NFL does the unthinkable, makes streaming football even more complicated

NFL Plus lets you watch in-market games on your phone and tablet, but not on your TV, which makes achieving a perfect streaming setup for football season even more cumbersome.

“Do you want to watch NFL games this football season but on a device much smaller than your TV (say, your phone or tablet)?”

That’s basically the pitch of NFL Plus, the National Football League’s new streaming service. Arriving in time for the 2022-2023 season, NFL Plus will allow you to stream in-market games on your phone or tablet for $4.99 per month (or $29.99 per year). This includes all regular season games with your home team, postseason games, the playoffs, Super Bowl, Pro Bowl, and every pre-season game. For $9.99 per month (or $79.99 per year), the NFL will give you playbacks of those games as well as exclusive Coaches Film and condensed game replays. Both plans will also include live game audio. The service replaces NFL Game Pass in the United States.

This makes the service a football antenna for your phone or tablet. Without a cable subscription or other live TV membership, you can’t access these games on your mobile devices. The NFL hopes to fill that gap with NFL Plus.

Of course, this service is still only available for in-market games. Out-of-market game streaming will require NFL Sunday Ticket, which will remain a DirecTV exclusive throughout the upcoming season. According to reports, Apple is still the front-runner to obtain rights to the service for the 2023-2024 season, but Google has reportedly also expressed interest in adding it to YouTube TV. Either way, Sunday Ticket is confirmed to be moving to a streaming service of some caliber next year.

“The passionate and dedicated football fans are the lifeblood of the NFL, and being able to reach and interact with them across multiple platforms is incredibly important to us,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “We look forward to continuing to grow NFL+ and deepening our relationship with fans across all ages and demographics, providing them access to a tremendous amount of NFL content, including the most valuable content in the media industry: live NFL games.”

What’s interesting is this won’t work with your TV… at all. NFL Plus will remain exclusive to smartphones and tablets, which is a clear signal that the NFL wants you to spend the most money possible to watch the stuff it broadcasts. You kind of have to be the person who already has methods of watching live NFL games on your TV but no way to do so on your phone and/or tablet and you have a few bucks a month to spend to make that possible.

To boil this down even further, to have access to as much NFL football as possible, you need to:

  • have a cable subscription or some other type of live television service (like an antenna) to get in-market, locally broadcast games on your TV (could cost anywhere between $30-$300/month depending on who your provider is);
  • subscribe to NFL Plus or NFL Plus Premium to get those games on your mobile devices ($4.99/month-$9.99/month);
  • switch your TV provider to DirecTV (assuming you’re in an eligible market) to get NFL Sunday Ticket for out-of-market games (up to an extra $399.95 per year);
  • subscribe to Amazon Prime Video to get Thursday Night Football ($8.99/month, or included in your standard Prime membership);
  • subscribe to ESPN (somehow) to get Monday Night Football (probably already a part of your cable or live TV subscription);
  • try not to sell any organs in the process.

The world of watching NFL football is extremely complicated, and this isn’t even referencing the ways your phone carrier could let you watch games on the go. What I just outlined is probably the easiest way to get the most NFL content during the season, and even then, you still have to be somewhere DirecTV will give you a satellite because of the whole Sunday Ticket thing.

Next year, things will get simpler since Sunday Ticket will be streaming somewhere, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to drop the other stuff you’ll need to pay for, including NFL Plus.

Whether you like it or not, it doesn’t seem that the world of streaming NFL games will get any easier to understand with the introduction of NFL Plus. But if you’re in the market gap NFL Plus is aiming for, you might appreciate the news.