NFL without cable: A cord cutter’s guide for the 2016 season

Thanks in part to new streaming options for cord-cutters, it’s possible to watch all your local NFL games without cable, along with all nationally televised games on Sunday, Monday, and Thursday nights. With the NFL season just a week away, now’s a good time to run through all the ways* that cord cutters can watch or stream NFL games, so you’ll be ready for kickoff:

Over-the-air antenna

As it was last season, the best way to watch NFL games for free is with an over-the-air TV antenna. Cheap indoor antennas sell for as little as $15, while more expensive flat designs from Mohu and Winegard can mount on a wall or to a window. All the major networks typically broadcast in high definition, so with a strong enough signal, the quality should be comparable to the set-top box you’d rent from a service provider (or perhaps even better, since the broadcast signal isn’t as compressed).

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TV Everywhere apps aren't just for cable subscribers

Officially, cord-cutters aren’t welcome to use video-streaming apps from TV channels such as ABC, Discovery, The Food Network, and many others. Known in the industry as “TV Everywhere” apps, they’re really meant for paying cable or satellite subscribers, who can enter their account credentials to access a trove of on-demand shows and live channel streams.

But if you look in the right places, these apps can provide a trove of ad-supported free TV for cord cutters, ranging from guilty-pleasure reality shows to late-night variety.

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Netflix moved cord cutting forward; it's also holding it back

Like lots of people who’ve cut cable TV, I couldn’t have done it without Netflix.

For a fraction of a typical cable bill, Netflix provides more TV shows, movies, and comedy specials than I have time to watch. And while I sometimes turn to other streaming services (and my over-the-air antenna) for specific content, most evenings I’ll just thumb through the Netflix app until I find something that grabs my attention.

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Free Hulu is gone, but its spirit died six years ago

Earlier this week, Hulu unceremoniously killed off the free web version of its streaming video service.

Hulu didn’t send a press release, write a blog post, or make a peep on Twitter about the change. Instead, the news emerged in a story by The Hollywood Reporter, which noted that Hulu will send out messages to affected users in the coming days, along with free trials to the paid version. Variety reports that Hulu will phase out its free service over the next few weeks.

While this is technically the end for Hulu’s free website, the impact and implications have been overblown by tech writers and TV industry observers. The truth is that Hulu lost its zeal for free streaming years ago. Shutting down the free section of Hulu.com is more symbolic than consequential, especially because free TV episodes from the major networks will remain available elsewhere for the foreseeable future.

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What's going on with Fox Sports on PlayStation Vue

Although Sony’s PlayStation Vue is the best streaming TV bundle for the money right now, some sports fans say they’re not getting what they paid for.

For months, subscribers have complained that Fox Sports is missing the appropriate regional sports channels for their area, even though Vue promised those channels when they signed up. A thread on this issue in Sony’s PlayStation Vue forums has drawn more than 20,000 views and 500 comments since March, with new complaints continuing to pile up.

Meanwhile, Sony has added to the frustration with vague and sometimes conflicting information for customers.

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'Skinny' bundles: the awkward adolescence of online video

If your adolescent years were anything like the norm, they probably weren’t pretty. You brandished a know-it-all attitude, only made possible because your world was so small. You expected to be treated like an adult, yet you were incapable of acting like one. Most people outside your bubble wanted nothing to do with you.

I’ve been thinking about those awkward years as I look at all the changes the TV industry is going through. For content owners, media brands, and TV operators, this is a time of confusion, experimentation, and learning. It’s a time in which media companies claim to understand how TV should be, but lack the vision or ability to make big changes. For anyone observing from the outside, the state of TV looks pretty messy.

I’m confident the video-streaming market will mature to the point that it becomes the predominant way for people to watch TV. But along the way, expect to see a few pimples and cracking voices.

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Roku Feed has become the best feature you’re not using

As I’ve written before, one of the biggest stumbling blocks for streaming video is that it’s too hard to keep track of TV shows across different services. If a cable-box DVR can organize shows regardless of channel, cord cutters shouldn’t have to individually check Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO Now, and other apps for new episodes of specific shows.

Since last year, Roku has been working on a solution that runs on its streaming set-top boxes, sticks, and smart TVs. Dubbed Roku Feed—or “My Feed,” as it appears in the main menu—this feature lets you follow your favorite TV shows and get notified when a streaming service adds new episodes. It also lets you track movies, actors, and directors, and it can tell you when prices drop for purchases and rentals.

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