Streaming Services Guide — Sorting Through the OptionsBy Jeremy Evans / December 15, 2017 / Tags: Cut Cable, How-To
In this guide to TV streaming services, you’ll learn about today’s best options and how to pick the right service(s) for you.
Streaming services replace expensive cable or satellite TV subscriptions for cord cutters. They’ll let you watch all your favorite shows, channels, live sports, movies, and news — at a much cheaper price and with no contracts.
Live TV streaming services deliver live TV via the internet instead of through cables in the ground or satellites in the air. You can watch live TV on any device, including your TV screen. Plans are less expensive and less rigid than cable/satellite. They start at only $20/month for dozens of the most popular channels with no contract to sign.
In addition to live TV, you can watch tons of today’s most popular content on-demand with a variety of great video-on-demand streaming services. These make it a snap to watch your favorite shows, movies, and more — anytime, anywhere.
Plus, there are a bunch of other sports streaming services you can use to watch live sports without cable.
Regardless of what you like to watch, chances are there’s an affordable (or free) streaming service out there that will deliver what you want — no cable needed.
But before you can enjoy all this excellent content and cost savings, you have to sort through dozens of different streaming service providers and try to make sense of all the confusing terminology. Well — scratch that. I’ve done all the work for you, and I’m going to pass it along to you in clear, simple terms in this streaming services guide.
I’ve divided this guide into three sections because each plays a different role for the cord-cutter. First, you’ll see how to get live TV without cable in the “Live TV Streaming Services” section. Second, you’ll see how to get thousands of hours of great content on-demand in the “On-Demand Streaming Services” section. Third, you’ll see extra options for sports fans in the “Sports Streaming Services” section. Just use the tabs below to get started.
Live TV Streaming Services
Live TV Streaming Services
Live TV streaming services act as cable/satellite TV alternatives for live programming. Instead of delivering TV via cable cords or satellite dishes, it’s delivered via the internet. That’s why you’ll also hear the term “internet TV streaming service” used to describe them.
If you plan on keeping your cable or satellite TV subscription, then you probably won’t be interested in these, as you can already get most of this content through your current plan. (But then again, you might be interested to find out how much money you could save by cutting the cord.) At this time, there are five legitimate mainstream live TV streaming services: Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, fuboTV, YouTube TV, and Hulu Live TV. Because people ask about DirectTV Now, I’ve also included it below–but it’s not very good.
To compare channels and costs for each of the services below, see this chart.
If you like the idea of cable, but feel it has gotten way too expensive, then Sling TV might supply a happy medium for you. On paper, Sling seems a lot like a conventional cable plan: You pay a subscription fee each month to watch about a couple dozen live TV channels. However, there are no contracts with Sling TV, and no set-top box rental fees. Sling TV is particularly appealing to sports fans, as it offers both ESPN and ESPN2 — plus a handful of other sports channels. For sports lovers who want to cut the cord, Sling’s access to ESPN makes it worth the very affordable $20/month. The other popular networks you can watch with Sling TV — like AMC, CNN, TNT, BBC America, NBC, TBS, Food Network, Cartoon Network, and more — make the Sling deal very enticing.
Sling TV has three core plans — plus a number of “add-ons” you can get if you want even more channels. The most basic ‘Orange Plan’ costs $20/month for 30 channels and includes ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, TBS, and CNN among other favorites. The ‘Blue Plan’ has 40 channels and costs $25 but does not include the ESPN networks. Finally, there’s the ‘Orange+Blue Plan.’ This offers all of Sling TV’s channels (about 60), including the ESPN networks. Again, you can cancel at any time, and Sling even has a 7-day free trial, giving you plenty of time to decide whether you like it.
Here’s a rundown of each Sling TV plan, and the channels included.
Sling TV ‘Orange’ plan–$20/month
Sling TV ‘Blue’ plan–$25/month
The difference between Sling Orange and Sling Blue is a bit puzzling. Sling Orange has the ESPN networks, but then Sling Blue–which is supposed to be an upgrade–doesn’t have ESPN. At the same time, Sling Blue adds Fox Sports Networks, NBC Sports Network, and the NFL Network. Wouldn’t the same people who want Fox Sports, and the NFL Network also want ESPN? Of course. In short, the Sling Blue Plan is just Sling’s way of funneling sports fans to its most expensive option, the Orange+Blue Plan.
Sling TV ‘Orange+Blue’ plan–$40/month
The Orange+Blue package does what you would expect. It combines all the channels from both the Orange and Blue plans for a total of more than 60 channels. Even as the most expensive of Sling TV’s plans, it’s cheaper than cable.
Finally, Sling offers several ‘Add-On Extra’ packages. These are like little mini-packages of channels to suit different interests.
Here are some of Sling TV’s Add-On packages:
* The Sports Extra package ($5/month) includes ESPNU, ESPNEWS, the SEC Network, NHL Network, NBA TV, and Outside TV. Plus, you can watch international soccer on beIN SPORTS and Univision Deportes Network.
* Kids Extra ($5/month) adds another eight channels including Disney Junior, Disney XD, Boomerang, Baby TV, Nick Jr., NickToons, TeenNick, Sling Kids, and Duck TV.
* Comedy Plus Extra ($5/month) includes MTV, MTV2, Spike, Logo, CMT, Game Show Network (GSN), and TV Land.
* World News Extra ($5/month) adds CNBC, MSNBC, The Blaze, HLN, BBC World News, France 24, Euro News, CCTV News, Fusion, NDTV 24/7, News 18 India, and Russia Today to your plan. [Although, I think you’d just be better off using our very own World News Hub, which has more channels, and it’s free.]
* Lifestyle Plus Extra ($5/month) gets you VH1, Oxygen, E!, DIY Network, Vibrant TV, WE, Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, The Cooking Channel, FYI, Z Living HD, and LMN (Lifetime Movie Network).
* HBO ($15/month) comes with three live streams from HBO networks, along with the full HBO library on-demand.
* You can also get Cinemax for $10/month, and Starz for $9/month.
There are other add-on packages as well. You can browse the selection for yourself here.
Another positive feature about Sling TV is that you can watch it on more devices than its main rival–the PlayStation Vue service. You can watch on your computer (both Mac and PC), tablet (both Android and iOS), phone (Android and iOS), or on your TV using your streaming device. If you don’t have a streaming device, Sling will throw in a free Roku 2 when you sign up.
On the downside, Sling has very limited playback capabilities. Sling touts its ‘3-Day Replay,’ but it’s only available here and there. Sling also has limited on-demand options. If you go with Sling TV, you’ll probably want to invest in a separate DVR. Since a decent DVR costs close to $200, Sling’s deficiency with its playback capabilities is a legitimate source of concern.
From the price, to the built-in DVR, to the number of channels available, PlayStation Vue is as close as you can get to cable television with an internet streaming service.
PlayStation Vue isn’t as popular as Sling TV because when it first came out it only worked on a PlayStation console or a Sony Smart TV. But this is no longer the case. Now, PlayStation Vue is available on Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, and Android TVs.
PlayStation Vue also suffers from the perception that it’s more expensive than Sling TV. But it’s misleading to state that Vue is more expensive than Sling without first considering all the factors. Yes, Vue’s cheapest plan is $10 more than Sling’s cheapest, but Vue offers a lot more channels. Also, unlike Sling, PlayStation Vue comes with DVR capabilities, so users don’t have to shell out an extra $200 for a DVR.
PlayStation Vue’s channel lineup is outstanding. In fact, Vue’s channel list is too long to include here. Here’s the full PlayStation Vue channels list.
PlayStation Vue offers four different plans. First, ‘Access’ ($30 per month) gives you a slew of basic stations, including ESPN networks. ‘Core’ ($35 per month) is the same as Access, but with more sports. ‘Elite’ ($45 per month) goes beyond Access to add in niche programming. Finally, ‘Ultra’ ($65 per month) adds HBO and Showtime to your lineup. Although PlayStation Vue is pricey, it delivers up to 90 live TV channels – including local news, sports, and many networks that used to only be available with cable or satellite.
FuboTV used to be just a soccer streaming service. But now it’s expanded into other sports, as well as general entertainment. In all, fuboTV now includes over 46 live sports and entertainment channels.
In the sports arena, you can use fuboTV to watch NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, NCAA basketball, NCAA football, soccer, racing, and more on channels including FOX, NBC Sports, NBA TV, NFL Network, and many others. One of the biggest draws of fuboTV is that you get tons of regional sports channels. That means you can watch your home team games without cable on fuboTV — something the other streaming services don’t provide without the workaround described below.
Plus, you can also stream other TV shows and popular channels. You can watch NBC, ABC, CBS, and FOX through their various regional stations with fuboTV. Plus, watch FX, FXX, USA, Bravo, History, Nat Geo, and a bunch more.
You can try fuboTV free for 7 days.
YouTube TV is an up-and-coming TV streaming service, the newest on the scene. Here’s what you get:
– Watch popular cable and broadcast channels live and on-demand
– Live stream sports on ESPN, ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, and more
– Unlimited DVR space
– Six users can watch at the same time
– No contracts or commitments — cancel anytime.
YouTube TV is a solid cable TV alternative for cord-cutters, or anyone who likes to be able to stream TV anywhere, any time. They offer a 1-month free trial, so take advantage and try it out.
The downside is that YouTube TV only available in a handful of cities: Chicago, LA, New York City, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. That leaves a lot of people in the lurch — which is a shame, because YouTube TV does a lot of things right.
If YouTube TV isn’t available where you are, don’t fret. There’s a simple workaround. See how to get YouTube TV in any location.
Hulu Live TV
Hulu, the popular video-on-demand platform, now offers live TV. It’s new service is still a little rough around the edges, but Hulu will be making rapid changes/improvements in the coming months. Hulu Live TV currently costs $39.99, making it a bit pricier than other options. They offer a 1-month free trial.
I’ve received lots of messages from cord cutters inquiring about DirectTV Now. I include it here simply because it’s out there and it gets a lot of interest. Unfortunately, DirectTV Now is not ready for prime-time just yet. It has too many bugs and too many complaints. It’s still a new product, and Direct TV can turn it around, but for now I cannot recommend Direct TV Now.
Live TV Wrap Up
That’s it for the mainstream live TV streaming services. The options are growing at a steady rate, though, so check back for updates as new players enter the field.
Note that I used the term ‘mainstream’ in the previous paragraph. There is another option to stream live TV (plus endless on-demand content) that will blow you away. This ‘non-mainstream‘ cable TV alternative is called Kodi. Kodi is 100% free to use, and you can watch virtually every show, live sports event, movie, and more. I personally love Kodi, but it’s not for everyone. You have to use Kodi with a VPN, and setting it up is more complicated than simply signing up for Sling TV or PlayStation Vue. Therefore, a full discussion of Kodi is beyond the scope this article–which I wrote as an introductory guide to simple and affordable live TV streaming options. If you’re interested in learning more, here’s our guide to what Kodi is and how to get started using it to stream TV. Also, see how to watch Kodi live TV, including which channels you can stream and how to get them.
Don’t forget to read about Video-On-Demand Services in the orange tab above.
Video-On-Demand Streaming Services
Video-On-Demand Streaming Services
A video on-demand streaming service will let you watch TV shows and movies that are available on-demand (you don’t say!). I highlight the obvious to emphasize that on-demand streaming services do not typically provide access to live TV.
Here, I’ll introduce several on-demand services for you to check out. You’ve already heard of some of these services, like Netflix, but there are also some other excellent services out there. All of the services below cost about the same, and have huge selections of TV shows, movies, documentaries, kids’ stuff, and more. So the one(s) you choose is a matter of taste. A good trick is to swap out every couple months. Since none have contracts and it’s easy to cancel and sign up, you can get Netflix for a while, then trade it for Amazon Prime Video for a bit, and so on. This is what I do, and I always have way more stuff to watch than I ever could in a lifetime.
Here are the best on-demand streaming services available today.
Netflix (from $9.99/month)
Netflix is the number one service for on-demand streaming. Netflix has a huge selection of both movies and TV shows. Each month, Netflix rotates new titles in exchange for those that have been around for a while, so it always has new stuff. Also, Netflix creates its own original shows, like House of Cards, Stranger Things, Luke Cage, and Orange is the New Black. At first, I was skeptical whether these shows would be any good. But the Netflix Originals are outstanding! Netflix–along with HBO–is putting out the best stuff on TV, and you don’t need cable to get it.
You can watch Netflix on a wide variety of devices: TV, computer (MAC or PC), tablet, and streaming devices like Roku. Subscriptions start at $9.99 a month, and you can cancel at any time. Additionally, Netflix offers a free one-month trial, so you can’t go wrong by giving it a shot.
Amazon Prime Video (from $8.25/month)
Amazon Prime Video has about 40,000 titles of both movies and TV shows for streaming. Amazon also has its own highly regarded suite of original programming, called Amazon Originals. Amazon Prime Video works with all the major devices and operating systems (except Chromecast). I’ve always found something good to watch on Prime Video, and I do recommend this service.
Here’s the one thing that frustrates me about Prime Video: Its pricing is confusing. In fact, Amazon’s pricing is so complicated I’m not even going to pretend I can simplify it for you. There are just way too many moving parts here, and I find the entire setup to be rather frustrating. Since you’ve come this far with me, though, I’ll try a little harder to make some sense of it for you.
$8.99 per month gets you into the Amazon Prime Video program. But this is not the complete Amazon Prime membership. Amazon Prime membership — the full package — comes with a wide range of benefits and freebies — everything from free shipping and shopping deals, to music streaming and video game loot. BUT, if you sign up for Amazon Prime membership, which costs either $99/year or $10.99/month, you also get Amazon Prime Video included at no additional cost. Looking at it another way, if you know you want Amazon Prime Video, you can also get all the other Amazon Prime membership benefits for only $2/month more. Even better, if you sign up for a year, you can get the whole kahuna for what comes out to only $8.25/month — a 25% discount on the month-to-month plan.
Dizzy yet? Unfortunately, I’m not done.
Remember the 40,000 titles Amazon has in its streaming library? An Amazon Prime Video subscription will only let you watch some of those titles for free. If you want to watch something that’s not included, you have to rent or buy it separately (through what’s called Amazon Instant Video). It isn’t hard to tell which titles are included with Prime and which aren’t — but it’s annoying to have to check.
I’ll conclude my little rant about Amazon Prime Video with the following: It is simply the best deal in the video streaming market if you know you want Amazon Prime membership. The complete Amazon Prime package, by the way, is fantastic! We’ve written a separate article on the benefits of Amazon Prime. For example, did you know Amazon has great deals on groceries and other household items? At my house, we shop Amazon all the time. With all the Prime benefits to take advantage of, we still save money after subtracting the $99/year. So for us, Amazon Prime is well worth it. Also, keep in mind that Netflix doesn’t give customers full access to its library either. Netflix rotates titles in and out of circulation, so you can’t watch an off-rotation title at Netflix even if you pay extra, whereas with Amazon you can.
Hulu (from $7.99/month)
Like Netflix and Amazon Prime, Hulu offers on-demand access to a slew of popular TV shows and recently released movies. Unlike Netflix and Amazon–which get new TV shows well after their TV debuts–Hulu offers these shows the next day after they air on TV. Hulu can do this thanks to its powerful studio backers in The Walt Disney Company, 21st Century Fox, and Comcast.
One of Hulu’s drawbacks, however, is that everything has ads unless you pay more per month not to see them. The ‘Limited Commercial Plan’ costs $7.99/month, and the ‘No Commercials Plan’ costs $11.99/month. Each plan offers the same content, the only difference between them is the commercials.
In the near future, Hulu is expected to offer a live TV streaming service, called VIDGO. This will be very similar to Sling TV or PlayStation Vue. In the meantime, the timeliness of Hulu’s TV shows makes it a great alternative to cable/satellite, or, if you don’t care about live TV, even to a service like Sling TV.
HBO Now (from $14.99/month)
HBO was the first major premium channel to break away from the tyranny of cable with its standalone service, called HBO Now. It’s hard to believe HBO Now is the most expensive service we have listed. There’s more value with Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, or Hulu. But HBO’s continued dominance over the Emmy/Golden Globe Awards allows it to get away with the higher price. And, as a huge Game of Thrones fan, I get it.
Of course, HBO Now offers a lot more than ‘Thrones‘ for its hefty fee. With HBO Now, you can watch everything on HBO, just like if you had the network through your cable provider. HBO has a large movie selection, several other highly acclaimed series, great sports programming, and the best stand-up comedy performances. Even though this is a guide to video-on-demand services, I also should point out that HBO Now includes live streaming–so can watch all of its anticipated premieres and outstanding boxing broadcasts. You can watch HBO Now on all major devices, streaming devices, and operating systems.
HBO’s website, however, is confusing. When you visit it, you’ll see it touts ‘HBO Go.’ But HBO Go is only for people who already have a cable or satellite subscription that includes HBO. As a result, HBO Go is useless for cord-cutters.
Cord cutters who want to watch HBO will need to get HBO Now. You can sign up for a free 1-month trial. If you have Amazon Prime Video, you can also get HBO Now as an add-on to your subscription. You get a small discount when you bundle this way.
Showtime Anytime (from $10.99/month)
Showtime began offering its programming as a standalone streaming service, called Showtime Anytime, in 2015. In addition to a wide variety of movie selections, Showtime also produces original shows like Homeland, Ray Donovan, and The Affair. Like HBO, Showtime’s service includes live TV streaming.
Still, you’ll need to be a big fan of its original shows to justify paying $10.99 per month. You can get Netflix for the same price, and Netflix offers a lot more value. I am a big fan of Showtime’s shows, so what I do is cancel Netflix/Hulu/Amazon and get Showtime Anytime for 1-2 months here and there so I can catch up on my favorites. You can watch Showtime Anytime on Amazon Fire TV, Android devices, Apple devices, Apple TV, Roku, and other devices. PlayStation Vue, Hulu, and Amazon Prime customers can also add Showtime Anytime to their accounts.
A postscript: Showtime supposedly offers a free trial here. I write ‘supposedly’ because Showtime doesn’t state how long this ‘free-trial’ lasts. Showtime just states that it will charge you if you haven’t cancelled within the free-trial period. And I looked over several pages on Showtime’s site…including all the FAQs! Evidently, Showtime expects people to plod through its ‘Terms and Conditions’ page just to find out how long its stupid free trial lasts. Sorry, but I’m not going to do that. If you want Showtime’s ‘free-trial’ you’ll need to do it yourself. Good luck!
Starz Play (from $8.99/month)
In April, Starz launched its new standalone streaming program, called Starz Play, for $8.99/month. Like HBO Now and Showtime Anytime, Starz Play has movies and original programming. If you have Amazon Prime Video, you can also add Starz Play to your account–but it won’t save you any money.
Here’s the link to a 7-day free-trial that Starz graciously outlines in a clear and simple manner on its website.
CBS All Access (from $5.99/month)
On the surface, the CBS All Access service is a head-scratcher. Paying $5.99/month to stream programming that’s free on over-the-air TV is either a testament to the excellence of CBS programming or unbridled arrogance. Nonetheless, CBS does have an extremely popular lineup of shows, from The Big Bang Theory to the 12 difference versions of NCIS Something or Other, to 60 Minutes. CBS All Access serves up all of the current hits, plus old favorites like Star Trek, Taxi, and The Twilight Zone. CBS All Access has a truly impressive on-demand library with over 7,500 episodes at your disposal. New episodes of shows are available to watch on-demand within 24 hours of airing on live TV.
For CBS, the term ‘All Access’ does not include unrestricted streaming of NFL football. Instead of all access you get limited access to NFL games. CBS All Access does include streaming live TV–if you live in the right place. Live TV is only available for about 60 percent of the US market. Another big drawback: Classic shows don’t have commercials, but–even though you’re already paying $5.99/month–CBS does have the gall to stuff ads in their popular daytime, primetime, and late-night content.
Nonetheless, if you love CBS’s shows and want to stream them on your devices, this is the service you need. Try CBS All Access free for a week.
Crackle is free. Crackle is fun. Crackle doesn’t take itself too seriously. So I include it.
Crackle, unapologetically, has a slew of cheezy movies and TV shows many of which are so bad, they’re good. Crackle, for example, proudly highlights the fact that it has all four of the Paranormal Activity movies ready to stream! As of this writing, the Cackle website actually lists Joe Dirt–starring David Spade as a janitor–as one of its recommended movies. On that same ‘Recommended List’ is a Crackle Production called Mad Families with Charlie Sheen as its lead actor. What I like about Crackle is that it’s all done in good fun.
But Crackle also has some legit stuff as well. Some great flicks like Out of Sight with George Clooney, and Snatch with Brad Pitt are available as I write this guide. Also, Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is on Cackle, and that alone makes it worth checking out.
Funny or Die (free)
Funny or Die has, surprisingly, grown into one of the premier comedy sources on the Web. That, along with the fact that it’s free, warrants its inclusion in this list of on-demand streaming services.
MTV gave up on music videos years back. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still watch music videos, concerts, and documentaries. Vevo now carries the torch passed down from the music television networks of the past. Vevo makes it easy to check out music videos from your favorite bands, and has a ton of interesting ‘Behind the Music’ style documentaries. If you want to learn about up-and-coming artists or watch curated music videos that run 24/7, Vevo is your source.
Vudu (Rent/Buy fees: $1.99 SD / $2.99 HD and up for renting or buying individual TV episodes, whole seasons, and movies)
Unlike Hulu or Netflix, Vudu does not require a monthly subscription. With Vudu, you simply head on over, pick out your title, and pay the fee. Vudu has a great selection of both movies and TV shows, and it’s available on all the major devices and operating systems. Vudu’s picture quality is also outstanding.
Vudu has plenty of competition. There are a bunch of other sources like Vudu where you can rent or buy content a-la-carte. All of these have comparable prices and one of them is sure to have whatever title you’re looking for: Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, iTunes, Microsoft Store, PlayStation Store, Fandango Now.
YouTube (Buy fees: $1.99 SD / $2.99 HD and upwards for buying individual episodes and entire seasons)
Everyone thinks of YouTube as the place to go to see the latest viral videos, or to keep up with your favorite YouTube channel. Today, YouTube is much more than that. A couple years back, Google’s video platform began offering excellent content for reasonable prices from select user channels. It’s now possible to browse top-selling and recently-uploaded shows, or to search the selection by genre. Also keep in mind that YouTube offers amazing educational programming that is often better than anything you can find on TV or the rest of the internet. YouTube also has an increasing number of live streams of breaking news, press conferences, sports, music, and more. With streaming devices like Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, or any ‘Smart TV’ it’s now easier than ever to watch YouTube right on your TV screen.
Video-On-Demand Wrap Up
I think you’ll be surprised how much great TV you can watch with these on-demand streaming services. So sign up for some free trials, test drive them a bit, and pick a couple to start with. Remember, you can always swap out at any time, so there are no commitment woes to bog you down.
Read about Live TV Streaming Services in the orange tab above.
Sports Streaming Services
The live TV streaming services you already read about will let you watch a ton of live sports events on popular channels. With an antenna, you can watch games on CBS, ABC, FOX, and NBC for free. But you might still want more. If you’re like me, you don’t want to be restricted to only the games playing on major channels. You don’t have to be. You can watch every game, in every major sport, live — without cable. Here are today’s best options to watch live sports without cable or satellite.
*Cautionary Note: You’ve probably seen websites out there promising “free live sports!!” You’re going to want to stay away from these, as most of them are sleazy. They’re also unreliable, with a terrible user experience. So you’ll want better options — which you’ll find below.
*Geographical Note: This is written for US viewers, but much of it will also work for sports fans outside the US. If you need to digitally appear to be inside the US in order to access a stream or service, you can use a VPN to reroute your internet connection through a US server and bypass any geo-blocks. Similarly, if you want to appear to be outside the US for some reason, you can use a VPN to digitally relocate to the UK, for instance. In general, consumer advocates widely recommend using a VPN for online privacy and security, especially if you use public WiFi or stream from insecure sources. Pretty much any VPN will work, but for the best speeds and reliability you may want to stick with one of these.
Best Sources To Stream Live Sports
+ League Streaming Services
NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and MLS all offer subscription services to live stream games on a variety of devices.
NFL Game Pass: This is an important service for cord cutters who are NFL fans. The US version of Game Pass, however, will only let you watch games on-demand after they’re over. Very lame. But the international version will let you live stream every game — even in quad box! Here’s how to get NFL Game Pass international in the US.
NBA League Pass: This will let you watch live NBA basketball games from all around the league.
MLB.tv: This is a great service to have during baseball season. You can watch live MLB games on any device, all the way through the playoffs.
NHL.TV: Hockey fans in the US and Canada have an excellent option with NHL.TV.
MLS LIVE: This is the service for US soccer fans to get access to live MLS games.
These services are a great way to get access to your all favorite sports and teams. The downside is that many hit subscribers with game blackouts. But the upside is that, unlike with cable, you can get around blackouts. See below for how to avoid blackouts on these services so you can use them to live stream every game. (This also works to get access to these services if you’re outside the US and they’re not available.)
+ Standalone Subscriptions
CBS, HBO, and Showtime all offer standalone subscriptions that will let you live stream their sports programming. You don’t need cable or any other TV package to sign up for these. CBS All Access is $5.99/month with no contracts, but live TV isn’t available in every area so take advantage of the 7-day free trial or check their listings before you buy. HBO NOW and Showtime Anytime, which periodically air sports specials, are each around $15/month with no contracts.
+ Niche Sports Streaming Services
These is limited, but pretty good for soccer and tennis fans. FuboTV has expanded into other sports now, but still offers one of the most comprehensive live soccer streaming services. Tennis TV will give you access to ATP World Tour and WTA matches — but no Grand Slams. It’s $120 for a year, $20/month, or $10 for 24 hours.
+ Kodi (Free Live Sports — But Take Precautions)
Kodi is a media player you can use to stream TV, including live sports. Kodi is free to download and use, and works on almost every device (computer, smartphone, gaming system, Amazon Fire TV, etc.). (What is Kodi?)
By installing add-ons on Kodi, you can stream a lot of live sports. You can use Kodi to watch sports apps that you pay for, like WatchESPN. But Kodi is popular because you can also use it to watch tons of live sports for free — NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, soccer, & more.
In fact, you can stream just about every sports channel and event on Kodi — live and for free. But there are a couple catches. One, the live sports streams aren’t always the best quality. Plus, some of the most popular Kodi add-ons for sports streaming may not exactly be legal. Kodi isn’t illegal, per say, but you can get into trouble with it if you don’t use it the right way. See: Why You Should Always Use Kodi With A VPN.
To see what you can watch on Kodi and how to get started, check out beginner’s guide on how to use Kodi. If you already use it and need help finding the best sources to stream live sports on Kodi, see our list of the best Kodi Add-ons.
+ Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, FuboTV, and YouTube TV
These are discussed in detail in the Live TV Streaming Services tab.
+ World Sports Channels
There are some cool sports channels from other countries that stream tons of live sports, such as beIN and SportsNet, among others. See our picks of some of the world’s best sports channels that live stream online.
The downside — viewers outside the channel’s home country are usually blocked from live sports streams. But, you guessed it, there’s an easy workaround. You just need to use to use a VPN service to bypass the location restrictions so you can stream live sports on any site, from anywhere.
With a VPN, you can instantly unblock sports streams around the world. You can use a VPN to stream sports on any device — computer, phone, tablet, SmartTV, gaming console, router (to stream on Roku, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire TV), and etc.
See our list of the top 5 VPNs for streaming. Any of these will let you unblock sports streams across the globe — but our top pick for sports streaming is ExpressVPN. It’s the fastest, most reliable, has super-easy apps for every device, and has a 30-day money-back guarantee — plus lots of other cool features so you can stream anywhere, anytime. ExpressVPN is also an easy one to set up on your router to use with a streaming device.
+ Network TV
You can watch all the live sports events on NBC, CBS, ABC, and FOX for free with an antenna. This is great news, particularly during the NFL season. See how to choose the right antenna for your home and location.
You can also live stream some games online on the networks’ sports sites — NBC Sports, CBS Sports, and Fox Sports. (ABC owns ESPN and streams most games on WatchESPN instead of on ABC.com. A notable exception is the NBA Finals, which does stream live on ABC’s site.) Mostly, you’ll be required to log in with TV provider credentials. But sometimes, network TV streams are even free. For example, CBS Sports aired a free live stream of the Super Bowl last year.
+ USTVNow Paid Service [For US Citizens Living Abroad]
The USTVNow “All Channels” plan, $20/month, includes ESPN, TBS, and TNT. For a bit more per month, you can add unlimited DVR access to record games you can’t watch live. Again, note this service is only meant for Americans living overseas. If you try to use the service from inside the US, you will get blocked.
I’ve heard of some sports fans use a VPN to make it appear they’re logging on from outside the US, thus unblocking access to all of USTVNow. But this is definitely breaking the rules. It’s a shame, because this really is a great service, especially during the NBA season.
How To Avoid Blackouts On Sports Streaming Services & Apps
Regional game blackouts suck. MLB.tv, NBA TV / NBA League Pass, NFL Game Pass, NHL TV, MLS TV and others subject subscribers to blackouts. It’s a bad business model to shut paying customers out of certain games, if you ask us. So here’s how to get around it on any streaming service, website, or app. (See specific instructions on how to avoid NBA blackouts, or how to avoid NFL blackouts.)
The best and easiest way is by using a handy tool called a VPN. A VPN will pass your Internet connection through a different location, so that you are not subjected to any game blackouts. (What is a VPN?)
There are lots to choose from, but we like ExpressVPN the best. It has the fastest streaming speeds, is very easy to use, doesn’t throttle or disrupt connections, and has a 30-day money-back guarantee. I’ll show you exactly what to do to avoid all game blackouts with ExpressVPN — so you won’t miss a single NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, or MLS game.
1. Get a 30-day money-back trial of ExpressVPN, the best VPN for sports streaming. ExpressVPN is the fastest VPN out there — unlike others that will slow your connection — so you can stream live games at super-high speeds and in HD and Ultra-HD with no ISP throttling. Pick the 12-month plan for the best deal ($8.32/mo).
2. Use the ExpressVPN app to connect to a server in a different country or US city, so you can bypass all game blackouts.
3. Start live streaming every on your favorite streaming services, on any device! As long as you’re connected to an ExpressVPN server, you’ll have access to every game.
It really is that easy, so take advantage of the 30-day money-back offer from ExpressVPN to try it out risk-free. Your friends will be very jealous.
Plus, you can do more than just avoid blackouts. You can unblock live sports of all kinds with ExpressVPN — in fact, you’ll get access to about every geo-blocked website out there.
If you’re a light streamer, a good option for free access is TunnelBear. It’s not as fast, but you can stream up to 500MBs of data a month for free. It works on computers and mobile devices. They also have nice browser extensions for Chrome and Opera. To unblock sports streams with TunnelBear, just set your location to the UK and start watching.