May 14, 2019

How to Watch Sports Without Cable

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Many seem to think that you can't watch sports without cable. However, plenty of online services offer great sports coverage for cheaper than cable TV.

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You can watch every out-of-market NFL, NHL, MLB, and NBA game online, via skinny bundles and over-the-air antennas.

Skinny bundles are basically slimmed-down packages of cable networks. These channels are streamed online and cost a lot less than cable TV.

Of course, blackout rules still apply to nationally televised games and local teams. We'll discuss solutions for those too, later in this article.

We'll also talk about the different ways you can get sports channels without cable or satellite TV. You'll learn the pros and cons of each option, so you can make the best choice for you.

Read on to learn how to watch your favorite sports without subscribing to cable.

Live Sports Streaming Providers

Before we go into detail for each sport, here's an overview of major streaming providers. These are some of the best services for watching sports online.

fuboTV
fuboTV began as a streaming TV service focused on soccer. However, they've since expanded their service to include other sports networks too. Now they cater for sports fans, featuring live broadcasts of every major sport and league.

The biggest downside to fuboTV is their lack of ESPN. Otherwise, fuboTV can be a great option.

Sling TV
Sling TV is one of the cheapest streaming TV providers on this list. They've split a few key channels between their Orange and Blue packages, allowing you to choose which channels you'd pay for.

If you just want ESPN for example, you can just get their Sling Orange package ($25/month). For those who want just a few channels, Sling TV is a great choice.

Hulu + Live TV
Hulu + Live TV started as an on-demand service. However, they've since added live channels to their offerings, which includes plenty of sports networks. There are also sports add-ons you can add for extra coverage.

Hulu's sports channels are quite extensive. If you're looking for all your channels in one place, Hulu + Live TV is a good option.

PlayStation Vue
The PlayStation Vue (PS Vue) starts off pricy, but their cheapest plan already has plenty of sports content. It comes with ESPN and Fox sports (1 & 2). For more content, add their Sports Pack to get channels like MLB Strike Zone and NFL RedZone.

One of the perks with PS Vue is that they offer quality streaming of 720p at 60 frames per second. If you care about high quality streams, PS Vue is a good match.

DIRECTV Now
DIRECTV Now offers local channels in most markets. Their cheapest package has a great selection of sports networks too.

However, their True Cloud DVR is limited. It has only 20 hours of recording, which lasts for 30 days. They do have a replay feature for shows 72 hours after they air, but only for certain networks.

Still, DIRECTV Now has good compatibility with most smart devices. You can watch it on almost anything.

YouTube TV
YouTube TV has great channel coverage (for sports) and unlimited DVR, making it one of the better options on this list. The downside is that it doesn't carry certain channels, like HGTV.

But if you're just about sports, YouTube TV might just be for you.

Those are the major streaming providers for sports. If you're planning to cut the cord, you'll probably subscribe to one of them.

Now, let's review your favorite sports.

Sports News

For the latest stats, scores, and updates, you can easily do it without cable. Almost all major sports networks feature sports updates.

ESPN, for example, shows scrolling scores and news updates at the bottom of the screen. They also have routine SportsCenter updates.

SportsCenter (SC) is ESPN's daily sports news program. It airs up to 12 times a day, highlights updates, and reviews match scores of the day. They also provide commentary, previews of upcoming games, feature segments, and sports news from around the world.

Other channels, like ESPN2, ESPNews, ESPNU, FS1, FS2, NFL Network, NBA TV, and regional networks, all offer some kind of sports updates too. You can find most of these networks from the providers we mentioned above.

Another channel that offers sports updates is Stadium. Previously known as "120 Sports," it offers 2-minute highlights of sports news clips.

It's no substitute for actual sports news, but it's a great way to just get quick updates.

NFL Football

You can find NFL games on major over-the-air (OTA) broadcast networks. CBS covers AFC and several Thursday night football games. Fox handles the NFC games, while NBC broadcasts the Sunday night game.

You can get these networks for free too. All you need is an over-the-air antenna. Most would cost you between $30 and $60, like this one.

However, some games, like Monday Night Football, are only on networks like ESPN. For that, you'll need to subscribe to a streaming TV service like Sling TV.

For just ESPN, you can subscribe to Sling's Orange package, which has all the ESPN channels. However, hardcore football fans may want Sling's Blue package as well—it has Fox and NBC (in select markets), and the NFL Network.

Their Sports Extra add-on adds different channels depending on your base package. It's customized for either Orange or Blue. The add-on for Orange gives you ESPN Goal Line, while the Blue version gives you NFL RedZone.

If you're a hardcore football fan and don't mind splurging, check out the NFL Sunday Ticket. It lets you watch every live out-of-market game every Sunday afternoon!

And yes, it's possible to stream it online without subscribing to DIRECTV.

However, there's a catch. You can only get it if 1) your area doesn't have DIRECTV, or 2) you live in a multi-unit building like an apartment, condo, or dormitory. You'll need to visit their website and enter your address to see if you're eligible.

Other live streaming services like Hulu + Live TV, PlayStation Vue, DIRECTV Now, and fuboTV may also carry local channels, allowing you to watch your local NFL games. However, it depends on the deals they have with local affiliates.

If you want to follow a certain game but happen to be outside the market, you'll need to subscribe to NFL Game Pass. It gives you access to every out-of-market NFL game after it airs. Also, you get to watch NFL games from previous years too.

To learn more, read our guide on Best Ways to Watch NFL Games Online.

College Football

For college football, Sling TV is a solid choice. Most college football games are on ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPN3, including the national championship.

You can find all those channels on Sling Orange. However, if you want regional and national Fox Sports networks, you'll have to get Sling Blue too. FS1, FS2, and Fox Sports RSNs (Regional Sports Networks) regularly air NCAA football games from different conferences.

For a small monthly fee, you can also get Sling TV's Sports Extra for the SEC Network. It's covers all the games from the Southeastern Conference.

Sling TV is one of the cheaper providers, but you can go with other providers as well. Hulu + Live TV, PlayStation Vue, and DIRECTV Now all offer ESPN and Fox sports networks. You may have to fork out a bit more for other channels like Pac-12 and Big Ten Network.

For college football and other college sports, we recommend College Sports Live. It's a streaming service by CBS network, featuring thousands of live events for 30+ sports, including college football.

They partner with over 100 different colleges, so there's a huge amount of content. Expect to see schools like Air Force, Baylor, Georgetown, Georgia, Minnesota, Navy, Oakland, Ohio State, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Rice, San Diego State, UConn, Villanova, Virginia, and more.

To subscribe, it'll cost you either $10/month or $100/year.

Finally, you can catch college football for free with OTA TV too. Local networks like ABC, FOX, CBS, and NBC offer games from the top 25 nationally-ranked teams every weekend. You can find every Notre Dame home game on NBC too.

To learn more about watching college football online, read our Best Ways to Watch College Football Online article.

MLB Baseball

Unlike the NFL, which has most of its games on broadcast TV channels, MLB is still predominantly on cable. National games are broadcast across ESPN, MLB Network, FS1, and Fox networks.

For local teams, however, you'll need the regional network in your area. This could be Fox Sports, NBC, CSN, etc.

Streaming services have improved their coverage for both national and regional sports networks. Any of the streaming services, like Sling TV, Hulu + Live TV, PlayStation Vue, fuboTV or DIRECTV Now, are good options during the season.

However, postseason coverage is different. Of all the channels carrying postseason games, Fox is the only one you can get over the air.

The good news is that it's the exclusive broadcaster of the World Series. So, if you only care about the top two teams, you can get an OTA antenna, or choose a streaming service that offers Fox.

If you don't want a skinny bundle, you can also sign up for MLB.TV. It's a streaming service which lets you access every regular season out-of-market baseball game. You can also choose to follow one out-of-market team throughout the season.

For all the regular season out-of-market games, MLB.TV costs $118.99/year. For the single team coverage, it costs $91.99/year.

However, bear in mind that blackout rules still apply. If you live in an area where the team you love plays, you're out of luck. You can't watch the game live because local networks own the broadcasting rights.

The video is available on MLB.TV 90 minutes after the game ends, but that might be too late for some fans.

Tip: One solution around this is to use a VPN service. With a VPN service, you can "change" your location as though you're watching the game out-of-market. If you're interested in a VPN service, we recommend ExpressVPN.

To learn more, read our guide on Best Ways to Watch Baseball Online.

NBA Basketball

Like baseball, televised basketball is almost exclusively on cable. Most of the nationally televised games are split between ABC, TNT, ESPN, and NBA TV.

In other words, if you want to watch basketball online, you'll have to subscribe to skinny bundles.

For basketball, YouTube TV is one of the best options. They offer all the key channels, so you get great coverage with just one service. If that isn't enough, you can also add the NBA League Pass to your YouTube TV plan ($40/month or $124/year).

What is the NBA League Pass?
It's a streaming service which features all out-of-market NBA games. You can also choose to follow your favorite team, buy a live audio subscription (listen to live games), or buy individual games to watch.

If you compare prices for the NBA League Pass, you'll notice that the official NBA site offers a cheaper subscription ($28.99/month or $99.99/month). YouTube TV only has the premium plan.

However, for the more expensive price, you do get extra perks. During game breaks, for example, you'll get in-arena streams instead of ads. Also, the League Pass experience on YouTube TV would be much better compared to NBA's local app.

The tricky part is if you happen to live in the same market as your favorite team. Then you'd be subject to blackout rules.

You can still watch your team's national games on ESPN and TNT—that's no problem. But blackout means you can't watch the rest of their games on the League Pass.

If you want it, you'll need access to the regional network(s) which broadcast your team's games.

Again, for that, you'll have to go through the streaming TV services and see what local channels they offer. They usually offer regional sports networks, but it depends on the deals they have with local affiliates.

For biggest savings, we recommend getting Sling TV's Orange package. That gives you the ESPN and TNT channels. For games on ABC, you can use an OTA antenna. For all other games, you can buy them individually on the NBA League Pass.

College Basketball

When it comes to college basketball, you'll find most of the games on channels like ESPN, Fox Sports, CBS, and NBC Sports Network.

An antenna might give you access to games on CBS and Fox. For ESPN, however, you'll need a streaming TV service.

Sling TV is a great choice for college basketball. Sling Orange has ESPN and ESPN2. Sling Blue has Fox, NBC, and sister channels like FS1, FS2, and NBCSN—all of which feature college basketball.

If you're interested in the March Madness league, the games will only be televised on CBS, TNT, TBS, and truTV.

Except for CBS, Sling Blue offers the other three channels—that's $25/month for most of the channels you'll need!

For extra coverage, get Sling's "Sports Extra" pack. It offers ESPNU, SEC Network, Pac-12 Network, and Stadium. These channels also broadcast plenty of college basketball.

For lesser-known teams or teams in smaller conferences, check out College Sports Live. It's a streaming service for 100+ schools from 30 different sports, including basketball. Subscriptions cost either $10/month or $100/year.

To learn more about watching college basketball online, read our article on the Best Ways to Watch College Basketball Online.

Soccer

For soccer, you've got a ton of options. Soccer games are spread across the beIN Sports, ESPN, Fox Sports, FS1, FS2, NBC Sports, Telemundo, TNT, Universo, and Univision channels. You'll find all of them on the streaming providers we recommended.

However, one provider does stand out—fuboTV. fuboTV started out as a streaming service for soccer, so it's their flagship content. It offers live and on-demand soccer matches from the US and around the world.

Here's a list of leagues you'll find on fuboTV:

Premier League, LaLiga, Liga MX, World Cup, Women's World Cup, MLS, UEFA Champions League, Europa League, FA Cup, Primeira Liga, Serie A, Ligue Un, NASL, NWSL, Bundesliga, Argentina, Superliga, Turkish Super Lig, Swiss Super, League, Jupiler League, UEFA Nations League, Euro 2020 qualifiers, Ascenso MX, African Champions League, and Africa Cup of Nations.

That's a lot of games.

There are also plenty of live soccer channels to choose from. It has beIN Sports, Eleven Sports, FS1, FS2, Fox DEPORTES, Fox Soccer Plus, fuboTV Soccer, Galavision, GolTV, Lifetime, NBCSN, NBC Universo, Telemundo, TNT, TyC Sports, UniMás, Univision Deportes, and RAI Italia.

If you love soccer and don't particularly care about leagues or teams, then fuboTV has the most content for you.

For fans of Major League Soccer (MLS), you can tune in to MLS Live on ESPN+. You'll get hundreds of out-of-market MLS games.

However, bear in mind that ESPN+ doesn't include live streams from ESPN, ESPN2, FS1, or Univision.

What is ESPN+?

ESPN+ is ESPN's streaming service. They offer access to live coverage of UFC, NHL, MLB, MLS, college sports, and European soccer and tennis, among other sports. Subscriptions cost either $5/month or $50/year.

Alternatively, soccer fans can also opt for the FOX Soccer Match Pass. It's a streaming service which gives you access to over 1,200 soccer and rugby games per year.

There are games from leagues like the Bundesliga, Bundesliga 2, MLS, German Super Cup, USA friendlies, Mexico friendlies, England friendlies, CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers, and International friendlies. Subscription is either $20/month or $140/year.

For more on this, read our guide on Best Ways to Watch Soccer Online.

Golf

Televised golf is mostly on cable TV now, although you'll still find games on CBS, NBC, and Fox.

The Golf Channel features the PGA Tour, while Fox and FS1 features the U.S Golf Open. You can find these on the streaming TV providers we've listed—some offering it cheaper than others.

If the Golf Channel is all you care about, have a look at fuboTV, Hulu + Live TV, and YouTube TV. All these providers have the Golf Channel in their base packages, without add-ons.

But if you're just about the US Golf Open, then get Fox and FS1 from Sling Blue. It'll run you just $25/month, and you'll also have other sports channels like Stadium, NBCSN, and NFL Network.

NHL Hockey

With NHL, the broadcasting rights are split between several networks—NBC, NBCSN, ESPN+, and NHL Network.

If you're a hardcore hockey fan though, there's one channel that really matters—ESPN+.

ESPN+ will broadcast more than 180 NHL games for the 2018-19 season. That's more than NBC Sports and NBC combined! And it's on par with the NHL Network too.

As a bonus, ESPN+ also has In the Crease, the daily hockey program hosted by Barry Melrose and Linda Cohn. It'll feature highlights, interviews, and analysis from around the league.

With so much hockey content, there's no reason to not get ESPN+. It won't cost you much either—just $5/month or $50/year.

For OTA programming, you could catch games on NBC with an antenna, although there aren't many. You're probably better off getting NHL Network from either Sling TV or DIRECTV Now.

If you prefer going straight to the source, NHL has their own streaming service too—NHL.TV. It's like the NBA League pass or MLB.TV. You can choose to follow a team or buy full access for every out-of-market NHL game.

You also get extra perks. There are extra camera angles (in-goal cameras, zipline aerial cam, and first-person ref cam), and different audio feeds (TV or play-by-play) to choose from. There's also an on-demand library of previous games, and a DVR feature.

Of course, just like other sports, blackout rules still apply. You'll be blacked out if your favorite team is in your local market. If they play in national games, they're blacked out too, so you'll still need a skinny bundle or an OTA antenna.

You can use this tool to see which teams are blacked out in your area.

UFC

In May 2018, the UFC signed a 5-year contract with ESPN. The agreement gives ESPN 42 live UFC events, beginning January 2019.

This means that ESPN has streaming rights to all UFC events starting 2019. If you want to catch UFC, you've got to have ESPN and ESPN+.

ESPN will air 10 exclusive events and all the UFC pay-per-view preliminary fights. Their streaming service, ESPN+, will feature 20 exclusive UFC events, and all preliminary fights from the UFC on ESPN Fight Night shows.

Thankfully, it's quite easy to get ESPN without cable. Almost all the streaming TV providers (except fuboTV) carry the ESPN network.

For cheapest coverage, we recommend getting Sling TV and ESPN+. You'll get most of the fights for under $30/month. The top fights will likely be pay-per-view, but there's plenty of other matches to watch.

UFC also offers its own streaming TV, UFC.TV. That's where you can buy your Pay-Per-View passes, and/or get the UFC Fight Pass. It's sort of like Netflix for the UFC—it's an on-demand library of all the UFC fights, ever.

The downside is that live UFC Main Events and Prelims are just on ESPN and ESPN+ now. They'll only be available on Fight Pass much later. If you want to watch the matches live, stick with ESPN.

For more information on this topic, read our guide on How to Watch UFC Online.

WWE Wrestling

When it comes to WWE Wrestling, the USA Network is key. It has both WWE Raw and WWE Smackdown, which air on Mondays and Tuesdays, respectively. You'll find the USA channel with all the streaming services we recommended.

Tip: WWE signed a 5-year deal with Fox in 2018. Starting October 2019, WWE Smackdown will air on Fox instead.

Hulu + Live TV is our recommended choice—it has the USA channel as well as E! network. The E! network has WWE spinoff shows like Total Divas and Total Bellas.

Another advantage of Hulu + Live TV is that they have next-day screenings of Raw and Smackdown. That's better than even WWE Network, which we'll talk about next.

The WWE Network is WWE's streaming service, offering every live WWE pay-per-view event. It also has thousands of hours of on-demand content in its library.

However, be warned—Raw and Smackdown Live are only added a month after broadcast. If you want to watch them live, you're going to have to catch it on USA Network. It'll also be available on-demand a day after broadcast with Hulu + Live TV.

NASCAR

The broadcasting rights for NASCAR are split between Fox Sports, FS1, NBC Sports, and NBC. The big events will air on NBC and Fox themselves, but you'll also find races on NBCSN and FS1.

For OTA solutions, you can get an antenna to get broadcasts from Fox and NBC. However, for NBCSN and FS1, you'll need to get streaming TV.

Sling TV offers both NBCSN and FS1 in their Blue package. It costs $25/month, which is one of the cheaper providers on our list.

They also have Fox and NBC in select markets. If you're lucky, you could have all the channels you need with just Sling Blue.

Blackout Rules

Those were a list of sports you can watch without cable TV. For most of them, all you need is a subscription to one of the streaming providers we've listed.

However, you'll notice that most of them have blackout rules too.

What are blackout rules? In a nutshell, blackout rules prevent certain networks from broadcasting local games/teams in your market. It's to protect regional sports networks from out-of-market services.

This can be annoying, especially if you don't have the local channels.

One way to get around this is to use an OTA antenna. These antennas pick up signals from your local networks and broadcast them on your TV.

However, lots of things can affect your reception. If you're too far away from a broadcast tower, for example, you might not get a signal. Or if there's an obstruction nearby, like trees and mountains, the signal might be too weak.

Sometimes, an OTA antenna is simply not an option.

In that case, the only other way is to use a VPN service. A VPN service is originally designed to protect your privacy online. It does this in two ways—by encrypting your traffic, and by changing the location you appear from.

By doing the latter, you're able to cut through regionally-blocked content. You can just appear outside the market of your local team/game and use an out-of-market service to watch it.

Bottom Line

Today there are so many cable TV alternatives. There is really no reason to be locked in contracts or pay expensive monthly fees. You can easily cut the cord, save money, and still enjoy watching all your favorite sports.

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author's alone. Please support CreditDonkey on our mission to help you make savvy decisions. Our free online service is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content.

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