How to watch the NFL without paying for cable?

Cord cutters have a few more options in their playbook to connect with the NFL this season.

Pro football is already the top sport in the U.S. — one-third (33%) of Americans prefer football, beating out baseball, the top choice of 15%, according to The Harris Poll — but the NFL continues to look for new ways to grow its audience.

This season that includes live-streamed Thursday-night NFL games on Twitter and the addition of the NFL Network, which airs 18 live games, and NFL RedZonechannel, which shows live updates of every scoring play during Sunday action, to streaming services such as Sling TV and Sony’s PlayStation Vue.

“The fact that the NFL Network is now available to cord cutters is huge,” said Chris Brantner, who runs CutCableToday.com. “Now that the NFL is making their primary channel, which is seen as the must-have network for football fans, available live outside of the cable framework, well, it’s a sign of things to come.”

Some ways to get your NFL fix this season:

• NFL Sunday Ticket. Pay-TV subscribers to DirecTV are not the only ones who can get the satellite service’s exclusive NFL package, which includes all live Sunday out-of-market broadcasts. Now all students currently enrolled at two-year and four-year colleges can get NFL Sunday Ticket at a discount ($24.99 a month for four months) and watch via computer, mobile and portable devices, Apple TV (fourth-generation tvOS version only), Xbox, PlayStation and Chromecast. Other non-student NFL lovers who cannot subscribe to DirecTV can check their availability for NFL Sunday Ticket as a stand-alone service on NFLSundayTicket.TV, at the standard rate (four monthly payments of $49.99).

• NFL Mobile. Verizon Wireless’ free NFL Mobile service (for Android and iOS, data rates apply) delivers live preseason games, Sunday afternoon games in your local TV market and night games on Sunday, Monday and Thursday. You can also watch the NFL Network via the app and live NFL games will also be viewable in the go90 app for Verizon customers.

• An antenna. Remember, you may be able to get live NFL broadcasts in HDTV from CBS, Fox and NBC via antenna from local TV stations (CBS and Fox handle Sunday games starting at 1 p.m. ET with NBC broadcasting Sunday Night Football).

• PlayStation Vue (PSVue.com; $29.99-$44.99 monthly, watch on PlayStation 4 and other devices). In addition to getting the NFL Network and NFL RedZone (no price set), Sony’s streaming service also has live local CBS, Fox and NBC channels in more than a dozen markets, including Chicago, Dallas and L.A. (Check PSVue.com to see what live channels you can get on the service.) Vue, like competitor Sling TV, also has ESPN, which has weekly Monday Night Football broadcasts.

• Sling TV (www.sling.com). Sling has ESPN in its Sling Orange package ($20 monthly), and local Fox and NBC channels in many cities, including Chicago, Dallas, New York and San Francisco, within its Sling Blue ($25 monthly). Sling Blue also comes with the NFL Network; you can also add the Sports Extra package to get the NFL RedZone channel (an additional $5 monthly).

• Twitter. The social network will stream, for free, the eight Thursday Night Football games, starting Sept. 15 with the New York Jets-Buffalo Bills game, typically shown on NFL Network.

These games on Twitter could not only help the social media service with advertising revenue, but also create a new revenue stream for the NFL without harming existing ones, said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst at Leichtman Research Group. Embracing PlayStation Vue and Sling TV are moves that “any good programmer would do,” he said. “They want to be on all pay-TV platforms.”

But the NFL’s strategy also suggests its eagerness “to start distributing more games online,” said Rob Toledo, who runs streaming video news site Exstreamist.com. “When the television contracts with current broadcasters end in 2022, it seems likely that the NFL is going to make a big push into offering digital streaming packages for everyone. There’s no better way to help bring in a more global audience than by making games legally available in one straightforward way.”

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