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During Week 3 of the 2023 NFL season, Google searches for free streams increased significantly. Data from the search engine shows this happens every weekend.
With the presence of the NFL+, NFL Sunday Ticket, and televised games every week, what could be the driving force behind this recurring trend?
Searches for free NFL streams
Not so long ago, cable was the only way to keep up with sports from the comfort of your home. While you can still watch your favorite team on television, new ways for it have emerged.
Now, most leagues have their own subscription-based products, with NFL+ being one of them.
However, the weekend behind us has shown that football fans are exploring alternative avenues.
Free ones, to be more precise.
The numbers from Google show that the queries for free NFL streams skyrocketed during Sunday Night Football on September 24.
Let’s take a better look at it.
Searches for the term nfl streams in the US increased by 1,000% on Sunday.
Typing this in Google takes you to a number of sites that broadcast all NFL games, as well as other sports, for absolutely free.
The top three results include NFLBite, NFL Streams, and Sportsurge, with more websites of the same nature appearing right after.
The graphic above shows that the number of searches for nfl streams in the country soared on Sunday. Increases also occurred during Thursday Night Football and Monday Night Football.
The pattern repeats with searches for individual websites and other related terms.
It appears that many fans already know the best places for watching football for free, as searches for nflbite went up even more than queries for nfl streams.
Google Trends show that a breakout occurred for the nflbite search term on Sunday. It grew by at least 5,000% that day.
The same happened with searches for other popular websites that stream NFL games for free, such as CrackStreams.
And with DaddyLiveHD:
Week three of the 2023 NFL season saw some exciting games, with the Los Angeles Chargers facing the Minnesota Vikings and the LA Rams traveling to Cincinnati to face the Bengals.
However, such demand surges for free NFL broadcasts happen every week.
We kept track of Google queries from the previous week and the pattern was the same:
If you check out the numbers from the 2022 season, you’ll see this was also the case last year.
So, why exactly are searches for free NFL streams this high?
Uncovering the drive behind free NFL streams
While NFL+ is a convenient and legal way to watch football, it doesn’t offer access to all live games.
Even with a Premium subscription, you can only stream local and primetime games as they take place.
Other games, referred to as out-of-market games, aren’t available.
Premium users gain access to all full or condensed replays once they have concluded, though. But that doesn’t change much.
The only legal way to access all games live is through the NFL Sunday Ticket, which is available at a whopping $449 for the season.
This may feel like a theft for many, especially those who only want to watch their favorite team play when there isn’t a broadcast available in their state.
Plus, they also spend money on merch and watch party food and beverages. So, why would they add close to 500 bucks on top of that just to be able to watch games?
The lack of budget-friendly options makes it easy for football fans to rationalize turning to illegal broadcasters.
That’s exactly what Google queries from the past weekend have shown us.
But there’s more data to support this:
A recent study by Oddspedia has revealed that 35% of NFL fans watch their teams regularly through illegal streams.
That’s only slightly fewer than those who access games through paid streaming services (39%).
Since there isn’t an alternative that doesn’t include breaking the bank, football fans are okay with taking the risk of opting for illegal broadcasters.
Is it safe to watch free NFL streams?
Watching free live sports streams isn’t exactly the safest thing you can do online. Accessing these websites is illegal and they’re often riddled with pop-up ads and questionable links.
Still, due to the lack of other budget-friendly options, football fans turn to free NFL streams every week.
If you decide to do it, it’s a good idea to do everything you can to protect yourself from any online threats.
First and foremost, this includes using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) when accessing these websites.
A VPN allows you to reroute your connection through a secure tunnel and hide your online activities from anyone, including your ISP.
This means no one will know you’re watching an illegal NFL stream.
In addition, connecting to a VPN server keeps you safe from hackers and third parties who want to access your data.
Another smart thing to do is to ensure you have reliable antivirus software in your arsenal.
It’ll scan every website you want to access for malicious content and block the ones that may harm your device.
Even when you arm yourself with a VPN and antivirus software, following safe internet practices is a must.
This includes not clicking on any ads and refraining from sharing sensitive data with shady sites.
The battle against illegal sports streams
The NFL has already, together with the NBA and UFC, injected urgency into the DMCA to have a law for quickly shutting down illegal livestreams.
The sports organizations believe that there has to be a rule that defines how quickly DMCA takedowns can take effect.
With football games lasting for about three hours, there’s usually not enough time to take the website down before the live stream ends.
This means that reports against these websites don’t make any difference. Even if a website is shut down, the broadcaster has about a week to create a new one.
The NFL, NBA, and UFC have cited that the global sports industry loses $28 billion in potential revenue every year to illegal streaming sites.
Italian Serie A used the same argument when discussing blocking illegal IPTV streams. The Senate passed the law and a watchdog is currently developing a platform that’ll put an end to such broadcasts.
Similar issues exist everywhere else in the world. For example, 3.9 million people in the UK have accessed illegal streams in 2022.
The biggest problem with introducing the law American sports organizations are asking for is that some websites may get taken down by mistake.
This has already happened to some businesses and it had a significant impact on their operations.
For smaller companies, this could mean shutting down completely as it may take a while to bring the website back to life.
So, is there something else that can be done?
Everything we’ve seen suggests that NFL fans turn to these websites simply because they can’t watch their favorite team play unless they pay for expensive subscriptions.
So, maybe the answer lies in creating cheaper team-exclusive subscriptions.
With the league already suffering significant losses due to illegal streaming, this may just be a solution that works for everyone.
Data from the past weekends tells us that football fans will always find a way to watch their best boys play.
It’s likely they’ll continue to do the same and watch free NFL streams until there are better and cheaper ways to be a part of the action.