Media & Entertainment

Here’s how much it will cost me to watch the NFL this season without cable


Image Credits: Getty Images

Watching the NFL can be expensive, and cable sucks.[/tc_dropcap] Some of us like sports but don’t want to pay for channels we’ll never watch. Fortunately, there are ways to watch the NFL without cable for the 2017-2018 season.

I’m a Baltimore Ravens fan, and I live in San Francisco. It will cost me $17.87 per game to watch every Ravens game from the 2017-2018 NFL season without cable, satellite, or antenna. That’s a lot less than it costs to have access to the same games through DirecTV or cable when you’re an out-of-market fan.

Depending on where you live, your experience will differ. If you’re interested in watching NFL games without cable this season, here’s how I did it.

How I came up with the estimate

Before diving into how I came up with this number, there are a few things to note. First, I’m watching with an over-the-top device (Fire TV, Apple TV, etc). Second, this assumes your internet bill has already been paid for the month because why on earth would you not have broadband access? And finally, it assumes you only want to watch your team play.

You’ll still be able to watch most games with a similar setup to mine, but each team, regional market and TV network has its own unique requirements. It is still possible to watch every game without cable in most markets, but it’s more expensive than what I’ve outlined here.

Now, let’s look at the costs of the different services you’ll need to make the streaming magic happen.

NFL Sunday Ticket is the most expensive of the services, but it will get you the most games as an out-of-market viewer (in my case, 10 Ravens games).

CBS ALL Access previously did not get you access to the NFL games, but this season it will. CBS All Access will be particularly valuable if you watch an AFC team, as most AFC team games are on CBS.

Sling might be a little confusing at first, but basically, there are three different packages (Orange, Blue, and Orange +Blue), and you need Orange + Blue. The Orange package gives you ESPN for Monday Night Football, and the Blue gives you FOX and NBC. If you buy the Orange + Blue package you get the benefits of both the Orange and Blue packages for a slight discount.

Now let’s look at the 2017-2018 Baltimore Ravens schedule and see what services I’ll need for each game.


If we add up the costs, it looks something like this: NFL Sunday Ticket for the whole season ($200) + Sling Orange + Blue for November and December ($80) + CBS All Access (limited commercials option) for October ($5.99) = $286 for the season, or $17.87 per game

While $17.87 might seem like a lot per game compared to MLB, NHL, or NBA, it’s much cheaper than the following alternative options.

Watching every game at a bar

Yes, going out to a bar to watch the game is more expensive. Of course, a lot of the cost depends on your alcohol intake and how far you live from a bar, but in most cases, the Lyft ride to and from the bar is more than $18.

Add in a few beers for the game, and it’s easily more expensive to go to the bar than to pay to watch at home. Also, the bars won’t likely be open at 6:30 a.m. PT for that week 3 game against the Jaguars in London.

Watching every game through DirecTV or cable

Yes, cord-cutting is still cheaper. If you are an out-of-market fan, you’ll still have to buy the DirecTV NFL Sunday Ticket package even if you already have traditional DirecTV satellite service or cable. That’s $200 on top of whatever your existing service package is.

Unless you can get four months of DirecTV for under $86 ($286 total calculated above minus the cost of DirecTV NFL Sunday Ticket), DirecTV satellite service will be more expensive than cord-cutting. You also need an unobstructed southern-facing location to mount the satellite dish, which isn’t the easiest thing to find in San Francisco.

How to set this up for your own team and market

  • Go to your team’s website and get the game schedule.
  • Determine if each game is in-market or out-of-market. I live in San Francisco, so in-market would be if I wanted to watch the 49ers or Raiders. In-market also includes nationally televised prime-time games (Monday Night Football, Sunday Night Football, and some Sunday afternoon late games, because they will be aired in your local market. Out-of-market would be all other games.
  • Figure out which TV networks are airing each game.
  • Anything that’s on FOX or CBS and out-of-market, you’ll be able to watch with NFL Sunday Ticket.
  • Anything that’s in-market will require Sling TV’s Orange + Blue package (FOX, NBC, ESPN) or CBS All Access.
  • Thursday Night games are not included with DirecTV’s NFL Sunday ticket package for cord-cutters. You can watch them for free on Amazon (if you have a Prime membership) or for $5.99 per month with the CBS All Access app.
  • The four games in London are a bit of a curveball because each one is a little different. The Ravens/Jaguars in week three will be aired for free on Yahoo. The Saints/Dolphins and Cardinals/Rams games are both on FOX, so you should be able to watch with either Sling Orange + Blue or NFL Sunday Ticket. The Vikings/Browns game is only on NFL Network, so you’d need Sling TV Orange + Blue to watch it regardless of your location.

If you haven’t made the jump to cord-cutting for the NFL, there’s no better time than now.

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