Football fans in the U.S. who can’t get in front of a television set this weekend will still be able to watch wildcard gridiron action online thanks to generous free Internet streaming plans from most of the stations carrying the NFL playoff games.
Here’s a rundown of what to expect this weekend—and beyond.
NBC Sports Live Extra
On Saturday, the Kansas City Chiefs and Indianapolis Colts face-off on NBC at 4:35 PM Eastern/1:35 PM Pacific, and NBC will also carry the New Orleans Saints vs. the Philadelphia Eagles at 8:10 PM Eastern the same day.
Both games will be live streamed on NBC Sports Live Extra, a streaming service for U.S. residents. Most of the time you need a cable subscription to access Live Extra, but Variety reports that both games will be available for free rather than behind an indirect paywall—repeating NBC's free playoff streaming of last year's wild card games. We’re checking with NBC to verify this.
Update: NBC Sports' VP of communications, Chris McCloskey, confirmed to TechHive that both wild card games and the Pro Bowl will be streamed without the need for cable authentication.
"In January/February of 2012, we were the first to stream playoff coverage when we streamed both of our Wild Card Games, the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl XLVI, all unauthenticated," McCloskey said via email. "Last year, we streamed both Wild Card games and the Pro Bowl. We will do the same again this year, unauthenticated."
On Sunday, at 1:05 PM Eastern/10:05 AM Pacific, CBS broadcasts the San Diego Chargers battling the Cincinnati Bengals, with a free live stream appearing at CBSSports.com. There don’t appear to be any restrictions.
Sorry cord cutters: Fox will reportedly keep its live stream of the San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers game behind an indirect paywall available only to cable subscribers with access to the broadcaster's "TV Everywhere" initiative. Fox declined to comment on its streaming plans to Variety, however. The game starts at 4:40 PM Eastern/1:40 PM Pacific on Sunday.
Beyond the Wild Cards
Divisional playoff games the following weekends (January 11-12 and January 19) the divisional and championship playoffs will also be live streamed under the same plans as the wild card games above, according to Variety. In other words, AFC games will be freely streamed on CBSSports.com, while Fox-aried NFC games will only be available to cable subscribers.
Variety reports that Fox plans to live stream the Super Bowl for free on February 2, however. NBC and CBS live streamed the Superbowl in 2012 and 2013, respectively.
There’s a lot of playoff football coming up, and while it’s always great to see a major sport going online with live broadcasts, the NFL postseason still isn’t quite a cord-cutters dream. Oh well. If you're in one of its supported markets and want to catch a game away from a big screen, there's always the Aereo TV streaming service, which seems to have largely recovered from the hiccups it suffered on the NFL's opening day.
Article updated with NBC confirmation that its games will be streamed for all.