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I am really struggling to see how the National Football League thinks that it's NFL+ subscription service is worth $30 - $80 a year. I tried a free trial of the app during the first week of the NFL regular season and was thoroughly disappointed by the service in almost every conceivable way.

First of all, just signing up for it is a pain in the ass because their payment provider, Cleeng takes forever to load. I had to refresh it several times and wait several minutes before I was finally able to actually activate the trial.

The NFL wants $30-$80 for its streaming service. Is it worth it? Spoiler: NO.

The real kicker is that I can only watch live games that are televised anyway, as well as in-market games. So I can watch the Raiders (because I live in Las Vegas), even though I hate the Raiders; but I can't watch the Bears unless they're on TV anyway. I don't have cable, but I do have a broadcast TV antennae, and an Amazon Prime subscription (which carries Thursday night games). I can already watch every game that NFL+ offers at no extra charge, with the sole exception of Monday night games on ESPN, because even though we have a Disney+ subscription that supposedly includes ESPN+, we can't actually watch any live sports on ESPN+ because the Disney subscription only covers the basic ESPN+ content, and live sports requires the premium ESPN+ subscription. So, without needing to write another review, ESPN+ is also a complete waste of money.

If I really want to watch a Monday night game, I can go to my parents' house and watch it. They have cable, and they live less than 2 miles away.

The only thing that NFL+ offers that has any value to me is the ability to watch replays of games. But that's a feature of the premium ($80) subscription, and isn't offered by the basic ($30) subscription, and it's not something that is likely to be particularly valuable to most casual NFL viewers. It's only potentially valuable to me because I make YouTube content about Madden and other football video games, and I often use NFL footage (under Fair Use) to demonstrate how those games get football right or (more often) wrong. Most people don't bother to watch replays of live sports. The appeal of sports is to watch it in the moment. Once the moment has passes, so has the appeal. People watch highlights after the fact, but not entire games. The only time I've ever watched re-broadcasts of NFL games was when I would watch replays of Bears preseason games on NFL Network in order to see how the backups play. I have no interest in watching re-broadcasts of regular season or playoff games, except in the context of using it in a YouTube video. And that also has limited value because I'm usually able to find the clips or highlights that I need for free on YouTube or from NFL or ESPN highlight and analysis shows.

I can't watch games that aren't
broadcast locally anyway.

Long story short, NFL+ is charging me for things that I can already watch for free. It isn't offering me anything that I don't already have access to. If it were $1 a year, it would still be overpriced!

The service that NFL+ offers was free to us through our Verizon phone plan last year. But this benefit was apparently taken away this year. As far as I'm concerned, not only is NFL+ not a good value for the money, but it actually took away value from my free NFL.com account and phone plan. If the NFL allowed me to watch televised NFL games for free, just like they did last year, but then offer a subscription service that allows me to watch any NFL game, as well as the replays of past games, then that might be worth the $30-$80 annually.

Oh, and the mobile app barely works

But even if NFL+ offered more games that I can't already watch anyway, the app itself still suffers from severe problems that hurt its value.

Despite most other mobile streaming apps allowing the user to broadcast to your TV via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, NFL's app doesn't allow this. I can't watch the games on my 85-inch, 4k TV with surround sound. I have to watch them on my tiny little phone display, even when I'm at home, on my couch, in my pajamas. Thus, watching the broadcasts (for free) on my existing TV services is the more comfortable option, anyway. So not only am I stuck only being able to watch games that are on TV anyway, but the app also punishes me for using it by giving me a less comfortable, sub-par viewing experience. If I want to watch the NFL+ games on my TV, I would have to install the NFL app on the TV, but it didn't show up in my TV's app store, so it may not be supported on my TV. I guess I'm out of luck there.

Worse yet, I can't even watch on my laptop or tablet. Even though the service advertises that broadcasts can be viewed on mobile and tablet devices, it refused to let me watch a live game on my Microsoft Surface Pro, even when it is running in "tablet mode". Every other paid streaming service lets me watch content on my PCs. Why can't the NFL?!

So I guess I'm stuck watching on my phone. Guess what? The streaming app was also very unstable on my phone when I tried to watch the Broncos / Seahawks Monday night game (the only game that I wasn't already able to watch on my existing TV providers). The video would frequently lag, or skip entire plays and then repeat a few seconds from between the play over and over again, like it was some 1990' compact disc with a scratch. I don't think the problem is my phone. Yeah, it's a Samsung S10, which is a few years old at this point, but it's not like I'm trying to run the app on an iPhone 2, or something that is actually obsolete. Besides, I play YouTube videos and Netflix shows on that phone (while I'm on a treadmill at the gym or sitting on the toilet) fairly regularly, and never have problems. I also don't think the problem was with my internet because

  1. the problem occurs whether I'm on my home wi-fi, public wi-fi, or using 4G data,
  2. I can stream other content, and also upload game streams to Twitch, without these problems,
  3. these problems only happen when using NFL.com's apps (both the NFL.com app and the Fantasy Football app).
The streaming app repeatedly froze or skipped during key moments of the Broncos / Seahawks game.
Yes, this screenshot was taken while the video was frozen for a whole minute, and only unfroze after I rebooted the app.

The app also generally performs poorly and is un-responsive. It frequently has trouble with rotating into a landscape view, and trying to rotate the phone often causes the app to freeze entirely or show a black image, which requires me to force close and restart the app (and miss several plays from the game). The U.I. is also unresponsive. The mute/unmute button and full-screen/minimize buttons frequently fail to register inputs, and I have to tap them multiple times. And when they do eventually register the input, they sometimes freeze the app, which again forces me to force-close and re-start it. The menus are also laggy at recognizing inputs, and I often tap a button several times before it finally does the thing that I ask it to. All these problems are consistent between both the NFL.com app and the fantasy football app (when I used it to watch live games last year). Again, other apps do not have these problems, so I don't think it's my phone.

So even if the subscription offered content of value, the app is so mired with technical limitations and problems that it would still hamper my ability to completely enjoy it.

This brings me back to the same point I made to open this review: I don't get how the NFL thinks this subscription has value -- let alone $30 - $80 worth of value! It doesn't offer anything that I can't already watch at no extra cost, and its apps are mired in technical issues that make the games that I can watch almost unwatchable anyway. Do not bother with NFL+. Go to Best Buy or Target or Amazon and buy a $30 broadcast antennae. You'll get almost everything NFL+ offers at a one-time cost. And if you really want to watch the Thursday and Monday night games that aren't on broadcast TV, and you don't have Amazon Plus or ESPN, then go hang out with a neighbor or go to your local sportsbar or gym to watch the games.

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Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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