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Still watching NFL on cable? Here's why over 50% of viewers have cut the cord

A pair of pliers cutting a cable cord
(Image credit: Burlingham/Shutterstock)

56% of NFL fans in the US will be using a service other than cable to watch the football this weekend. That's according to a survey we conducted with real-time poll provider OnePulse (opens in new tab).

Most respondents said they'd be watching an NFL live stream from an over the top (OTT) streaming site, with the likes of fuboTV, Sling TV, Hulu and YouTube TV growing in popularity.

For a long time there was no real replacement for the lengthy, expensive contracts offered by the likes of Xfinity, Spectrum and AT&T, meaning that watching a wide variety of live sports was a pastime reserved for those lucky enough to have a hard line routed to their home.

However, in the last few years or so, getting access to a huge range of networks and channels as well as cutting the cord has become a viable option.

Why should you cut the cord?

While cable providers have kept up with the times to an extent by offering streaming capabilities online, customers are still bound by their multi-year contracts. And, if you’ve ever tried to change provider after that time’s up, you’ll know what a hassle the process is.

Cable packages also often come as package deals – no prizes for guessing that. If you need a new phone plan, Wi-Fi provider and landline provider alongside TV access, then they can offer decent value. But many of us take advantage of phone deals (opens in new tab) and seasonal offers to cut the cost of each of these services individually.

Using a streaming provider gives you the flexibility of one-month rolling plans combined with a spread of channels that rivals traditional cable. On holiday for a month and don’t need your TV subscription? Cancel it and join again when you’re back.

Device support is also a huge draw. If you’re a Roku or Fire Stick user, or simply rely on the software on your Smart TV, OTT providers are much more likely to have a dedicated app. Cable providers are catching up slowly, but you’ll usually have to download a particular network's app, rather than browsing all your channels from within a single app.

Jordan Love of Green Bay Packers and Mitch Trubisky of Buffalo Bills

(Image credit: Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images / Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Why do people stick with cable?

There are still a few benefits to cable. As mentioned before, if you do want to pay for phone, TV and Wi-Fi all in one, a package deal may suit you. Long-term cable customers might also not trust OTT services, or fully understand that they can provide the variety cable is known for.

And there's a grain of truth in that – some providers don’t offer full coverage. For example, while NFL fans can watch every match when using fuboTV, rival Sling TV doesn’t give access to CBS. You can top that up with Paramount Plus, but for cable diehards that comprehensive channel selection offers peace of mind.

If you're on the fence, it's well worth looking at our guide on how to cut the cord. You'll find all the steps you need to follow to do it, how to decide what you really need from any subscription, and which provider offers the best channel package for you.

Breakdown of NFL viewing habits

We asked a small group of 1000 people how they were planning to watch the NFL this weekend.

Cable still had the largest single cross-section of viewers at 27.7%. However, users of Sling, Hulu. YouTube TV, Paramount Plus, Peacock, NFL Game Pass and 'other streaming services' well outnumbered cable viewers with a total of 44.2%.

We also saw a small minority of users say they'd be using an HD antenna, and some even answered that they'd be using a VPN service to access overseas coverage – something we'd usually only see from those outside the US trying to tap into a domestic broadcast.

The rest of those surveyed said they wouldn't be watching the NFL.

Which OTT providers do we recommend?

fuboTV – bag a 7-day free trial and catch every NFL game (opens in new tab)
Although it’s one of the most expensive OTT providers, fuboTV has just about the same number of channels as your garden variety cable subscription. At $64.99 a month (opens in new tab), it’s not cheap, but compared to cable it’s a steal – and it also carries every NFL-broadcasting channel.

Sling TV Blue + Orange – great value introductory offer. (opens in new tab)
With a first-month price of just $20 and rising to just $50 a month afterwards, Sling is a great cord-cutting service. While it doesn’t carry CBS, it has just about everything else, and is well worth testing out.

Paramount Plus – get live and on-demand CBS for $4.99 a month (opens in new tab)
CBS’s own OTT service is the perfect addition to Sling. Combined, they add up to $10 a month less than fuboTV and get you every NFL channel available, alongside Comedy Central, MTV, BET and CBS itself.

Mo is VPN Editor at Tom's Guide. Day-to-day he oversees VPN, privacy, and cybersecurity content, and also undertakes independent testing of VPN services to ensure his recommendations are accurate and up to date. When he's not getting stuck into the nitty-gritty settings of a VPN you've never heard of, you'll find him working on his Peugeot 205 GTi or watching Peep Show instead of finally putting up those shelves.