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There are a couple of easy ways to watch ESPN without cable, but each of them involves subscribing to a live TV streaming service. For budget-minded ESPN fans, or sports-obsessed viewers looking for even more content, the world’s leading sports network has a new option. Launched in April 2018, ESPN+ offers a mix of live sports and original programming for a few dollars a month. It doesn’t grant full access to ESPN, but it might offer enough incentives for you to subscribe. Here’s everything you need to know about ESPN+.
What is ESPN+?
ESPN+ is ESPN’s new paid subscription service. To explain ESPN+, it’s best to start with what it isn’t. ESPN+ is not a replacement for the ESPN network. You won’t find any complete episodes of SportsCenter, First Take, or Pardon the Interruption. You can forget about catching Monday Night Football. If you’re looking for a live version of ESPN, ESPN+ isn’t going to satisfy your needs.
Instead, for $4.99 per month or $49.99 per year, ESPN+ gives you the best streaming collection of sports documentaries available anywhere, augmented with original series and live sports. While not a substitute for live sports junkies, subscribers get access to games from the MLB, NHL, MLS, and college sports from over 20 U.S. collegiate conferences, as well as hundreds of boxing matches, PGA tour golf, Grand Slam Tennis, cricket, English League Football, United Soccer League, and more. That adds up to thousands of hours of live sports for less than a pint at your local bar a month.
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How does ESPN+ work?
ESPN+ functions as an extension of ESPN’s website and its mobile app. Online, you’ll find it in the top-right corner of the navigation bar (seen below). When you’re logged in, all of ESPN+’s various features and original series will be unlocked for your viewing pleasure.
On ESPN’s mobile app, programs and livestreams that are exclusive to ESPN+ are noted by the ESPN+ logo—the E+ on a yellow background.
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ESPN+ original series
Subscribers to ESPN+ get access to a host of original ESPN programming only found on the service. Here are the best original series on ESPN+.
1) NBA: Year One
Follow the beginnings of the next generation of NBA superstars with this unprecedented look at the 2017-2018 NBA rookie class. Starting from the moment they’re drafted through the end of the season, Jayson Tatum, Ben Simmons, and Donovan Mitchell take views through their journey in the NBA. It’s s an addictive peek behind the veil of some of the league’s most promising new stars.
Kobe Bryant’s reign in basketball lasted from 1996 to 2016, averaging 25 points per game and collecting five NBA championships during his career. At 34 he became the youngest player in the history of the NBA to reach 30,000 career points. Hate him or love him, Kobe is one of the greatest players of all time. Detail finds him offering in-depth analysis speci offic players during (and now after) the NBA playoffs. Focusing on a single player each episode, Bryant examines Jaylen Brown, Stephen Curry, analyzing specific plays in a way that reveals his high basketball IQ. Free of music and flash, Detail is a must watch for amateur players looking to improve their game.
3) Draft Academy
This eight-part documentary series follows players like Sam Darnold, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Shaquem Griffin through the 2018 NFL Draft. See the physical and mental struggles these players face on their journey into the world of professional football.
4) ESPN FC Daily
ESPN’s daily rundown of the world of soccer offers a half-hour crash course of the world’s major leagues. Featuring plenty of game highlights along with reporting on major events, FC Daily is an invaluable resource for keeping up to date on the complex and packed world of soccer.
5) In the Crease
Relive each game of the NHL Playoffs with Barry Melrose and Linda Cohn as they provide post-game analysis and highlights of the big plays.
6) Last Train To Russia
ESPN won’t be airing the World Cup, but it’s still ready to cover it. Join soccer reporter Martin Ainstein on a documentary series through 11 Russian host cities for the World Cup. Traveling along the Trans-Siberian railway, Ainstein shines a light on Russian culture and traditions. Filmed over the course of six weeks, each episode mixes coverage of how towns are preparing for the games with a look into the lives of the people living in each host city. The footage is beautiful, and fans of travel documentaries will appreciate the depth of the reporting.
7) Quest for the Stanley Cup
If you want to relive the Washington Capitals’ historic Stanley Cup win, you can watch NHL Playoff Replays or dive into this seven-part documentary series.
ESPN+ offers a deep archive of boxing matches, featuring bouts from the entire modern history of the sport in their complete glory. Foreman vs. Holyfield, Tyson vs. Berbick, a wealth of classic Ali fights: ESPN+ provides a master class worth of boxing footage round.
This series, focused on younger viewers, features inspiring stories about the journey today’s biggest stars took to reach their current greatness. Showing both the successes and failures of stars like LeBron James, Becoming gives kids an honest perspective on the struggle it takes to make it to the top.
10) Best of SC Featured
You might not get all of SportsCenter, but ESPN+ subscribers can catch segments of the series’ award-winning news series. These bite-sized stories, ranging from 10 to 20 minutes apiece, cycle regularly so make sure you stay up to date. From heartfelt stories of child football players to examinations of today’s greats, SC Featured softens the blow of not getting full SportsCenter access.
ESPN+: 30 for 30
The true jewel of the ESPN+ crown is the massive collection of 30 for 30 documentaries included with your subscription. Each of these feature-length films focuses on a different story from the annals of sports history, shedding light on scandals and inspirational stories in equal measure. From The Legend of Jimmy the Greek to Fantastic Lies‘ exposè of the Duke Lacrosse case, 30 for 30 set the standard for sports documentaries. Best of all ESPN+ offers exclusive films, like The Last Days of Knight, which focuses on controversial basketball coaching legend Bobby Knight. Your subscription also includes the complete five-part OJ: Made in America series produced under the 30 for 30 banner. As anyone who binged 30 for 30 when it was briefly on Netflix will tell you, this content is worth the price of ESPN+ on its own.
ESPN+ live games
On top of the original programming offered by ESPN+, subscribers get access to thousands of hours of live sports. The content available to you depends on local-market blackout restrictions, but even with these frustrations, ESPN+ always has some form of live sports available. The company has also recently announced it’ll be streaming League of Legends games starting in Summer 2018. Here are a few highlights of the 2018-2019 season.
MLB: One daily game, every day, through the regular season. That adds up to 180 games over the season.
NHL: Hockey fans get slightly more exciting treatment than baseball fans, with a daily game included through the regular season, totaling over 180 games. Also, subscribers get on-demand replays of the 2018 Stanley Cup. (Learn more about the NHL on ESPN+ here.)
MLS: Subscribers get access to MLS’ entire out-of-market schedule, offering more than 250 games over the course of the season. Subscribers in Chicago also get exclusive access to 23 local-market broadcasts of Chicago Fire matches.
Top Rank Boxing: More than 100 exclusive Top Rank fights throughout the year.
PGA Tour Golf: Golf fans get 50 days of coverage from 20 different PGA Tour events, from the FedExCup Playoffs to the Players Championship.
English Football League: Enjoy hundreds of soccer matches from the League 1, League 2, and Sky Bet Championship Playoffs during the 2018-2019 season.
Cricket: You’ll live action from Test, ODI, and T20 format matches from both Cricket Ireland and New Zealand Cricket.
Rugby: ESPN+ shines with more obscure content, evidenced here by matches from Major League Rugby, SANZAAR Rugby, and more.
Grand Slam Tennis: Tennis fans get access to hundreds of matches from across the sport, including the Australian Open, U.S. Open, and Wimbledon.
English Football League: Follow the FA Cup and watch roughly 200 total matches per year, including Sky Bet Championship Playoffs, League 1 and League 2, and more from the EFL 2018-19 season.
College Sports: No matter how obscure, ESPN+ has you covered for college sports, serving up baseball, basketball, football, softball, soccer, gymnastics, track and field, lacrosse, swimming, wrestling, volleyball, golf, and more from across 20 U.S. collegiate conferences.
Still looking for more live sports? Your ESPN+ subscription also includes access to live rugby, cricket, Canadian Football League, UEFA Nations League, United Soccer League, and boxing matches during the year.
Is EPSN+ worth it?
For $4.99, ESPN+ gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access to live sports and sports history. It’s worth subscribing for a few months just to catch up on 30 for 30, but viewers who take the time to explore the other original programming will find just as much compelling content. Plus, you’ll get an ad-free experience on the main ESPN site as an added bonus. While the lack of NBA and NFL live games is frustrating, the sheer number of games and events streaming on the service each month softens the blow, not to mention the premium ESPN editorial content. While ESPN+ won’t replace ESPN the channel, it provides a compelling alternative for sports fans who can’t afford, or just don’t want to pay for, a cable package.
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John-Michael Bond is a tech reporter and culture writer for Daily Dot. A longtime cord-cutter and early adopter, 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.