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How to watch ESPN without cable

Keith Allison/Flickr (CC-BY-SA)

ESPN used to be the domain of cable viewers, but now you have options.

No matter which sport is currently in season, you’re always going to need to know how to watch ESPN without cable.

Just a few short years ago, cutting the cord with your cable company meant having to compromise your desires. No one felt this pain more than professional sports fans. If you wanted to watch sports without cable you had four options: hope it was on broadcast TV, go to the game live, befriend someone with cable, or hang out in a sports bar. 

Fret not, for those days are no more. You no longer have to swear allegiance to a cable company if you want Monday Night Football and SportsCenter. All your favorite programming can now be accessed through a number of streaming services and devices.

how to watch espn without cable


How to watch ESPN without cable: Hulu with Live TV

hulu with live tv includes espn Photo via Hulu

For sports fans, Hulu with Live TV is an excellent choice. Not only does it work with just about every device you can throw at it—iOS, Android, Xbox, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, with support for Roku and Samsung smart TVs coming soon—but it also unlocks 50-plus channels, including, of course, ESPN. (Here’s the complete list of Hulu Live TV channels.)

Launched in May 2017, Hulu with Live TV replicates a traditional basic cable package, with channels like the Food Network, FX, TBS, and Syfy. The standard package costs $44.99 (plus your first week free) which includes 50 hours of Cloud DVR storage. For an extra $15 a month, you can bump that storage to 200 hours and can skip commercials in recorded programs. And you can also upgrade to Hulu with No Commercials for your on-demand content.

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The base price might seem steep, but it also includes Hulu membership, which includes an incredible lineup of moviesTV showsdocumentaries, and must-see Hulu originals, making it one of the best deals available.


How to watch ESPN without cable: ESPN+

  • Cost: $4.99 per month or $49.99 for 12 months (after 7-day free trial)
  • Devices: Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV and Fire Tablet, Apple TV, Android TV, Roku players and TV, Oculus Go, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Samsung smart TVs, and iOS and Android devices

espn without cable : espn+ Screengrab via YouTube

At just $4.99 per month or $49.99 per year, ESPN+ is the cheapest option to keep up to date with (most) of your favorite ESPN content. ESPN+ is not a replacement for ESPN—it’s an extension, unlocking exclusive series and no shortage of live events.  For example, it only features an abridged version of its signature SportsCenter program, but it provides some supplemental content and the complete library of 30 for 30 documentaries. 

ESPN+ shines the brightest for live sports, featuring games from MLB, MLS, and NHL, along with select PGA Tour golf, college sports, and Grand Slam tennis matches. Plus, if you subscribe to MLB.tv or NHL.tv, ESPN+ will unlock some out-of-market games. ESPN+ includes coverage of major events like Wimbledon and the U.S. and Australian Open. There are even live international soccer matches from the EFL and UEFA Nations Cup, and options for streaming rugby and English League One football. More importantly, ESPN+ is now home to UFC Fight Night and the FA Cup.

Sadly, ESPN+ isn’t your solution for streaming Monday Night Football. The service is notably lacking content from the NBA and NFL. We feel your pain. But it’s hard to complain when you’re watching exclusive series like Kobe Bryant’s Detail or reading premium content you won’t find anywhere else.

We tested the app out by streaming NHL games and 30 for 30 documentaries on an iPhone SE and Roku Streaming Stick. On both devices, streams were clear, without buffering issues or distortion. If you don’t have unlimited data, however, you’ll want to hunt down a Wi-Fi source.

ESPN+ works on Amazon Fire TV, Android, Apple, and Chromecast devices, along with Roku players. Depending on your sports tastes, the content that’s there is terrific, but the lack of NBA and NFL content will be a deal breaker for many fans. Still, $4.99 per month for this many games is a steal.


How to watch ESPN without cable: Sling TV

how to watch espn without cable : sling tv Photo via Sling TV

When it comes to replacing your cable company, no one makes it easier for less than Sling TV. Sling TV works by serving up blocks of channels for a low price. There are two tiers, Sling Blue and Sling Orange, each offering different options. If you’re looking for ESPN, pick up a subscription to Sling Orange. For just $25 a month, you get streaming access to ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPN3 along with more than 20 other channels and local options.

Sling TV can be streamed off a number of devices, from smartphones to game consoles, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and more. Have an Oculus VR headset? You can watch ESPN on Oculus Go. in stunning VR with Sling TV. You can only stream on one device at a time, but if you decide to splurge for the Orange + Blue package, you get more channels and the power to stream on up to four devices at once. It’s cheaper for four friends to split the Orange + Blue package than it is for one person to get Sling Blue by themselves. With both the Blue and Orange + Blue packages, however, only one person can stream ESPN at a time. (Here’s a complete guide to Sling TV channels and our Sling TV review.)

For $5 a month, Sling TV offers 50 hours of cloud DVR, so you can catch up on your favorite shows even if you’re away from the house.  Sling TV logins can also be used on the WatchESPN app, giving you on-demand access to a large chunk of ESPN’s programming.  

Thinking about giving Sling TV a try? They offer a seven-day free trial to see if it’s right for you.

Sling TV had a shaky launch, with some customers complaining about the quality of streams and difficulty using the service. Many of those issues have been worked out since then, but use the free trial period to make sure it’s up to your standards.


How to watch ESPN without cable: PlayStation Vue

how to watch espn without cable: playstation vue Photo via Sony

Of the options available for watching ESPN without cable, PlayStation Vue is the best reviewed but also potentially the most expensive. PIts basic package costs $44.99 a month for most of U.S. That include 40 channels plus any available local channels.

The plus side is that PS Vue can be watched on up to five different devices at once and comes with cloud DVR. This package, known as Access, only includes ESPN and ESPN2, so if you want ESPNews or ESPNU, you’ll need to buy the $44.99 a month Core package. (Here are all of PlayStation Vue channels.)

Your PS Vue logins can also be used on the WatchESPN app, giving you on-demand viewing. If you’d like to try PlayStation Vue before you buy, the service offers up a five-day free trial. (Here’s a complete list of PlayStation Vue channels.)


How to watch ESPN without cable: DirectTV Now

how to watch espn without cable : directv now Photo via Direct TV

If you’re looking to add ESPN back into your life but also want the largest selection of other channels, DirectTV Now is well worth considering. DirectTV Now’s basic $40 package comes with both ESPN and ESPN2. If you want ESPNews, you’ll need to buy the next tier of service, which is $50 a month. Best of all, there’s no equipment to install or annual contracts. (You can view the full DirecTV Now channels list here.) Now that DirecTV Now has added free cloud DVR, it’s one of the best deals in all of streaming, especially since you can add HBO for just $5 per month. Unfortunately, you can only watch on two devices at once, so if you’re looking to split the cost, you won’t be able to spread it out as much.

If you have an AT&T Unlimited package, you should seriously consider DirectTV Now. Subscribers with AT&T Unlimited can get DirectTV Now for a big discount over the normal price. Sometimes your mobile carrier makes your TV life better. Go figure.

If you want to try DirectTV Now, it offers a free seven-day trial.


How to watch ESPN without cable: YouTube TV

how to watch espn without cable : youtube tv Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA)

YouTube TV’s basic package costs $40 per month and offers more than 50 channels, which includes AMC, FX, and, of course, ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPNews. YouTube TV obviously works with Android devices and Google Chromecast, but you can also stream via iOS, some smart TVs, and Xbox One, Roku, and Apple TV—just not via PlayStation. The service is ideal for those looking to split the cost of a subscription: You can have up to six accounts per household, and each one of those come with unlimited DVR. You can find the full list of YouTube TV channels here.

For the price, it’s hard to beat, but if you’re looking to add premium channels like HBO, you’ll want to look elsewhere.

Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance and clarity. The Daily Dot may receive a payment in connection with purchases of products or services featured in this article. Click here to learn more.

John-Michael Bond

John-Michael Bond

John-Michael Bond is a tech reporter and culture writer for Daily Dot. A longtime cord-cutter and early adapter, he's an expert on streaming services (Hulu with Live TV), devices (Roku, Amazon Fire), and anime. A former staff writer for TUAW, he's knowledgeable on all things Apple and Android. You can also also find him regularly performing standup comedy in Los Angeles.

Austin Powell

Austin Powell

Austin Powell is the 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.