The Super Bowl starts at 6:30 pm ET this Sunday, Feb. 5. Most people will watch the New England Patriots play the Atlanta Falcons the old-fashioned way — on TV, where Fox will broadcast the game.
But do you want to stream the Super Bowl instead? No problem: Fox will stream the game, for free, at FoxSportsGo.com. You can also use a free Fox Sports Go app to watch the game on iOS, Android and Amazon tablets — but not phones — as well as connected TV devices including Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast and Xbox.
And don’t worry, cord-cutters: Just like last year, when CBS streamed the game, you won’t need a pay TV subscription to watch.
You want more options? Fine: If you’re a Verizon customer, you can watch the game on your phone, via the NFL app.
And if you have a subscription to a streaming TV service, you may also be able to watch the game there, though that will likely depend on what city you live in. Sling TV customers who have Sling’s “Blue” package can watch the game — but only if they live in Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Detroit, Gainesville, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Francisco, Tampa or Washington, D.C.
AT&T’s DirecTV Now service, meanwhile, will stream the game to people in a slightly smaller set of cities: Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Detroit, Gainesville, L.A., Minneapolis, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Francisco, Tampa and Washington, D.C.
Confusing, right? Here’s the bigger issue for most people who want to stream the game: The internet really isn’t set up to stream live sports. I explained why last year.
That doesn’t mean it won’t work — last year’s CBS stream worked very nicely, after some initial hiccups — but you may have to work a little harder to watch something most people watch just by sitting on their couch and hitting a button.
What’s that? You really, really want to stream the Super Bowl, and you don’t want to hear from naysayers? Fine. Here’s a list of hints I compiled last year, when we went through this same exercise. Good luck, and go Falcons:
Make sure your broadband is broadband. Sling advises its streaming customers to have an internet connection with speeds of five megabits per second or more — not advertised speeds, real speeds — but you’ll almost certainly want more if you expect a good picture. The FCC now defines broadband as speeds of 25 Mbps or more, and if you don’t have that, chances are you’re probably not the kind of person who would think about streaming the game anyway.
Claim your broadband. You probably know this, too, but if you’re going to stream the game, you should be the only one in your place streaming anything, because you don’t want Fox’s bits to compete with anyone else’s bits. Tell your kids they’ll have to watch Netflix before or after the game. Ask your bored friends who came over to watch the game to refrain from using bandwidth-hogging apps like Snapchat or Instagram — or, at least, kick them off your Wi-Fi if they insist.
Think about ditching your Wi-Fi. Moving the stream from your wireless router to your Apple TV creates another way to lose data. “For all the times that people complain about streaming services, so many times it’s about the Wi-Fi in their home,” said streaming TV analyst Dan Rayburn. He suggests solving that by simply plugging your streaming box directly into your router with an ethernet cable.
Fix your Wi-Fi, at least. If you insist on going cordless, you can at least try to improve your signal. This Wi-Fi guide from Comcast has all sorts of advice you would normally never follow, like sticking your router in the middle of a room in the middle of your house. But! You might think about it for a few hours on Sunday.
Convince your neighbors to keep the cord. No matter how much broadband you pay for, you’re ultimately going to end up sharing capacity with your neighbors, whether you like it or not — that’s why you may often see speeds drop in the evening, when more of you are likely to be streaming Netflix or YouTube. So if you live around a lot of other people who are trying to stream stuff on Sunday, you may have a harder time watching the game. Worth thinking about if you live in Atlanta or Boston, where it’s reasonable to assume that broadband usage will be spiking this weekend.
Finally, an alternate method that may make you just as happy as a stream:
Ditch the Web and use an antenna. Doing so could provide you (depending on your geography) with a crystal-clear HD signal, without ever having to use terms like “buffering.” The Wirecutter says you can get a really good indoor antenna that won’t look insanely ugly for as little as $10, but if you’re reading this now, it’s probably too late to order one.