Here comes the tricky part: When you sign up for a VPN, you’ll need to make sure that it has servers located in an area where your team plays. Most VPNs list their server locations somewhere on their websites, but they often take a little digging to find. Here is how some of the top VPNs cover the 32 NFL teams:
|NordVPN ($6.99/mo.)||ExpressVPN ($6.67/mo.)||PureVPN ($5.81/mo.)|
|Green Bay Packers|
|Kansas City Chiefs||✔||✔|
|Los Angeles Chargers||✔||✔||✔|
|Los Angeles Rams||✔||✔||✔|
|New England Patriots||✔|
|New Orleans Saints||✔|
|San Francisco 49ers||✔||✔||✔|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||✔|
*Pricing per month plus taxes for length of contract. Additional fees and terms may apply. Pricing varies by location and availability. All prices subject to change at any time. May or may not be available based on service address. As of 09/03/20.
If your team isn’t listed on any of the VPNs above, FastestVPNGuide.com has a helpful collection of server locations for some of the most popular VPNs.
2. Choose a server in your team’s market
After you sign up for a VPN, the next step is to find a server location that will air your home team’s games. This is usually pretty straightforward — if you’re a Panthers fan, choose a Charlotte server — but for some teams, you might have to do some experimenting.
For example, NordVPN has a server in Louisville, a market that gets Bengals, Colts and Steelers games. You can try a few nearby servers to see if one’s getting your team on Sunday, but your best bet is to use a VPN that has a server in the exact city your team plays in.
3. Subscribe to a live TV streaming service with FOX and CBS
Once your VPN is set up, you still need a way to actually access the channels that carry NFL games. The easiest way to do this is through a live TV streaming service or the free streaming service Locast.
Live TV streaming services generally cost around $50/mo. and carry most of the same channels as your local cable provider. The difference is that there are no long-term commitments and they’re streamed through your internet connection, not cable equipment.
Locast, on the other hand, is entirely free, but it only streams local channels in 23 U.S. markets. That includes FOX and CBS, the two channels that you’ll need to watch out-of-market games, but you won’t get ESPN or NFL Network, which carry nationally televised Thursday and Monday night games. (Most Thursday Night Football games also air on FOX and Prime Video; the NFL has a full TV schedule here.)
Unfortunately, some live TV streaming services, like Hulu + Live TV, Sling and YouTube TV, block VPNs. There are ways to get around this — How-To Geek has a detailed guide here — but the simplest method is to use one of the other streaming services listed below.
Here’s how each live TV streaming service compares for channels that air NFL games:
|AT&T TV NOW PLUS ($55/mo.)||✔||✔||✔||✔|
|Hulu + Live TV ($55/mo.)||✔||✔||✔||✔|
|Sling Orange + Blue ($45/mo.)||✔||✔||✔|
|YouTube TV ($65/mo.)||✔||✔||✔||✔||✔|
*Pricing per month plus taxes for length of contract. Additional fees and terms may apply. Pricing varies by location and availability. All prices subject to change at any time. May or may not be available based on service address. As of 09/24/19.
Each of these services includes CBS and Fox, so you can use any of them to watch out-of-market NFL games through a VPN. That said, streaming services are diligent about blocking VPNs, so you may run into issues in some markets.
If you can’t get a hold of the game you’re after, a good strategy would be to rely on Locast. If you can connect to a server in one of the markets from the two teams playing the game, you should be able to stream it without a hitch.
Start streaming on your TV
Once you’re connected to a server inside your favorite team’s market, all you need to do is open the streaming service and find the channel the game’s on. If you plan on watching the game on your TV, you’ll need to download the VPN app you’re using on your smart TV or streaming device. (If you use a device like Chromecast or Apple TV that’s able to mirror your phone or laptop, you’ll only need to connect to the VPN on the device that’s accessing the game originally.)
Make sure your internet connection can handle live streaming
No one likes buffering, least of all when your team’s on a game-winning drive. To ensure a smooth, high-quality stream, make sure you’re getting at least 10 Mbps download speeds. And the more people that are using your internet connection at once, the higher that number will need to go.
Now that you know how to watch out-of-market NFL games, stay connected to the experts in our Resource Center for all the best ways to watch your favorite sports or stream the newest content.
Originally written on 10/19/2019. Last updated on 9/4/2020.
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Written by:Joe Supan
Sr. Staff Writer
Joe oversees all things wireless and streaming for Allconnect, from music services to live TV sites. His streaming service reviews are among the most popular articles on the entire site. … Read more
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