How to Watch the NFL Preseason for Free or Cheap
When it comes to watching NFL Preseason games in 2021, NFL Network and local channels such as NBC and FOX are key.
There are a number of ways for cord-cutters to get all the channels necessary without cable, including a couple of free options.
All you need is a decent internet connection and a streaming device such as a Roku, Amazon Fire TV or Google Chromecast. A TV antenna is also super helpful with getting local NBC, CBS, and FOX stations for free.
Sling TV remains the cheapest way to get NFL Network. A subscription to the Sling Blue plan costs $35 per month. Sling Blue carries 45+ channels and 50 hours of Cloud DVR. You pay only $10 for the first month when you sign up. Coverage of local channels is limited, which I’ll cover in more detail below.
fuboTV is the best deal if you want to live stream Preseason games that air on NFL Network and local channels.
New customers can sign up for a free 7-day trial, which you can use to start watching the game with a Roku, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Smart TV and Google Chromecast.
There are no contracts, and you can cancel online whenever you like.
Table of Contents
- How to Watch the NFL Preseason for Free or Cheap
- When does NFL preseason start?
- What channels do I need to watch NFL Preseason games?
- How to Watch NFL Preseason Free with a TV antenna
- Free local channels without a TV antenna
- What’s the best way to watch NFL Preseason without cable?
When does NFL preseason start?
The NFL Preseason kicks off in earnest on Aug. 12 at 7:30 p.m. ET. The Washington Redskins face the New England Patriots. Games will continue through the next three weeks until Aug. 29.
What channels do I need to watch NFL Preseason games?
NFL Network is the most important channel to have for the start of Preseason 2021. The network has the exclusive rights to 23 out of the 48 games. A dozen games between Aug. 12 and 15 are confirmed to air on NFL Network.
Blackout restrictions might mean the game you want to watch on NFL Network will be replaced with another game.
But that’s not the whole story. Local channels such as NBC, CBS and FOX are important for watching local, in-market games. ESPN is scheduled to broadcast two nationally televised games.
Checking the official NFL schedule for Preseason is helpful when deciding whether to rely on a live TV streaming service or a TV antenna.
How to Watch NFL Preseason Free with a TV antenna
For many, the best way to watch NFL Preseason games without cable or satellite TV service will be through a TV antenna.
If you have an antenna handy, but haven’t used it in a while, plug it into your television’s coax port and scan for channels. You could end up getting local NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX stations for free in HD quality.
If you are new to TV antennas, here is a list of resources that I have written to get you started.
- How to Choose the Best TV Antenna and OTA DVR
- How to Connect Multiple TVs to One Antenna
- How to Get Local Channels Without Cable
- Review: The Best Indoor TV Antennas
- Review: The Best Outdoor TV Antennas
Free local channels without a TV antenna
Locast is a non-profit service that allows you to stream local ABC, CBS, PBS, FOX, NBC and a number of sub-channels. The service is only available in 36 markets in the U.S. but it’s constantly expanding. Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Android TV devices such as Smart TVs and Google Chromecast all have a Locast app.
Since Locast is a non-profit, the app regularly asks for a donation, and some find that irritating. But Locast is an option worth exploring if you’re interested in getting local channels, but don’t want to pay for cable TV.
Hulu + Live TV
Hulu with Live TV has 65+ live TV channels, including NFL Network, FOX, NBC, CBS and ESPN.
FS1, FS2, Big Ten Network and NBCSN, Bravo, CNN, Food Network, Fox News, History and National Geographic are included in the channel lineup.
Subscribers get 50 hours of Cloud DVR so you can record whatever you want. Hulu lets subscribers watch live TV on up to two screens at once.
Hulu with Live TV has apps for Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Android TV and just about every other streaming device out there.
Hulu also streams on your PC, gaming consoles like XBox, PlayStation and Nintendo Switch. iPhones, iPads and Android devices can stream Hulu with Live TV too.
A subscription includes unlimited access to Hulu’s on-demand library that people pay $5.99 per month for. So if you’ve wanted to check out Hulu Originals like The Handmaid’s Tale, this is a solid option. You’re essentially getting two streaming services for the same price as a number of competitors.
You can look over the channel lineup to make sure Hulu carries FOX in your area.
Even if you already subscribe to Hulu’s on-demand streaming service, you can sign up for a free 7-day trial of its live TV service. There are no contracts and you can cancel whenever you want.
fuboTV carries 120+ channels, including NFL Network and local channels such as CBS, NBC and FOX.
ESPN, CBS Sports Network, Big Ten Network, FOX, Golf Channel, FS1, FS2 and PAC 12 Networks are part of the basic channel lineup.
For entertainment channels, fuboTV has AMC, HGTV, Travel Channel and Food Network.
You can look over the fuboTV channel lineup to see which local channels are available in your area. Subscribers can stream on up to two screens at once.
You can also use your fuboTV subscription to activate nfl.com/watch for a live stream of NFL Network. fuboTV works with all major streaming devices like Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast and NVIDIA Shield TV.
fuboTV has a 7-day free trial. A subscription costs $64.99 per month. You aren’t under any obligation to keep the service and can cancel online.
There is also an add-on Sports package that has NFL Red Zone.
Sling TV is another option to live stream NFL preseason games on NFL Network.
But be aware that Sling TV carries local FOX stations in only 18 markets across the U.S. NBC is available in 11 markets.
Here is a map that shows what local FOX and NBC stations are available on Sling TV across the U.S.
You will need to sign up for the Sling Blue channel package to make sure that you get NFL Network and local channels if they are available. The Sling Blue package costs $35 per month.
With Sling Blue, you can watch live TV on up to three screens at once.
If you want NFL Network and ESPN then you will need to get the Sling Blue and Orange bundle for $50 per month.
When you sign up for Sling TV, the first month only costs $10. There are no contracts, or extra fees like cable TV.
You can start watching with a Roku, Fire TV, Smart TVs, Google Chromecast and smartphones.
If you prepay for two months, you can get a free streaming device.
Before signing up, you can also look over the channel lineup to see if Sling TV is a good fit for you.
Vidgo is a lesser-known live TV service that has 95+ channels. NFL Network and NFL RedZone are part of its base plan, which costs $55 per month.
Subscribers can watch NFL Network or other live TV channels on up to three devices at once. Vidgo has apps on Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and Android TV devices such as Google Chromecast.
A Vidgo subscription costs only $10 for its first month. The price increases to its regular rate of $55 per month after that. There are no contracts or hidden fees, and you can cancel online whenever you like.
YouTube TV has 85+ channels, and unlimited Cloud DVR for $64.99 per month. ESPN, NFL Network and local channels such as NBC, CBS and FOX are included.
New subscribers can sign up for a free 7-day trial. You can stream live TV on up to three devices at once.
YouTube TV also added a bundle of 7 sports channels, including NFL RedZone, for $10.99 per month.
The live TV service works with Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast and Apple TV.
NFL Game Pass
NFL Game Pass is for people who have a favorite team that’s located out of their local market. During preseason, you can watch games live as long as it is not happening in your local market.
For regular and postseason games, you can watch games as soon as they’re over.
You can also listen to regular season games as they happen, but you’ll have no video.
Game Pass costs $99 per season. You can watch games through NFL Game Pass on Roku, Apple TV. On mobile, you’ll have NFL Game Pass apps for iPhone, iPad and Android smartphones and tablets.
NFL Game Pass has a free 7-day trial, and you can review the list of preseason games that they won’t air live due to blackout restrictions.
What’s the best way to watch NFL Preseason without cable?
The options for watching NFL Preseason games in 2021 without a cable subscription are pretty solid. But here’s a couple of things to keep in mind before you decide to try a streaming service.
Sling TV is the least expensive option at $35 per month. Just be sure to sign up for the Sling Blue channel bundle to make sure NFL Network is in your lineup. Be aware that ESPN is in the Orange channel bundle. So if you want ESPN and NFL Network, you’ll need to get the Sling Orange + Blue subscription, which costs $50 per month.
fuboTV has the largest channel lineup with 120+ channels, including ESPN and 30 hours of Cloud DVR for $64.99 per month. It has the best combination of sports channels, local NBC, CBS and FOX stations and entertainment channels.
You can see what local and regional sports channels are available in your area. fuboTV has a free trial that lasts one week.
Founder and Editor of The Cord Cutting Report. Before launching the site in 2016, he worked for more than two decades as a staff writer or correspondent for a number of daily newspapers, including The Boston Globe. His enthusiasm for tech began with the Atari 2600. Follow @james_kimble