Credit Minh Uong/The New York Times
This Super Bowl weekend, you can focus on making nachos and Buffalo wings and worry less about how to watch the big game. There will be more methods and devices than ever before to watch the Broncos and Panthers without cable â all headache-free, no sketchy workarounds required.
CBS, the television network that is broadcasting this yearâs big game, will stream the Super Bowl free through apps on a broader set of devices than in the past. Owners of Rokuâs set-top boxes, Apple TV, Googleâs Chromecast, Microsoftâs Xbox One and Amazonâs Fire box can download the free CBS Sports or National Football League apps and watch the Super Bowl with no login credentials required, the company said.
âFor us, our goal is to expose the game to the largest audience possible for the Super Bowl,â said Jeffrey Gerttula, a senior vice president of CBS Sports Digital, in an interview. That, of course, translates into maximizing the number of eyeballs on the lucrative TV ads that play during Super Bowl, which have sold for a record $ 5 million for 30 seconds of ad time.
Here are some prominent services offering live TV, Ã la carte networks and other on-demand streaming options in the United States.
This yearâs Super Bowl, the 50th, will be the second that CBS has streamed free, though it will be the first time its streaming apps play the commercials while they are shown on television, Mr. Gerttula added.
That the Super Bowl is so easily streamable should only accelerate the consumer revolt against big cable. The research firm eMarketer estimated that last year about five million American households that once paid for TV no longer do, up about 10.9 percent from the previous year. The firm estimated that by 2018, one in five American households will not subscribe to cable or satellite TV.
Thatâs no surprise because the availability of digital content keeps expanding for cord cutters. Last year, there was an explosion of options offering the ability to watch programming from HBO, Showtime and Nickelodeon, among others, without a cable subscription. In addition, digital streaming services like Netflix and Amazon have been investing heavily in original content like âJessica Jones,â âDaredevilâ and âThe Man in the High Castle.â
When it comes to the Super Bowl, streaming the game is the simplest way to go if you are not going to watch it on cable. (In my recent testing of a group of streaming devices, my favorites were the new Apple TV and Roku.) But there will be some restrictions to streaming the game free. International fans cannot stream the game without a subscription to N.F.L. Game Pass, a $ 99-a-year video service for watching football games, according to the N.F.L. And if your Internet connection is slow, expect some irate party guests when the video sputters or the picture quality degrades.
Fret not, brave cord-cutter. I tested several other options, including digital antennas and the Slingbox, a device that can connect to a friend or family memberâs cable box to watch the game on a streaming device. The antennas were simple to set up and the picture quality was excellent. The Slingbox was a bit rougher to set up and will not be an ideal method for watching the Super Bowl, but is a useful device to keep in your back pocket if you are often abroad and donât want to miss out on live national sports.
For antennas, I tested the $ 40 ClearStream Eclipse (the top antenna pick by The Wirecutter, the product recommendations website) and the $ 100 ClearStream 2V (on sale now for $ 90), both made by the company Antennas Direct. The Eclipse, designed for indoor use, has a paper-thin antenna with a sticky side to tack it to a wall. The 2V, for indoor and outdoor use, is a bulky antenna that looks like two rings stapled to a cage. Both antennas took a few minutes to set up: You screw the cord into the antenna input on the back of the television, then figure out where to place the antennas for the best signal.
I preferred the Eclipse for its strong signal and its sleek design, which helps make it less noticeable in a living room. The trickiest part was figuring out where to point the antenna to get a clear signal for CBS. The website antennapoint.com indicated that 24 digital TV transmitters were within 60 miles of my ZIP code and the nearest CBS station was about three miles from my home.
After some experimentation, I found that sticking the antenna to a wall around the corner from my television pulled the clearest signal from CBS. I got about 40 channels, including ABC, various home shopping channels and a station that plays only Korean pop music videos.
Consumers will have to do their homework before buying an antenna by looking up their proximity to nearby transmitters. Antennas Direct says that with an outdoor antenna like the 2V, youâll probably get poor reception if youâre more than 70 miles from transmitters. For indoors antennas like the Eclipse, 35 miles is outside the comfort zone.
If you are reasonably close to TV transmitters, the benefits of an antenna make the technology a sound investment. Itâs cheap, for one, and when you get a clear signal, the high-definition channels can look even better than digital cable because the image you get with an antenna is raw video broadcast over the air, unlike the compressed video sent over digital cable.
âWhen youâre getting the raw video, it might be double or triple the quality of satellite or cable,â said Richard Schneider, the founder of Antennas Direct, in an interview. âItâs a much more detailed picture than what youâd get through paid TV.â
Antennas and free online streaming of the Super Bowl arenât viable options for international fans, but the Slingbox is one workaround. If you have friends or family members with a cable subscription, you can hook a Slingbox up to the back of their cable box.
The Slingbox pulls in whatever is playing on the cable box, and you can watch the video live on a web browser or on a device that supports the Slingplayer app, like Apple and Android mobile devices, Roku boxes, Chromecast or Amazonâs Fire TV. The Slingplayer apps also have a remote control, allowing you to change the channel on the cable box.
I plugged a Slingbox M2 ($ 200) into a cable box and had a rough time getting the remote control to work inside the Slingplayer app. Still, as long as the cable box is set to CBS, the Slingbox is an easy method for tuning in to the game from abroad.
âSlingbox works anywhere in the world,â said Mark Vena, a Sling Media executive. âYou have a right to use it wherever you areâ as long as you or your family members are already paying for cable, he added.