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Here’s everything you need to know.
If you think you need cable or satellite to watch all of your favorite sports, not only are you dead wrong but chances are you’re wasting a lot of money too. Thanks to live TV streaming services and premium subscription offerings, you can watch practically any event from anywhere, even if it’s on pay-per-view.
The hardest part is just knowing where to start. I’ll walk you through your best options, letting you know exactly what you’ll get, for how much, and what you’ll need to get started. Here’s your ultimate cord-cutting guide for sports in 2019.
The 2019 cord-cutting guide for sports: The essentials
I’ve divided this guide into two parts: essential services and premium options for specific sports. At a bare minimum, you’ll need a live TV streaming service, but I’ve also added a couple of other considerations. All told, you’ll spend just about $60 per month. That’s likely significantly less than what you’re paying right now for cable.
Total cost: $60.98 per month
- Sling TV with Sports Extra: $50 per month
- ESPN+: $4.99 per month
- CBS All Access: $5.99 per month
1) Sling TV
- Cost: $50 per month (after a 7-day free trial) for the package described below
- Sling TV compatible devices: Amazon Fire Stick and Fire TV, Apple TV, Android TV, Roku, Xbox One, Google Chromecast, Oculus Go, Microsoft Edge, and iOS and Android devices
- Number of devices you can stream at once: 4 (with Sling Orange + Blue)
There’s no way around it: You’re going to need a live TV service, and admittedly, it’s a crowded field. I chose Sling TV because of the extraordinary value it provides and its versatility when it comes to compatible devices. Having spent a few months and well over 100 hours with the service, I feel confident recommending it as the best all-around sports service.
Sling TV offers two basic plans, Sling Orange and Sling Blue, either of which costs $25 per month. You’ll want to combine the two packages in the aptly named Sling Orange + Blue, which costs $40 per month. From there, add Sports Extra: Sling Blue for $10 per month.
For an all-in total of $50 per month, you’ll receive nearly every sports channel you can think of, including specialty options like MLB Network, NBA TV, and NFL Network that are difficult to find elsewhere. Whether you’re looking for international soccer (beIN Sports), college sports (ESPN2, SEC Network), or the Golf Channel, you’ll find it on Sling TV. It’s also the only live TV service that provides a dedicated channel for ESPN3, and it’s your cheapest (and easiest) option for watching NFL RedZone without cable. That might not matter much to you know, but you’ll thank me when the 2019 season rolls around. (Here’s a complete guide to Sling TV channels and our Sling TV review.)
The only things notably missing are a couple of local channels (CBS, ABC) and Big Ten Network, but you have to figure that most of the big matchups will be picked up for national broadcast. It’s worth noting that ABC’s live sports simulcast on ESPN3, so you don’t actually need the channel (at least not for sports). For an extra $5 per month, you can add ESPNU, ESPNEWS, ESPN Goal Line, and ESPN Bases Loaded as part of the Sling Orange: Sports Extra package, but I didn’t include that here. Honestly, that money is better spent on ESPN+ (more on that shortly).
There are some things I don’t love about Sling TV—the interface is clunky and takes some getting used to, and cloud DVR costs an extra $5 per month—but every service has its drawbacks. FuboTV inexplicably lacks ESPN channels, for example, and YouTube TV doesn’t work with Amazon Fire products, nor does it offer NFL RedZone or beIN Sports. For a complete rundown of Sling TV competitors, you can check out my guide here.
What you’ll get with Sling TV:
- ACC Network
- BeIN Sports
- ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3
- Fox and Fox Sports (select markets)
- FS1 and FS2
- Golf Channel
- MLB Network
- NBA TV
- NBC and NBC Sports Network
- NFL Network
- NFL RedZone
- NHL Network
- Outside TV
- Olympic Channel
- Pac-12 Network
- SEC Network
- Tennis Channel
- Cost: $4.99 per month or $49.99 for 12 months (after 7-day free trial)
- Devices: Chromecast, Amazon Fire Stick and Fire TV, Apple TV, Android TV, Roku players and TV, Oculus Go, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Samsung smart TVs, and iOS and Android devices
When it comes to live sports, ESPN+ is nearly as essential as ESPN itself. The subscription service functions as an extension of ESPN’s site and app, unlocking a ton of extra additional programming. (It’s worth noting that ESPN+ is a streaming exclusive, meaning you wouldn’t be able to get it through your cable or satellite company.) That includes 180 NHL games, every single out-of-market MLS game, and 20 exclusive UFC Fight Night events per year. (In fact, you can choose to pay $79.99 for a UFC PPV instead of the standard $59.99 to receive a full year of ESPN+ for free.)
There are plenty of other perks too. ESPN+ offers acclaimed original series like Kobe Bryant’s Detail and NBA: Year One, which follows prominent rookies from the draft through the end of their first season. You’ll also be able to watch the entire 30 for 30 catalog—all 150-plus entries and counting—and read exclusive articles, and you’ll experience fewer ads across the ESPN network. Last but not least, you’ll get a truly unfathomable amount of live college sports. No matter what sport or team you follow, you’ll find something to love about ESPN+.
What you’ll get with ESPN+:
- 20 UFC Fight Nights
- 180 NHL games
- 250 MLS games
- The entire 30 for 30 series on demand
- Exclusive series like Kobe Bryant’s Detail
- More than 180 MLB games
- Thousands of college sports—from football to lacrosse and volleyball—across 20 conferences
- 50 days of PGA Tour coverage
- Exclusive Top Rank Boxing matches
- The entire UEFA Nations League tournament
- Hundreds of rugby and cricket matches
- Roughly 200 English Football League matches
- Cost: $5.99 per month (after a 7-day free trial)
- Devices: Amazon Fire Stick and Fire TV, Roku, Xbox, PlayStation 4, Apple TV, Chromecast, iOS and Android devices
One of the only drawbacks of Sling TV is that it doesn’t carry CBS. That might not matter if you have a new smart TV or an HD antenna that picks up the channel, but for everyone else—or if you want the ability to stream your local CBS affiliate on the go—you’ll want to invest in CBS All Access. In addition to a live feed of CBS, which you’ll need for NFL games, March Madness, SEC football, and the Masters, you’ll also be able to watch all of your favorite CBS shows and new exclusives like Star Trek: Discovery and Jordan Peele’s The Twilight Zone reboot.
The 2019 cord-cutting guide for sports: Premium options
The rest of these services are recommended for the serious fans who follow their favorite teams for the entirety of their seasons or want to ensure they see every big fight. With all the money you’ll be saving from ditching cable, it’ll be easier to justify some of these expenses.
- DAZN: $19.99 per month or $99.99 annually
- NFL Sunday Ticket: $73.99 per month for four months or $293.96 for the entire season
- NBA League Pass: $17.99 per month or $119.99 per year for all teams
- MLB.TV: $24.99 per month or $118.99 annually for all teams
- NHL.TV: $24.99 per month or $139.99 for the entire season for all teams
- Showtime: $10.99 per month
- Cost: $19.99 per month or $99.99 annually
- Devices: Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire Stick and Fire TV, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, iOS and Android devices
Launched in September 2018, DAZN is trying to put the boxing world in a corner. It’s signed three of the world’s most popular boxers—Canelo Alvarez, Anthony Joshua, and Gennady “GGG” Golovkin—to exclusive, long-term deals. While the cost of a monthly subscription is a bit steep—$19.99 per month or $99.99 per year—that’s still significantly less than what you’d spend on the pay-per-view events you’d otherwise have to buy. And DAZN hosts multiple fights per week from Matchroom Boxing, Perform Group, and others. It’s also where you’ll find MMA events from Bellator. DAZN also hosts a nightly whip-around MLB show, ChangeUp, hosted by former Baseball Tonight anchor Adnan Virk and Scott Rogowsky of HQ Trivia fame.
- Cost: $73.99 per month for four months or $293.96 for the entire season
- Devices: Apple TV, Android TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Amazon Fire Stick, Chrome Cast, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Samsun Smart TV, Android and iOS devices
Thankfully, you no longer need DirecTV to get NFL Sunday Ticket. Now there’s NFLSundayTicket.TV, the online-only version, and it works the same way. You can watch every out-of-market NFL game on Sundays and up to four at once. There’s also a way to watch NFL Sunday Ticket through Amazon Prime, but you’ll need to purchase a subscription from DirecTV first. There’s a significant discount if you’re a student, so if you’re in college (or paying for someone to be there), you should definitely go that route.
- Cost: $17.99 per month or $119.99 per year for all teams
- Devices: Amazon Fire Stick and Fire TV, Apple TV, Roku, Kindle, PlayStation 3 and 4, Xbox One, Samsung Smart TVs, iOS and Android devices
If you get the Sling TV package listed above, you’ll have everything you need—ESPN, ESPN3, NBA TV, TNT—to watch all of the NBA games on national TV. With NBA League Pass, you’ll be able to watch everything else. We’re talking about every out-of-market game for the entire 82-game season. For serious basketball fans, nothing beats NBA League Pass. It’s worth noting that you can add NBA League Pass on Sling TV or FuboTV, allowing you to centralize your streaming experience, or you can add it as an Amazon Prime channel.
- Cost: $24.99 per month or $118.99 annually for all teams
- Devices: Roku, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire Stick and Fire TV, Android TV, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One
With MLB.TV, you’ll be able to watch thousands of MLB games—the vast majority of the 2,430 total games played in the regular season—which makes it easy to justify the cost of a subscription. Compared to other comparable services, MLB.TV has the best special features. Not only can you watch up to four games at once, but you can pause and rewind games, and your subscription will also allow you to watch the 2019 All-Star Game and World Series. As with NBA League Pass, you can also subscribe through Amazon Prime.
- Cost: $24.99 per month or $139.99 for the entire season for all teams
- Devices: Apple TV, Amazon Fire Stick and Fire TV, Roku, Chomecast, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and iOS and Android devices
NHL.TV is basically the streaming version of the NHL Center Ice package offered by most cable providers. (In fact, if you’re a cable subscriber who’s already purchased NHL Center Ice, you can use your cable credentials to access NHL.TV.) As with the other services listed above, you’ll be able to watch every out-of-market game and have full DVR capabilities. One cool perk: You can choose your own camera angle, from two over-the-goal cameras, a zipline aerial cam, and the first-person ref cam.
- Cost: $10.99 per month (after a 30-day free trial) for the Showtime app
- Devices: Amazon Fire TVs, Amazon Fire Stick, Roku, Xbox One, Google Chromecast, and iOS and Android devices
Showtime is still a powerhouse when it comes to boxing. Roughly once a month, the premium channel hosts a PPV-worthy matchup, like Claressa Shields vs. Christina Hammer earlier this month or Manny Pacquiao vs. Adrien Broner in January. If you’re a serious boxing fan, you’ll want to consider subscribing, and if you do, check out our guides to the best movies, documentaries, and original series on Showtime to make the most of it.
Note: It’s actually cheaper to add Showtime via Sling TV (it’s just $10 per month), and you’ll still be able to use your Sling TV credentials with the Showtime app. You can also add CBS All Access to Showtime for $14.99 per month.
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Austin Powell is the former managing editor of the Daily Dot. His work focuses on the intersection of entertainment and technology. He previously served as a music columnist for the Austin Chronicle and is the co-author of The Austin Chronicle Music Anthology.