NFL games come to CBS’s streaming service, starting this Sunday

CBS this week announced a significant deal with the NFL that could bring more subscribers to its over-the-top streaming service aimed at cord cutters, CBS All Access. Starting this Sunday, viewers will be able to watch all NFL games on CBS via the service, including regular, preseason, and postseason games.

CBS All Access, in case you’re unfamiliar, is the network’s attempt at being its own version of Netflix. Instead of participating in a larger venture like Hulu, CBS wants to go it alone and is betting on exclusive content, like the new Star Trek TV series, to pull in subscribers. While Star Trek certainly has a built-in audience, a deal with the NFL could help CBS All Access broaden its reach even further.

With the new deal, CBS All Access subscribers will be able to live stream all NFL on CBS games broadcast in their local markets, including Thursday Night Football, as well as pregame and halftime coverage.

Of course, given it’s the NFL, there are a few caveats.

For starters, the games are only available where CBS offers live broadcasts via its app. However, this is a sizable area already – CBS says coverage is available in over 150 markets across the U.S. For comparison’s sake, when CBS’s live, linear TV feed were available in 94 markets, it said that covered over 60 percent of U.S. households.

The more troublesome issue, then, is that you won’t be able to watch the NFL games on mobile. Because of Verizon’s NFL deal, NFL on CBS games are exclusively available through the NFL Mobile app for Verizon Wireless subscribers.

That means if you want to watch the games while on the go, you’ll need an iOS, Android or Windows 10 tablet instead. You can also watch online, or via a connected device like Xbox One, Xbox 360, Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, or PS4.

What’s interesting about the CBS deal is that it will improve next season. Then, CBS All Access subscribers (as well as pay TV customers), will be able to stream NFL on CBS content through the NFL’s digital properties. In other words, CBS All Access will work to authenticate you with the NFL’s service, the way your cable TV account once did.

In addition to the NFL games, CBS All Access offer over 8,500 TV episodes on-demand, including current and older shows. However, it’s priced fairly high considering the limited content: ad-supported for $5.99 per month  or $9.99 per month for the commercial-free tier. At these rates, CBS was taking a risk given the competitive landscape. Sure, Star Trek’s audience may be willing to pay, but a service can’t survive off of one hit series alone.

Targeting football fans, then, makes sense as another avenue to growth. This could also be why CBS has not done a deal with the newly launched online-only service, DirecTV Now.

The new DirecTV Now streaming service from AT&T-owned DirecTV lacks the NFL Sunday Ticket, but will have Fox and NBC games, depending on where you live. It also has ESPN, and regional sports networks that bring access to 19 MLB teams, 22 NBA teams, and 15 NHL teams.

In other words, cord-cutting sports fans may need to combine both services for the broadcast access, or turn to their trusty antenna.