The nickname for this Sunday's Super Bowl could be the Super "Streaming" Bowl.
That's because the matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will likely set new streaming records.
Americans have streamed more online video since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing requirements will nix most Super Bowl parties this year – meaning more viewers will watch on their own.
In any traditional year, the Super Bowl remains a historically huge TV viewing event, with more than 102 million watching last year's game, according to broadcaster Fox Sports. It was also the most live-streamed Super Bowl in history, drawing an average of 3.4 million viewers per minute, up 30% over the previous year.
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Since then, Americans have embraced streaming even more. TV shows and movies are the most popular content streamed, but sports viewing increased to 2 hours and 12 minutes each week, on average, up from 1 hour, 22 minutes a year ago, finds The State of Online Video 2020 report from Limelight Networks, an online video delivery provider that supports platforms such as Disney+ and Amazon Prime.
“The Super Bowl will not just put players to the test, streaming video services will need to rise to the challenge as we expect a record number of people will watch the game from the comfort (and safety) of their own homes," said Dan Carney, Limelight's senior vice president of global development & operations.
Super Bowl streaming can be easy
The good news? It will be fairly easy to watch the big game. CBS will stream the game, which starts at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT, free on CBSSports.com and on the CBS Sports app without the usual requirement of authentication with pay TV credentials. (Free access begins at 2 p.m. ET for pregame coverage.)
Even if you have cable or satellite TV to watch your local CBS station, there may be some streamed options you want to deploy another screen for. Most apps can be watched on smartphones, tablets and streaming TV devices such as Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Roku and game consoles.
The Yahoo Sports app, for instance, lets you watch the game with friends and chat using its free "Watch Together" feature.
ESPN sites and apps including ESPN Deportes will also stream the game in Spanish.
The NFL app will stream the game for free, too, and iPhone 12 owners across all 5G carriers can view up to five of the different camera angles – and get augmented reality real-time statistics, as part of Verizon's Super Bowl offerings.
Another option to watch the game on your television: Connect an antenna. If you live close enough to your local CBS station, you can catch the broadcast.
Antennas Direct has a channel locator to show you what channels you can get with recommended antenna and will ship one by FedEx overnight. Amazon Prime and Best Buy also sell antennas that can be shipped or picked up in stores or curbside.
Use big game to test streaming plays
CBS All Access, the subscription service with live sports and TV shows on CBS channels, will carry Super Bowl, too. You could free seven-day trial of the monthly service, which costs $5.99 with limited commercials or ad-free at $9.99 a month.
The service, which also has programming from channels such as BET and Comedy Central and original programming such as "Star Trek: Discovery," will become will be rebranded as Paramount+ on March 4.
You could also sign up for a free trial of other live subscription streaming TV services such as fuboTV, Hulu + Live TV, AT&T TV, and YouTube TV. Each cost about $65 monthly and have a lot of channels including local CBS stations for most subscribers.
YouTube TV also has some cool features you can use on your phone as you watch the game, such as live stats and replays of key plays. It also has a spoiler mode in case you have to save to the DVR and not watch live. It will hide scores before you watch.
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Beyond football, dogs and cats streaming together
Not everyone wants to watch football. Even if the big screen in the home is taken over by the big game you have options.
Counter-programming competitions include the 17th annual Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet (2 p.m. ET/11 PT) and the new Discovery+ streaming service, and Kitten Bowl VII on Hallmark Channel (2 p.m. ET/PT), a channel you can find on streaming services such as AT&T TV, fuboTV, Philo, and Sling TV.
And you can binge TV or movies for free on advertising-supported services such as The Roku Channel – it will also have a prominent link to Super Bowl broadcast on the CBS Sports app – and Tubi, which has more than 30,000 movies and TV episodes (you can watch on your phone or streaming devices including Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, and Roku).
"The selection is massive," said Erin Andrews, Fox Sports reporter who also serves as a spokesperson for Tubi, which Fox acquired in March 2020. "You’ve got action. You’ve got comedy. You've got sci-fi, scary movies, programming for kids, music docu-series, kind of everything out there. And then your favorite Fox shows: "The Masked Singer," "The Masked Dancer," "Hell’s Kitchen," "MasterChef." … And they are always refreshing it."
But make no mistake, Andrews will be watching the Super Bowl at home with husband, Jarret Stoll, a former NHL player with the Los Angeles Kings. He's now in player development for the franchise.
"I think people are so excited for a live event. I mean we are all at home so why not?" she said. "What a fantastic season we were able to pull off in a global pandemic and to watch somebody (Bucs quarterback Tom Brady), who is 43 years old, leave a team he was with for 20 years and start fresh … He got the Tampa Bay Bucs to the friggin' Super Bowl. And then you look over on the other sideline and you’ve got the future of the league standing right there who makes defenses look silly, who runs an offense that looks like it is basically out of a Madden game. … You want a good storyline, this one has all of them."
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A storyline hopefully avoided: many major live events in the past have led to some internet meltdowns. But the growth in streaming in 2020 should make such issues less likely this year, Carney says.
"In 2020 streaming networks had to scale to meet new demands when people were spending significantly more time at home because of the pandemic. That increase in streaming acceptance and usage should lead to larger audiences viewing the Super Bowl via streaming services," he said. "Luckily, investments in online video solutions and network infrastructure to support the surge in streaming means viewers shouldn’t have to worry about outages."
Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Super Bowl 2021: How to watch, stream Buccaneers-Chiefs matchup