Are they throwing in the towel before the season even starts? Quite the contrary. Folks are ditching cable in favor of one or more streaming services for their general entertainment needs. However, the transition to full-streaming media begs the question: How will they watch games?
In countries like the UK and Australia, there are certainly many fans who want to watch American sports like the NBA and NFL. Even though Aussies, for example, love their Australian Rules Football, the kickoff of the NFL football season in America is becoming more of an event. The problem is that major US networks put geo-restrictions on their content, prohibiting anyone who is physically located outside the US from streaming NFL games.
There is, of course, a simple workaround: use a virtual private network (VPN). Specifically, Aussie NFL viewers can use a VPN with server locations within US borders (such as – hint hint – Surfshark’s VPN). Surfshark is highly recommended by my Australian users given its speed, cost, and ubiquitous global coverage. More on exactly how to use a VPN and NFL Game Pass to stream your international sports entertainment later.
When the NFL first debuted on TV in 1939, NBC was the first network to show a game. Viewers huddled around the TV and watched fuzzy black and white images of people running into each other.
Things are different now. NFL RedZone, huge sports bars show every single game, out of market games with NFL Sunday Ticket, and you can see it all on Massive HDTV’s that let you see the pores on Tom Brady’s nose (who are we kidding, that man has no visible pores).
However, the entire landscape of television culture is changing. With companies like Netflix and Hulu making online streaming a reality, many people have stopped paying for cable. The problem with NFL games lies in who owns the rights. Sunday games are owned by CBS and Fox while NBC has Sunday Night Football as well as the first game of the year and Thanksgiving games. On top of that, ESPN covers Monday Night Football while the NFL Network shows Thursday Night games. Then, the Super Bowl is on CBS.
Overwhelming and confusing to keep up with!
On top of that, there are streaming services available for each of these networks. Which one do you subscribe to?
NFL Product Offerings
As an NFL fan, you have several options for watching games besides traditional cable. We do need to mention that you can stream games from network apps if you have access to a cable account. Time to dust off your parent’s cable account or to start being really nice to your friends if you’re in your local market. If you’re not in your local market you can utilize a VPN or purchase one of the paid options.
Without further ado, here are all of the streaming options available for NFL viewing. The best option is saved for last.
Free Local Offering
If you want to watch a lot of NBA, NHL, or MLB games on television, you’ll need cable access because that’s where most of these games are found. The NFL takes a different approach. Most of their games are on free networks like Fox, CBS, and NBC. If you’re hanging out in the local market of the team you love most, all you have to do is get the right antenna and throw the game on.
“But I’m tech-savvy,” you say. “I don’t want an antenna! What do I look like to you, a neanderthal?!” Keep reading. It’s about to get more sophisticated.
Historically, the NFL isn’t known for its generosity, but that might have changed back in 2018 when the league introduced free online games. Don’t get too excited, you can’t watch every single game and there are some definite hurdles if you’re international.
NFL App: Yes, you can watch free NFL games in a totally legal way using the NFL app. It isn’t all roses and puppies though. There are some aspects of the app you need to keep in mind.
The games you can see are as follows: local team games and national primetime games such as Sunday Night Football, Thursday Night Football, and yes, even Monday Night Football. If you’re in the local area of your favorite team and you really only care about watching them and the big games, then this is what you’re looking for.
The problem is if you’re out of market. If you want to watch the Detroit Lions in Los Angeles, you’re going to struggle to find an opportunity. There is a workaround for major markets that includes VPN technology. Keep reading if you’d like to learn more.
Yahoo App: The Yahoo app is almost exactly the same as the NFL app. It has all of the same restrictions and capabilities of the NFL app with one more restriction added on. You can only watch on your phone or tablet. The games aren’t available on any other version of the app and the app does not support screencasting. Kind of a bummer. Just use the NFL app!
NFL Sunday Ticket
Ah, NFL Sunday Ticket, the holy grail of football watching. Paired with RedZone you can see everything. I won’t go into too much detail about the service because most people know it enables you to watch every game no matter the market but I will tell you that it is possible for a select few people in the United States without subscribing to DirecTV.
Here are the lucky people that can purchase NFL Sunday Ticket for $200:
College Students at Specific Universities: The University of Washington, The University of Texas at Austin, University of Southern California, University of Michigan, University of Florida, the University of Colorado at Boulder, University of Alabama, Syracuse University, Ohio State University, and Harvard University
Specific Metro Areas: New York City, Philadelphia, or San Francisco
Not Recommended Partial Services
There are a few services available that will allow you to view a handful of games. CBS All Access offers all local CBS games for $6 per month. This is kind of silly when the NFL app is available for free.
Amazon Prime streams all of the Thursday Night games. With around one-third of people in the U.S. subscribing to Amazon Prime, it’s a nice feature for them. We don’t recommend buying the service just for these games since they’re usually on NFL.com and can be watched on the NFL app.
Other options good for other aspects of watching TV but are not recommended solely for NFL viewing include AT&T’s DirecTV Now, Hulu, Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, Youtube TV.
Not Recommended Illegal Options
The NFL probably has the most illegal streams on the internet today. They’re everywhere. There’s even a subreddit completely devoted to them. These streams are illegal as heck as well as risky to use. We don’t recommend them.
DAZN – Second Best Paid Option
DAZN (pronounce it like Da Zone if you want to do it right) gives Canadians and a few European countries the opportunity to watch the NFL for $20 per month. This is a great option but will actually come out to more money than the next option if all you want to do is watch football games.
NFL Game Pass – Best Paid Option
The best option for watching games is by far NFL Game Pass for $99. The service was created for people (mostly bloggers, writers, and aspiring scouts) to watch every game after it happens. This is what makes Game Pass the best.
Within the US, that’s still what NFL Game Pass is mostly used for. US customers can only watch a game after it has aired on demand.
Outside of the US, there is a different option. Well, it’s the same option, but it gives you one more option. If you live in another country you can actually stream every single game on NFL Game Pass. This makes NFL Game Pass by far the best service available.
If you’re inside the US, you have an amazing option to use a VPN to change your IP address location. Keep reading to find out how.
International and Domestic NFL Fans Need to Understand IP Addresses
The United States has always been the primary market for the NFL, but football is starting to prove itself to be true global phenomenons, which means that fans around the world want access to the content and that usually means going online.
The NFL continues to expand internationally, with games in England and Mexico every year and reportedly more countries on the way. There have even been rumors of a team going over the pond and taking up residence in London. Looking at you Shahid Kahn.
With a traditional home network setup, your IP address is automatically generated by your internet service provider. The wi-fi or ethernet router in your house will be assigned an IP address that corresponds to the country, territory, and region where you are located. Some ISP’s allow customers to request a static IP address, meaning one that does not change between sessions. But even static IP addresses are still limited to ranges based on location.
You won’t be able to access the free local streams if you’re out of the country and you won’t be able to use the streaming capabilities of NFL Game Pass if you’re in the US.
VPN Technology Saves the Day
Calvin Johnson saving the day in triple coverage.
Maybe you don’t live in the United States and want to take advantage of the free services in the US. Maybe you’re a Yankee with a big international vacation planned in the next few months and want to watch your cable streaming services back home or just want to use the free options. Maybe you live in the US and you want to use NFL Game Pass for streaming.
Either way, you know that missing a single game of your favorite team’s season is not an option.
Fortunately, a virtual private network (VPN) can be a safe, easy way to stream from all of these services.
A VPN functions like a secure tunnel between your computer, tablet, or smartphone and the open internet. When you activate a VPN connection, the VPN provider immediately assigns you a new IP address from its remote server. From that point on, all of your data flows through the secure channel until it reaches its destination.
With a VPN activated, your online traffic is still filtered through your local network and ISP, but services on the other end of requests will only see the IP address from your VPN provider. This means that you can essentially choose which geographic location you want to use for an internet session when you choose a VPN server located in the country of your choice.
Why does this matter?
It matters because if you live in the US and want to watch NFL Game Pass, all you have to do is change your server location to another country. If you want to access everything the US offers for free, all you have to do is change your location to the market you want to access in the US.
Disclaimer: Most VPN services don’t have servers in every NFL market. However, you will always be able to access the LA and NYC markets. Sometimes even Chicago or others.
How to Choose the Best VPN Provider
Choose wisely like Cam has to on run-pass options.
In the early days of the internet, VPNs were primarily used by large corporations who needed a way for employees to be able to access internet resources while working remotely. They typically would develop their own proprietary VPN client that would interact with the local network on their premises or data center.
Today, however, VPN services have become a consumer-based business. As you browse and search online, you’ll find hundreds of different providers that offer secure tools and networking options. The list can be overwhelming and make it difficult to decide which one to use.
When considering a VPN solution, you should keep three criteria in mind: price, reputation, and location. The first two often go hand-in-hand. If you hear about a VPN service that is completely free to use, you should be wary of its bandwidth restrictions, slow connection speeds, or security flaws.
If one of your primary reasons for using a VPN is to stream content from HBO, Netflix, or other geo-restricted platforms, then location matters a lot. The most robust VPN options have servers based in multiple areas and allow you to switch between regions on-demand. For example, you could use a United States connection to watch NFL games and then switch to a UK connection to stream a British show.
The Bottom Line
If you’re starting to get the idea that a VPN could play a big role in whether or not those living outside the United States will be able to successfully watch the NFL – good – you’ve been paying attention. Your team needs you and it’s time to support them in real time.
Millions of viewers will be watching every game until the Super Bowl rolls around. If you have a VPN and know how to use it, you should be able to safely (and successfully) stream NFL content from anywhere.
Stream NFL content from anywhere with Surfshark
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