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How to watch sports with streaming TV
Some people are reluctant to cut the cord to cable for one big reason: sports. But fear not — there are still plenty of ways to watch your favorite game, whether it’s football or cricket, without cable.
Cable and broadcast networks have had a lock on sports viewing for years, and people worry they won’t be able to keep up with their games and teams if they cut the cord. After all, sporting events are best watched live, and that means that cable companies and networks were previously the only places to view your favorite team duke it out. Take football, for instance. Enormous contracts have been signed between the NFL and networks like CBS, FOX and NBC to air live games, which means some digital streaming companies can’t support full-rights packages. But the world of TV is changing, and sports is no different. There are now many options for sports fans who want to view outside of traditional cable packages.
Live streaming sports
Streaming services give you a lot of freedom and flexibility, and there’s an impressive range of choices out there for sports viewing. The ones you pick will depend on whether you are a die-hard fan of one or two sports, or a sports nut in general who dabbles in watching all kinds of games. Let’s take a look at how to follow some of the most popular choices to help you narrow the field.
NFL – American football
YouTube TV is great for watching NFL, as well as other major league sports like major league baseball, hockey, basketball and NCAA football. YouTube TV doesn’t air every single NFL game, but has a more robust lineup than most services. It also includes ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, FS1, NBC Sports, MLB Network, Big Ten Network, SEC Network, Golf Channel, Tennis Channel and MotorTrend, just to name a few.
MLB – Baseball
Major league baseball has a complicated licensing deal. Each team is associated with a different regional network that airs their games. To access these regional games, you need to live within the market for that network. So, when signing up with a streaming service, be sure they have your team first. To watch your choppers, round trippers and two baggers, either Hulu+ Live TV or YouTube TV may be your best bet, with each offering access to about 20 local teams. FuboTV comes in second, with seven teams at the time this was written. But be sure to check the latest details and see which teams are covered before you subscribe, because things can change fast!
NHL – Hockey
If you live inside the United States or Canada, watching NHL games of any sort (national, local or out-of-market) is made a little more complicated by broadcast rights. Sling TV is a good solution for watching your local team. If you like to watch more hockey teams beyond your local, check out NHL TV.
NBA – Basketball
You can watch plenty of basketball games without cable. Your local channel will broadcast games, which you can pick up with an antenna, and the ABC network covers the NBA Finals. Perhaps your favorite team resides in another state and you can’t pick up the game on a local station? Two good streaming options to catch your favorite NBA team are ESPN+ and NBA TV. Or, if you’re a major basketball fan, you could stream through NBA League Pass, which gives you access to every game that isn’t broadcast nationally or in your area. They also offer the NBA Team Pass package, which gives you all the games specific to your chosen team.
If you love international soccer, you’ll love FuboTV. Hands down, this provider is one of the best at delivering not only international soccer, but international sports content in general. In 2015, Fubo was launched as a soccer-only streaming service, but since then it has added a lot of content, including non-sports related channels. The interface is easy to use, and you can browse by sport or by channel. The only downside to FuboTV (for some sports fans) is that they don’t have ESPN.
In the case of college sports, as with hockey, television rights complicate viewing choices somewhat, as do the NCAA conferences. If you’re looking primarily to watch your favorite team, you’ll only need a few channels. YouTube TV, SlingTV, Hulu+ Live TV and FuboTV are all great options for streaming college football and basketball. Disney (the owner of ESPN) currently offers more college conference games than any other service. Licensing and rights agreements between colleges and networks change every few years, so what’s showing now might change. The NCAA and some colleges are starting their own networks where they can stream all their school’s sports. Check with your college team to see if they have a streaming option like this.
E-sports is highly competitive video gaming. Players play against one another in leagues, teams or individually. These bigger competitions take on a tournament structure, often with large cash prizes. For example, the popular youth game Fortnite held a tournament in 2019, in which one player beat out 99 others to win the top single prize of 3 million dollars. The top players in these large tournaments are treated like celebrities and big-name sports stars. One great place to watch these tournaments is on Twitch, which on its own is free. You can also bundle it together with Amazon Prime for the commercial-free version that includes the other benefits of Prime membership.
Over the air antennas
Another easy way to watch sports is to purchase an over the air antenna, or OTA. With an antenna you can watch local stations with no recurring fees. Up-front cost of the antenna is affordable and setup (can be outside or inside) is pretty straightforward, or you can have a professional installer do the work for you. Having an antenna will give you access to local networks such as NBC, ABC, FOX and more, so you’ll be able to watch any live broadcast sporting event in your area.
Another option, especially handy if you’re always on the go and rarely sit in front of the TV to watch a game, is to use a smartphone app. All the major networks (FOX, NBC, CBS, etc.) have standalone network apps that include access to their sporting events. FOX is one of the highest-rated options, and allows you to watch football, the World Cup, college sports and more, all on the app. Check each network for specifics and to comparison shop.
Dedicated sport channels
Are you the kind of sports fan who watches only one or two sports exclusively? Check to see if there’s a dedicated streaming service for that sport. For example, for tennis fans there’s Tennis TV, which airs matches from around the world, excluding Grand Slam matches and Wimbledon. There really is a streaming service for just about every sport out there, so do a quick search and you’re likely to find one for you.
One great feature of most streaming services is that you can sign up for a free trial period to see if it will work for you before you start paying the subscription fee. Streaming services usually make it easy to add and drop as you need. To keep expenses down, sign up for those services that you want to watch, then take stock after a few months and cancel any that you don’t use on a regular basis.
Need help choosing a streaming sports package? With the large number of sport streaming services available, the options can be overwhelming. Our fun and easy TV recommendation tool can help you choose the TV services that best fit your needs. Pick channels that are important to you and let us suggest a package based on your choices!