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How to watch the NFL

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Bri FieldAssigning Editor
Updated 2/9/23

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In 2023, the regular 18-week NFL season kicks off September 7. But things kick off with the draft at the end of April, and the pre-season starts August 3.

Unfortunately, ensuring you get every game you want can be a convoluted process. To help you out, we’ve rounded up all your options for watching the NFL, whether you just want Sunday Night Football or need to catch every game you can get your hands on.

The best ways to watch the NFL

Live TV streaming with YouTube TV

YouTube TV is our pick for the best streaming service for NFL fans. It has a solid sports lineup and an excellent DVR system, plus all the local channels. Youtube is also the exclusive provider of NFL Sunday Ticket. That means access to every out-of-market Sunday game, along with in-game stats and the ability to watch multiple games at once.

Prices for the 2023 season start at $349–$389 for YouTube TV subscribers and $449-$489 for just the Premium YouTube channel, which you can get without having to pay for a regular TV package.

Premium streaming channels plus a digital antenna

If you don’t want to sign up for all of YouTube TV but still go for the SUNDAY TICKET Premium Channel, you’ll be in good shape to catch plenty of NFL coverage. However, you could be locked out of Monday Night Football, Thursday Night Football, and local games.

If you’re willing to cobble together solutions, you can save a little money. You can use your Amazon Prime subscription to catch Thursday Night Football and buy an over-the-air antenna for games on your local channels, or try the Peacock and Paramount + apps.

You’ll still be missing out on national games on Monday Nights, but maybe a friend has a live TV streaming subscription login you can borrow, or you could hit up a local pub?

A cable or satellite TV provider with local channels and ESPN

It seems like good news (for everyone but DIRECTV) that YouTube TV is taking over NFL Sunday Ticket, but it’s far from your only option for catching great games from the comfort of your living room. Any TV provider with local channels (CBS, FOX, NBC) and ESPN will have your local games and most of the national games. If you spring for a higher-tier package, you can usually get NFL Network as well.

Now that you have some quick ways to get to the games you care about, let’s dig a little deeper into how NFL coverage works.

Types of NFL broadcasts

Because of various local and national broadcast deals, NFL games can be divided into three basic categories: in-market, out-of-market, and national. In-market games refer to any that are viewable in your area, regardless of the network or channel you’re watching them on. Out-of-market games are all the others that aren’t viewable in your area. National games are broadcast nationwide.

What makes a game in-market is complex, but what it means for viewers is that your local team’s games are available, as well as any other games that may impact your local team, such as games deciding who’ll go to the playoffs with them.

National games are further split into three broadcasts: Sunday Night Football, Monday Night Football, and Thursday Night Football. These are broadcast on their respective nights, with accompanying shows and commentary. Each is exclusive to a particular network or provider: Sunday Night Football is on NBC (and Peacock), Monday Night Football is on ESPN, and Thursday Night Football is on Amazon Prime Video.

The rules about how to watch are complicated, and the NFL knows it. If you’re in a pinch to find a game last-minute, check out the watching guide from the league.

If you want to watch every NFL game

Due to various contracts and agreements that make certain games exclusive to certain broadcasters, the NFL is spread over a large number of different networks and streaming services.

In-market games are those that either feature your local team or directly impact them in some way, like games that will impact who plays your team in the playoffs.

Out-of-market games are all other games, aside from a handful that are broadcast nationally.

What this means for football fans is that there is no one, single source for every NFL game. Even if you had YouTube TV with NFL Sunday Ticket, you would still need to add Amazon Prime Video to get the Thursday Night Football games. Incidentally, this combo is the easiest (although by no means most affordable) way to get access to every game.

Here’s the full roundup of networks you’ll need:

  • CBS (some in-market games)
  • ESPN (Monday Night Football)
  • FOX (some in-market games)
  • NBC (Sunday Night Football)
  • NFL SUNDAY TICKET (out-of-market games)
  • Amazon Prime Video (Thursday Night Football)

This will get you access to the full spread of in-market and out-of-market games. As you can see, it’s pretty complicated.

There’s also NFL+, but this won’t let you watch live games on anything other than a phone or tablet, which is… not our first choice. For that reason, it’s not one of the services we recommend.

How to watch in-market NFL games

In-market games are viewable on CBS and FOX. For the most part, games with an AFC road team are on CBS, and games with an NFC road team are on FOX, but this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule.

You can watch these on your TV provider’s CBS and FOX channels, and you can also pick up both networks with an over-the-air (OTA) antenna. CBS games can also be watched on the Paramount+ streaming service.

How to watch out-of-market NFL games

Out-of-market games (that aren’t aired on Sunday Night, Monday Night, or Thursday Night Football) are generally available only on NFL SUNDAY TICKET. This is a premium (and expensive) service available exclusively to YouTube TV subscribers.

Last season, NFL Sunday Ticket was exclusive to DIRECTV and cost about $300. Subscribers also had to pay for a standard TV subscription every month, ballooning the cost to several hundred dollars per year. YouTube TV is charging $349–$389 per season if you have YouTube TV and $449-$489 if you don't.

How to watch Sunday Night Football

Sunday Night Football is a special program and game that airs on—surprise—Sunday night. These games are the same nationwide—they don’t depend on markets. Sunday Night Football is viewable on NBC, as well as NBC’s streaming service Peacock.

NBC can be found with essentially every cable, fiber, or satellite TV service, as well as streaming TV services including DIRECTV STREAM, YouTube TV, or Hulu + Live TV. Peacock, the NBC streaming platform, is available starting at $4.99 per month. You can also pick up NBC with an antenna.

How to watch Monday Night Football

Monday Night Football is the same idea as Sunday Night Football, but with a different cast and day. Like Sunday Night Football, these games are available everywhere, regardless of market. However, Monday Night Football airs on ESPN (primarily) and ABC (for some games), rather than NBC.

ABC is available as part of almost every basic TV plan, as well as over the air via antenna. ESPN is available from most TV providers, as well as YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV. However, ESPN is not available over the air—you’ll need a cable or streaming subscription for that.

ESPN+, the streaming service from ESPN, does not broadcast live NFL events. You can get highlights, original programming and analysis, though, so we think the $9.99 monthly price tag still makes sense for die-hard fans.

How to watch Thursday Night Football

Thursday Night Football is now on Amazon Prime Video. Prime Video is included in an Amazon Prime subscription, and you can also get it separately starting at $8.99 per month. Apart from football, there’s some solid content on Amazon Prime Video, including the new Rings of Power series, so this is a service that’s easy to recommend.

How to watch pre-season, international, and Christmas games

If you’re interested in following the draft, watching the Christmas game, international matches, and football from other leagues (such as Arena Football and College Bowl games), the NFL Network is the way to go. You’ll need a cable or live TV streaming subscription, but it’s a nice way to make sure you don’t miss a thing.

How to stream NFL games

We've turned a streaming corner—you can no longer get every NFL game solely with a cable subscription. However, you can get everything through streaming services, so cord-cutters can breathe easy.

Here are your options for streaming NFL games:

  • Paramount+: This CBS-affiliated streaming service that, as a result of the affiliation, carries in-market NFL games that air on the CBS network. Plans start at $4.99 per month.
  • Peacock: This NBC-affiliated streaming service carries Sunday Night Football and starts at $4.99 per month.
  • Amazon Prime Video: This service is available as part of the larger Amazon Prime subscription, or standalone starting at $8.99. It carries Thursday Night Football.
  • NFL+: This mobile app is a new streaming service from the NFL itself. This service gives you live in-market games, but only on your phone or tablet—not your TV. It starts at $4.99 per month.
  • Network apps (with a cable subscription): If you have a cable or other TV subscription, you can use it to log into apps for NBC, CBS, ESPN, or FOX and stream their respective games on any device. This is handy if you’re not home and need to catch that last quarter.
  • Live streaming services (YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV): If you want to cut the cord but retain access to networks like NBC and FOX, you can opt for a live streaming service like Fubo or Hulu + Live TV. These will get you live TV that can be more affordable than some traditional offerings. Both will carry the NFL games airing on broadcast networks.

Get ready to hit the gridiron

Casual fans and die-hard NFL aficionados alike can agree that football season is one of the best times of the year. To get the best experience possible, you really want YouTube TV and NFL Sunday Ticket. There’s just nothing quite like it.

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Contributing researchers
Rebecca Palmer smiles for the camera
Researched by
Rebecca PalmerSenior Staff Writer

Rebecca Palmer has been writing about tech and consumer finance since 2010. Her work has been featured in the Deseret News, Idaho Business Review, TopTenReviews.com, and more. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, and lives in Salt Lake City with her exceptionally delightful pup, Nymeria.

Headshot of Dave Schafer
Researched by
Dave SchaferContributing Writer

Dave Schafer is a freelance writer with a passion for making technical concepts easy for anyone to understand. He’s been covering the world of gadgets, tech, and the internet for over 8 years, with a particular focus on TV and internet service providers. When he’s not writing, Dave can be found playing guitar or camping with his family and golden retriever, Rosie.

Contributing reviewer
Headshot of Bri Field
Reviewed by
Bri FieldAssigning Editor

Bri Field has a background in academia, research writing, and brand marketing. She has edited scientific publications, conference papers, digital content, and technical communications. As Assigning Editor, she enjoys ensuring all content is accurate, clear, and helpful. In her free time, you can find her in the kitchen trying a new recipe, out on a hike, or working through her massive TBR list.