How to Watch Sports Without Cable
Live sports coverage is a huge draw for cable subscribers, but you can get the same content, if not more, from a dedicated streaming service. Although some on-demand video streaming services include occasional sports commentary shows, the best options for sports fanatics are the cable-replacement services that offer game streams from local, national, and international networks. Other advantages of a sports streaming service include DVR recording and support for simultaneous streams.
Live Sports vs. Sports Content
Presumably, most sports fans want to watch both live sports and sports-related programs. However, we restricted this roundup to those services that include at least some regularly scheduled live sports streaming. After all, there's no point of cutting the cord if you can't watch your favorite teams live. Sports commentary and shows about sports certainly add value, but they don't alone qualify a service as a sports streaming service.
For those reasons, HBO does not make the list, despite its historical association with boxing and current high-quality sports shows, such as Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, Hard Knocks, and Ballers. Starz also does not qualify, as it requires you to pay extra to watch its live streaming MMA content. Amazon Prime Video, on the other hand, will stream NFL games on Thursday nights for the 2019-2020 season and offers add-ons for watching live sports (MLB.TV, NBA League Pass, and PGA Tour Live), so it makes the cut. CBS All Access is a similar story; the main appeal of the service is its catalog of shows and original series, but a subscription includes access to national CBS streams, which often feature primetime sports coverage. For example, CBS broadcasts NFL games, PGA Tour events, and NCAA basketball matchups.
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Sling: 14-Day Trial — Free
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More Than Sports
While the focus of this roundup is on sports content, these services do not exist in a bubble. Monthly subscription costs can add up, and there's a good chance that not everyone in your household wants to watch sports exclusively. Many of these options cost upwards of $40 per month, depending on the package you choose, while add-ons can easily push that monthly price even higher.
Therefore, you should consider whether the service offers value for anyone else in your household. Most of the best sports streaming services are also some of the best for general audiences, with good lineups of news and entertainment programming.
That said, some video streaming services, such as ESPN+ and Dazn, only offer sports content. As mentioned, CBS All Access or Amazon Prime Video, which are primarily on-demand services, offer a wide range of shows and movies to stream in addition to their live sports content. Hulu + Live TV also gives users access to a vast library of TV series and films.
Streaming Extras and Limitations
Sometimes sports coverage, and particularly international sports coverage, doesn't air at a convenient time. If you can't watch the game for whatever reason, finding a service with good DVR functionality is worthwhile. Many video streaming services offer a specified number of hours you can record (some offer unlimited recording), which you can keep in storage for a set amount of time or until you stop paying for your subscription. However, no service we reviewed currently allows you to take those recordings offline, as some on-demand video streaming services allow.
What if two programs are airing at the same time and neither person wants to watch a recorded version later? If you make sure that the video streaming service you pick supports simultaneous streaming, then this won't be a problem. Most services in the category support at least two simultaneous streams, but many services offer add-ons that increase that limit for an extra monthly fee. The ability to stream on multiple devices simultaneously is particularly helpful for families, since not everyone might want to watch sports during primetime hours.
One disadvantage of streaming services is that the picture quality may not always be as consistent as that of cable. The upper streaming resolution is dependent on the broadcast itself, so you may occasionally find games or channels that are limited to 720p. To get smooth 1080p streaming, you also need to make sure that your internet connection reaches a service's minimum bandwidth requirement. Streaming at 4K streaming requires even more bandwidth (as well as a compatible device) and few services even support that resolution. fuboTV is one exception: It broadcasts the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup tournament in 4K.
Just as with cable broadcasts, sometimes certain games are only available for viewers in specific geographic regions. Streaming services can also suffer from blackouts, if, for example, a certain local channel that your video streaming service does not cater, gains exclusive broadcast rights. You can, as I mention below, subscribe to additional services and packages to increase the sports coverage you get, but these additions all cost extra.
League-Specific and International Sports
Many individual sports leagues offer their own dedicated streaming services. NBA League Pass, PGA Tour LIVE, and MLB.TV are the best-known examples. If you only care about watching a specific team or sport, you don't need to pay for an entire cable replacement service.
Many of the services we reviewed offer major sports channels for international markets, such as BEIN, ESPN Deportes, Fox Deportes, and Univision Deportes, but some require you to subscribe to extra packages for more regional and international sports content.
Dazn, on the other hand, is better for users in international markets (such as Germany, Switzerland, Japan, and Italy) who want to watch mainstream US sports. However, for US subscribers, it offers a mix of Boxing, MMA, and MLB content.
Alternatives to Sports Streaming Services
Not all sports events require a subscription to watch them online. Major sports events such as the Super Bowl or The Masters are typically free to stream online. You can also purchase a TV antenna to get free over-the-air local channels, though the number and quality of said channels may vary wildly based on your location.
Yes, there are illegal options too. For example, there's likely a sketchy subreddit (if it hasn't already been shut down) or sports streaming site with several dozen hosted links for whatever sport and event you want to watch. We do not condone the use of these sites. Proceed at your own risk and only with plenty of security and privacy precautions in place, such as a VPN or antivirus software.
You won't find esports on any of these services, but many game companies broadcast major events for free online. Twitch is your best bet for smaller-scale streams of esports titles or gaming in general.
*Features in table only available via add-ons.
Best Sports Streaming Services Featured in This Roundup:
$5.99 per month; $54.99 for Hulu + Live TV
Hulu is a great streaming service for sports fans. The service includes BTN, CBS Sports Network, seven ESPN channels, FS1, FS2, Golf Channel, and NBC Sports Network. It is missing a few league-specific channels, such as MLB Network, NBA TV, and NFL Network. That said, you can pay for the Espanol add-on ($4.99 per month) to get international sports coverage from ESPN Deportes.
Like YouTube TV, Hulu also excels as a general all-round cable replacement, with nearly as many news and entertainment channels at your disposal. Plus, a subscription to Hulu + Live TV includes access to Hulu's expansive library of on-demand shows and movies.
You can improve Hulu's technical capabilities with the Enhanced Cloud DVR (increases the available DVR storage to 200 hours from 50) or the Unlimited Screens package (increases the number of simultaneous streams from 2 to an unlimited number in your home and up to three outside of it) add-ons. Each option costs $9.99 per month on its own, but you can get both for a $14.99 per month.
Hulu apps are available on an impressive range of gadgets, but you cannot currently stream Live TV on the PlayStation 3 or 4. The newly redesigned apps look modern and did not suffer from any performance issues in testing. Note that unlike YouTube TV Hulu's live channels streams are all limited to 720p. Hulu's on-demand content can be streamed in 1080p though and a few of its originals support 4K streaming on select platforms.
$64.99 per month
YouTube TV offers an excellent selection of live sports channels, including CBS Sports Network, several ESPN Channels, FS1, FS2, Golf Channel, MLB Network, NBA TV, Olympic Channel, and Tennis Channel. You can also pay an extra monthly fee for the Fox Soccer Plus ($15 per month) and NBA League Pass ($39.99 per month) add-ons. Note that YouTube TV does not offer international channels or the NFL Network, however. If you are looking for a service with more than just sports, YouTube TV meets that criteria with a good range of news and entertainment channels as well. This lineup of 80+ channels does not come cheap; the service's latest price hike added $15 to the monthly subscription cost.
With YouTube TV, you get unlimited cloud DVR storage and the service keeps your recordings for up to nine months. YouTube TV allows you to stream on up to three devices simultaneously and supports up to six user accounts. Those extra streams and accounts are particularly convenient for when family members want to watch different programs that are set to air at the same time.
YouTube TV's apps look elegant, perform well, and incorporate useful search tools. The service is also notably one of the few that streams a significant number of its live channels in 1080p. YouTube TV is also the best live TV option for PlayStation 4 owners, now that PlayStation Vue is shuttered.
Amazon Prime Video
$8.99 per month
Amazon Prime Video qualifies as a sports streaming service mainly for its coverage of Thursday night NFL games and the option to add several sports-focused channels to your subscription, such as CBS All Access, NBA League Pass, and PGA Tour Live. Amazon also produces the All or Nothing series which offers a behind-the-scenes look at various professional sports teams. Although it doesn't cover nearly as many sports of some of its live TV competitors, Amazon Prime's on-demand library of TV shows and movies (and especially its originals) add significant value.
Amazon's video service works on a web browser, as well as Android and iOS devices, Fire devices, game consoles (PlayStation, Xbox, and Wii), smart TVs, and media streaming devices (Apple TV 4K and Roku), though it does not natively support Chromecast devices. With Prime Video, you can stream from up to three devices simultaneously.\
$60 per month
fuboTV is a great option for any cord-cutting sports fans. For the national sports events, there's CBS, FOX, Golf Channel, NBA TV, NBC, NFL Network, TBS, and TNT. fuboTV also features a good range of RSNs; for instance, MSG, SNY, and YES are available in New York City. For international sports, fuboTV is likely one of your best options. In addition to channels, such as beIN Sports, Fox Deportes, GOL TV, and TUDN, it offers a number of add-ons with international sports channels. FuboTV recently announced that it would add Disney channels to its lineup (including ESPN), though it is losing WarnerMedia channels, such as CNN.
Like other entries in this roundup, fuboTV caters more than just sports. Its lineup of news and entertainment channels is quite strong, and includes Viacom and Discovery channels. Many TV shows and movies from those channels are also available to stream on-demand.
fuboTV's intuitive DVR features let you record up to 30 hours of content, which it keeps forever. You can pay for the Cloud DVR Plus add-on ($9.99 per month) if 30 hours is not sufficient. Other cool features of fuboTV include Lookback, which lets you watch select sports programs from up to 72 hours after it aired, and Startover, which enables you to restart certain live events from the beginning.
fuboTV is available on the web or via dedicated apps for Android, iOS, Apple TV, Fire TV, Chromecast, and Roku devices. You can stream on up to two devices simultaneously by default, but the Family Share add-on ($5.99 per month) can increase that to three devices. Note that fuboTV's live streams are limited to 720p, though it is the only service to offer any 4K streaming for live content. Most of its on-demand content can be streamed in 1080p.
CBS All Access
$5.99 per month
CBS All Access lets you stream a live feed of your local CBS Sports channel as part of your subscription. For instance, fans can watch live NFL games in their local market, the NCAA March Madness tournament, and select PGA Tour events. CBS All Access is similar to Hulu, in that your subscription includes access to CBS's library of on-demand streaming content and original shows. If you want to avoid commercials for this on-demand content, you can opt for CBS All Access's No Commercials plan for $11.99 per month.
CBS All Access offers apps for your smartphone (iOS and Android), streaming devices (Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, and Roku), and game consoles (PS4 and Xbox One). Subscribers can stream from up to two devices simultaneously
$19.99 per month
Dazn caters mostly to fight fans and is a good value for that audience, since it does not require you to shell out pay-per-view (PPV) fees in addition to the subscription cost to watch premium fights. On the boxing side, it streams fights from promoters such as Golden Boy Promotions, Matchroom Boxing, GGG Promotions, and World Boxing Super Series. MMA partners include Bellator, Combate Americas, and KSW. Top Rank Boxing and UFC are notably absent.
Other sports on the service include cricket, darts, fishing, gymnastics, and J1 (Japan's top soccer division) soccer matches. Dazn also produces some original sports content, including its live, daily MLB commentary show, Change Up, and the weekly, fighter-focused show, Sweet Scientists: Ak & Barak. Outside the US, Dazn offers NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL games.
Dazn doesn't offer traditional DVR features, but every fight it streams is available to restart, rewind, and scrub through as soon as it airs. Dazn users can stream content on up to two devices simultaneously. Live events stream in 720p and about 60 FPS.
$4.99 per month
ESPN+ does not replace ESPN's regular channels, but rather offers alternative live sports content for cord-cutters. ESPN+ features lots of live sports events on a daily basis, including from the MLB, NHL, MLS, PGA Tour, and various college sports leagues. Unfortunately, this service does not include streams of ESPN's Monday Night Football broadcasts or and its live NBA coverage.
What ESPN+ does include is access to ESPN's archives of prestige shows such as 30 for 30, and E:60,. Again though, core ESPN shows, such as Around the Horn, First Take, NFL Live, Outside the Lines, Pardon the Interruption, SportsCenter, and SportsNation are not available on the service.
ESPN+ is available via the web or dedicated apps for Android, Chromecast, FireTV, iOS, tvOS, and Roku users. ESPN+ support a generous five concurrent streams.
$30 per month
Sling TV splits its sports coverage across its Orange and Blue plan (both cost $30 per month), with ESPN channels on the former and NFL Network and NBC Sports on the latter. You have to pay for the combined Orange & Blue Package ($45 per month combined) to get all of its sports channels. Sports fans should also consider adding the Sports Extra add-on ($10 per month) to get beIN Sports, ESPN U, Golf Channel, MLB Network, NBA TV, and NHL Network.
Note, however, that Sling TV falters in terms of its local channel coverage. Sling TV recently lost all its Fox coverage, including local affiliate channels, FS1, and FS2. You do not get CBS affiliates with Sling TV either, which means that you need to use an antenna to watch Sunday afternoon games. The loss of Fox also means that Sling TV won't stream the Thursday Night Football games that broadcast on Fox and simulcast on NFL Network. We are not sure how many Thursday night games this change affects, but we will update this section as we learn more information.
Sling TV's Orange plan supports one simultaneous stream, while the Blue plan lets you stream on up to three devices simultaneously. The Sling Orange & Blue plan allows you to stream on up to four devices simultaneously. Sling TV's cloud DVR add-on costs an extra $5 per month and allows you to record up to 50 hours of content. You can watch SlingTV on your mobile phone, streaming device, Xbox console (but not PlayStation), and the web.
AT&T TV Now
$55 per month
AT&T TV Now (previously DirecTV Now) offers good coverage of national sports if you are willing to pay for its higher-priced plans. AT&T TV Now's Max plan ($70 per month), for instance, includes CBS Sports Network, four ESPN channels, FS1, FS2, Golf Channel, Olympic Channel, SEC Network, and some RSNs.
In terms of DVR features, AT&T TV Now offers 20 hours of DVR storage and keeps recordings for up to 30 days. Most other services let users save more hours of programming and for longer. Sports fans will appreciate AT&T TV Now's Lookback and Rewind capabilities, which respectively allow you to watch previously aired content (up to 72 hours in the past) and restart live streams from the beginning of the broadcast. Note, however, that these features are only available for select channels and programs.
With AT&T TV Now, you can stream simultaneously from two devices, which is about average, though you can pay an additional $4.99 per month to increase that limit to three devices. AT&T TV Now is available on media streaming devices, mobile platforms (via the AT&T TV app), and the web, but is not available on either the Xbox One or PlayStation 4 consoles.