Sunday Night Football, the Olympics, Premier League soccer, WWE, Indy Car, golf
There are now more ways than ever to enjoy your favorite live sports and cheer for the teams you love. These days, you can ditch the regular cable or satellite subscription, as there are countless live TV streaming services that carry the biggest games.
However, finding the best streaming service for sports isn’t a straightforward process. Shopping around for the right one for your interests and location can still be a headache since not every service carries your regional sports network (RSN). To help you get an idea of your sports coverage options, we’ve rounded up the best sports streaming services.
For example, Boston-area hockey fans looking for the Bruins or Major League Baseball fans hoping to catch the Red Sox need NESN to view the majority of their games. That’s even if they subscribe to a league-sponsored, sport-specific package such as MLB TV, which doesn’t cover in-market games.
Streaming services generally don’t carry these RSNs, but DirecTV Stream and FuboTV are the exceptions. They are the only two services that offer the Bally Sports (formerly Fox Sports) channels from Sinclair. FuboTV lets you watch your RSNs on its $75 Pro tier. Meanwhile, you’ll have to spring for Direct TV Stream’s $100-a-month plan to access its full RSN offerings.
That said, Bally Sports recently missed a large interest payment to its creditors and could potentially file for bankruptcy protection in the near future. It remains to be seen how this will affect viewers, but the NHL released a statement via Twitter on Feb. 16 stating that the league was monitoring the situation closely. “We will be prepared to address whatever circumstances dictate to provide our fans with access to our games,” it said. Multiple MLB, NHL and NBA teams have regional coverage deals with Bally Sports.
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Luckily, the NHL and NBA are heading towards their playoffs, where games tend to shift from the regional channels to those that reach a national audience and tend to be included in most TV packages. NBA fans will also need access to NBA TV — which generally costs extra — in order to catch every first-round playoff game. Also, some sports, like Formula 1 racing, feature all of their contests on one national network, such as ESPN.
Depending on location, diehard sports fans might ultimately save more money by getting a cable subscription, as your RSNs come bundled with ESPN, TBS, TNT, and other local channels. This could especially make sense if the package is bundled with the home internet you’ll likely be getting anyway.
If you’re a determined cord-cutter or know that you only need one or a few channels to get your sports fix, here are the best streaming services for you.
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DirecTV Stream is expensive. It’s the priciest of the five major live TV streaming services, but it’s also the one with the most RSNs and offers the most for sports fanatics. Its cheapest, $75-a-month Plus package includes the major networks as well as ESPN, TNT, FS1 and TBS. You’ll need to move up to the $100-a-month Choice plan to get any available RSN and many league channels such as the Big Ten network and NBA TV. You can use its channel lookup tool to see which local channels and RSNs are available in your area.
ESPN’s stand-alone streaming service is great for casual sports fans and is a must-have accessory for hockey zealots. It costs $10 a month or $100 a year and shows all out-of-market NHL games. It’s also included as part of the $13-a-month Disney bundle, as well as in the Hulu Plus Live TV package.
FuboTV costs $75 per month and offers 35 RSNs. It includes ESPN, but not TBS and TNT — which might be a problem for some sports fans. It also has most of your local networks like ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox, along with FS1, FS2, BeIn Sports, the Big 10 and the Golf channel.
Hulu Plus Live TV offers an interesting middle ground for sports fans. On the one hand, the service lacks the ability to get many league-owned channels, but on the other, it comes automatically bundled with an ESPN Plus subscription.
YouTube TV costs $65 a month, though it’s currently $10 off for the first three months, and offers four RSNs, along with FS1, FS2, ESPN, TBS, TNT and all of the major national networks. The standard package includes just about every league channel with the exception of the NHL Network. There is an additional Sports Plus package, but it doesn’t offer much other than BeIn and NFL Red Zone, so you might be able to skip it. Plug in your ZIP code on YouTube TV’s welcome page to see which local networks and RSNs are available in your area.
The Sling TV packages don’t have a ton to offer any but the most casual fan. Sling Blue currently lacks a single RSN, but you can use it to watch some national broadcasts. Sling TV’s Orange plan includes ESPN, while the Blue plan has FS1 and the NFL network. While both plans offer TBS, none of them gives you access to ABC, which could be a problem for many fans. The Sports Extra add-on, which costs $11 a month for either the Blue or Orange plan or $15 for the combined Orange and Blue plan, offers the NBA, NHL and MLB channels, along with the PAC 12, BeIn and Tennis channel, among others. The individual plans cost $40 a month each, and the combined Orange and Blue plan costs $55 a month. And right now, you can get your first month for half off. You can see which local channels you get here.
Paramount Plus, formerly CBS All Access, gives its $5-a-month Essential subscribers access to AFC football games during the NFL season, along with some UEFA Champions League soccer, as well as most matches from the NWSL women’s soccer league.
Peacock, owned by NBC, offers some live sports to go along with its on-demand entertainment. The $5-a-month Premium tier gives users access to English Premier League soccer, the Olympics, Sunday Night Football, select WWE events, Indy Car races and some PGA golf tournaments. The service also airs a few other less popular sports, such as rugby, figure skating, cycling and track and field. Access to Sunday Night Football is great during the season, but for most of the year the platform is best suited for soccer and wrestling fans.
Sports streaming service FAQs
Don’t some on-demand streaming services show live sports too?
Yes. Hulu and Amazon Prime all air live sports once in a while, but their sports offerings are currently fairly limited.
Is there a lag or delay when streaming sports live compared with cable?
There is. The streaming delay is often as long as 40 seconds, compared with around 5 seconds for cable and satellite.
Can I cancel my subscriptions when the season is over?
Yes. All of these services are free of contracts and you can cancel at any time. Some offer free trials or special introductory discount memberships, which you will only get to use once. If you cancel and return at a later date, you will most likely have to pay full price. That said, you might not need a particular service year-round, which might make temporary cancellation an appealing way to save a few bucks.
How do I access these services on my devices?
All of the services on this list have apps that you can download. You will need a smart TV or a streaming device to watch the content on your TV. Just search for the name of the service on your smart TV or device, download the app on your TV and enter your sign-in information, and you should be ready to stream.
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