We’re at T-minus zero weeks to Super Bowl, the biggest event in American sports (sorry-not-sorry, “World” Series). What’s that? You don’t have a cable or satellite subscription? Don’t worry, you still have ways to watch.
This year, Super Bowl LII (that’s 52 in case your Roman numerals skills are rusty) takes place in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Sunday, February 4. Kickoff is slated for 6:30 PM Eastern Time (3:30 PM Pacific). And, just in case you’re wondering, this year’s halftime entertainment will be provided by Justin Timberlake.
If you’re not interested in any of that, however, you can still tune in for what has now become a time-honored Super Bowl tradition: the commercials.
If you’ve been using an NFL Game Pass subscription and a VPN to stream games all season long, you should be good to go. But most users will probably use one of the options below to watch the big game.
Option One: Tune in to NBC with a Digital Antenna
Many of you have probably been using your HDTV to watch Netflix, HBO NOW, and other streaming services. But don’t forget that once upon a time, we all got our TV from old-fashioned antennas. And they’re still around.
This year’s Super Bowl is being televised on NBC, which like other broadcast networks, can be plucked from the airwaves for free if you have a digital antenna.
If you don’t, you can find a decent digital antenna on Amazon or at your local electronics store for around $20-$40. Most of these can be affixed to the wall, stood or laid on a shelf or table, or attached to the exterior of your home. Which antenna you get will depend on your location, though, so check out our guide to digital antennas for more info.
Once installed and hooked up to your television, it’s just a matter of tuning your TV to your local NBC affiliate.
Unfortunately, not everywhere in the county is close enough to local TV stations to tune them in—even with an elaborate antenna setup there’s usually a 70-80-mile limit on the digital signals. This is especially disheartening, since those places tend to have pretty poor choices for high-speed Internet, too.
Option Two: Stream It on NBC Sports
The NBC Sports brand typically requires a cable login to prove your bona fides, but for major events and a few football games each year, they waive this restriction and allow US-based users to watch online for free. This year those on conventional web browsers can access the game at nbcsports.com/super-bowl, no cable login necessary. According to an NBC representative, the NBC Sports app (on Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Xbox, and Samsung smart TVs) should be able to access the Super Bowl broadcast on game day without a login as well.
Mobile phones are slightly different, however. For several years, Verizon has jealously guarded the exclusive right to stream NFL games to mobile phones in the US. That’s still the case, but starting in early 2018, access was extended for free to all mobile users in the US, Verizon or otherwise. You’ll be able to watch the Super Bowl in full for free using either the official NFL Mobile app or the Yahoo Sports app on Android and iPhones.
Note that this is specifically only for mobile phones. Based on my attempts to watch football on other devices, I can say with at least some authority that the free Super Bowl stream won’t be available on tablets (even though they use the same Android or iOS apps), and you won’t be able to stream the game to a larger screen using Chromecast, AirPlay, or other screen mirroring tools via the NFL or Yahoo apps.
Lastly, any streaming cable alternative that allows you to watch your local NBC affiliate should also allow you to view the Super Bowl on the same channel. So services like Sling TV, YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV, DirecTV NOW, and PlayStation Vue will all be able to show the game on either your TV or your computer, so long as you can watch NBC at any other time. This is also true if you have a conventional cable TV setup that also offers a streaming app.
Note that the game won’t be available on your phone using these services (again, Verizon’s NFL deal is blocking it), but you might be able to use Chromecast or AirPlay to display it on a TV instead. For example, I can’t watch NFL games on my phone with Hulu even though I pay for access to live channels, but I can Chromecast the games to my TV from my phone and the stream becomes accessible. Media contracts are weird.
Option Three: Go to a Sports Bar or a Friend’s House
This last option is pretty obvious to some, but it might have never occurred to you. This coming Sunday, it’s going to be nearly impossible to go anywhere there is a TV and not find the Super Bowl playing.
So, while you might have had your heart set on watching it at home, if the above options don’t work for you, you can always go to a local eatery or—better yet—ask around and see if any of your friends are having a Super Bowl party. Chances are, you’ll find a TV with the game playing.
If you’re outside the US, your access to the Super Bowl will largely depend on the NFL’s deals with your local television providers. In English-speaking countries and Western Europe, there’s usually at least one network that will carry the game. The BBC and Sky Sports will carry the game in the United Kingdom, for example. In international markets, you can expect to have mobile and PC access to the game if you can access the broadcast or cable channels with the same login.
If you’re an NFL superfan living outside the States, NFL Game Pass remains the most consistent way to get NFL games. It’s a pricey package, but Game Pass subscribers don’t need to pay any extra to watch playoff or Super Bowl games.