Some days, it’s great to be a sports fan. After a dramatic Winter Olympics, Rafael Nadal winning his 21st Grand Slam at the Australian Open, and seeing Kansas make a comeback during March Madness, we’re now squarely in the spring of content: MLB Opening Day is here, as is soccer, and the NBA and NHL postseasons, plus plenty of tennis and golf, are just around the corner.
The downside is that, for a cable subscriber, just watching those events costs you a slice of the hundred or hundreds you cough up every month to your provider. Or maybe you’ll miss out on watching them entirely because you cut the cord and kept only Netflix and HBO Max, giving up the thrills of athletic competition in favor of those found on Squid Game and Succession.
Fortunately, there’s a happy medium — signing up for a streaming service that also gives you access to the live action. There are myriad options out there and, while none will give you every channel your heart could desire, there are many that will help you save a few bucks while making sure you don’t miss out on most sports, from the mainstream to the niche. Here, we present the best options and the many features they offer to help you decide where to shell out so you don’t miss your favorite game, match, fight, race, or event, provided you have an internet connection.
The gist of Sling is that it offers up some of the broadcast and a lot of the cable channels at a much lower price than what you’d get from, say, Xfinity or Spectrum. There are two basic packages, Orange and Blue, that have different channel lineups. If you’re an NBA fan, Sling says you’ll want to go with Orange, as that includes three ESPNs and TNT, while Blue is better for college hoops with its inclusion of TBS and truTV. You can subscribe to both for $50 a month.
The major downside to Sling is that only Blue carries NBC and Fox, and neither carries ABC or CBS, the latter of which is home to a lot of the big NCAA basketball action, including the title game. If you’re looking for more sports, there’s an add-on $11 package with NBA TV, the MLB and NHL networks, the Tennis Channel, and college sports from ESPNU and the SEC and ACC networks. Showtime is also an extra $10 if you like their boxing coverage (or consider Yellowjackets sports).
Leagues available: NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS, Premier League, Ligue 1, Liga MX, golf, tennis, college football and basketball, and more, depending on the plan or add-ons you opt into.
Cost: Starting at $35 per month, with multiple add-on options.
Free trial? Not anymore, at least not through Sling’s website. The company says that it still offers some free programming and device-specific trials, but it’s a bit convoluted.
Hulu + Live TV
Hulu’s live-TV option is a lot like Sling, except it has 65 channels — 14 dedicated solely to sports — plus its streaming library and a bundle that includes Disney+ and ESPN+. Here, you get local channels, the ESPNs, FS1 and 2, CBS Sports, TNT, NFL Network, the Golf Channel, and, for watching college hoops, TBS and truTV, among many more. Depending on where you live, you might also get a regional sports channel — for example, if you live in New York, you’ll have SNY, home of the Mets. There’s also the option of adding NFL RedZone, the Outdoor and Sportsman channels, and TVG for horse racing. New Yorkers won’t find NFL Network, MLB Network, or NBA TV, though.
Leagues available: NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, NCAA, EPL, MLS, NASCAR, WWE, and UFC; major tournaments in the WNBA, golf, tennis, and more, per Hulu.
Cost: $70 per month ($76 for no ads when watching its on-demand library).
Free trial? Nope. They stopped offering it in December 2021, the jerks.
You can also get ESPN+ as a stand-alone, but keep in mind that it’s not the same as watching ESPN the channel. Its live sports offerings are somewhat limited — more a welcome supplement or a budget-conscious add-on if you’re, say, a hockey die-hard, than a full-fledged live streaming service. Still, for the price it punches its weight, carrying several popular leagues for soccer, hockey, tennis, golf, cricket, lacrosse, and plenty of college sports. It’s also got ESPN’s original documentaries, including all of the 30 for 30 series.
Leagues available: NHL (and several other hockey leagues), college football and basketball, MLS, international soccer leagues like Bundesliga and La Liga, lacrosse, several cricket leagues, and more, per ESPN+.
Cost: $7 per month or $70 for a year.
Free trial? The stand-alone ESPN+ also doesn’t have a free trial.
With the exception of the NFL Network and some NBC sports channels, DirecTV has pretty much everything you can want for sports. The basic $70 package has ESPN and some other sports options, but you’ll want to go for the $85 Choice service to get college, regional, and MLB and NBA channels. For another $10, you get an added six sports channels, including CBS, NHL, Golf, and Sportsman. It also allows you to simultaneously stream its content on up to 20 devices, which you might consider necessary if you own a bar, have a huge family, or live in a frat house.
Leagues available: NBA, MLB, NHL, NFL, MLS, La Liga, Europa League, Champions League, golf, college sports, plus a wide swathe of regional sports and that you might otherwise need cable to get. Consult the full lineup.
Cost: Starting at $70 per month.
Free trial? Sorta. You can get a full refund on a new account if you cancel within 14 days, but you still have to pay some upfront costs.
With the basic YouTube TV subscription, you’re covered for the big networks for the most popular sports. A trio of ESPNs, FS1 and 2, CBS, and NBC Sports, plus the proprietary channels of MLB, NBA, NFL, Tennis, and Golf channels, and college networks like the SEC and Big Ten. If you’re looking to record events for next-day viewing or posterity, YouTube’s DVR is unmatched among streamers — the storage space is unlimited, with the caveat that you can only keep it for a max of nine months. Still, that’s enough to record your favorite MLB team’s entire 162-game season, plus playoffs, if you desire.
Leagues available: NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, WNBA, NCAA, Premier League, FIFA World Cup, Liga MX, golf, tennis, and more, per YouTube TV’s full directory.
Cost: $65 per month.
Free trial? Currently, you can try it out for 14 days before making the commitment. (Consult YouTube’s explainer on this too.)
Fubo basically has all the main cable options, except for TNT, TBS, and truTV (sorry to March Madness fans), and, unless you sign up for League Pass for $15 a month, out-of-market NBA games. But other than that, you can play around with the packages and add-ons to figure out which configuration is right for you. For example, there’s the $11 per month add-on, billed quarterly, that’s all about international sports, specifically soccer, with ESPN and Fox’s Deportes channels, plus Real Madrid’s proprietary channel. There’s something for everyone here, except, of course, those who crave the analysis from Shaq and Barkley on TNT.
Leagues available: NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, college football and basketball, WWE, golf, NASCAR, MLS, Premier League, Brasileirão Serie A, Liga MX, and a lot more.
Cost: $70 per month.
Free trial? Seven days.
NBC’s streaming service has a lot of sports, but outside of Premier League soccer and the Olympics, it’s in somewhat of a piecemeal fashion. During football season, you’ll get the Sunday night games plus the Football Night in America pregame show, and beginning this May, Peacock will air Sunday morning baseball, with a select slate of contests starting at 11:30 a.m. and noon ET. So it’s an affordable option if you’re in the market for specific sports — or if you just want to pay $5 for a single month to catch the Olympics next time around.
Leagues available: The Olympics (in full), NFL (including the Super Bowl), MLB (on Sundays), WWE, IndyCar racing, Premier League, rugby, cycling, and more.
Cost: $5 per month or $50 a year.
Free trial? None.
Paramount+’s sports offerings are similar to Peacock’s in that they’re limited but can be the right fit depending on your tastes. For the basic, ad-supported $5 plan, you’ll be able to watch the CBS NFL games plus English-language coverage of all the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, and UEFA Europa Conference League matches. Then there’s the $10 Premium tier, which adds in NCAA basketball (with the entire tournament available), the Masters and other PGA events, SEC on CBS games, and Combate Global MMA. If you’re only signing up for this service to watch the college-basketball tournament, you can always go for the seven-day free trial and cancel your Premium subscription right after the winner is crowned in early April.
Leagues available: Limited NFL, college basketball, UEFA, PGA, and some MMA.
Cost: Starting at $5 per month or $50 per year for the basic version, or $10 a month or $100 a year for Premium.
Free trial? Seven days.
Apple’s foray into both live programming and the sports world begins with a deal with Major League Baseball to exclusively broadcast two games every Friday night. While the first 12 weeks of games are free to watch for anyone who can access the Apple TV+ service, the company has yet to announce what kind of subscription will be required after that period. Given that the Apple TV+ app isn’t available on Android devices, users will have to watch Friday Night Baseball, as they’ve dubbed it, through their web browser of choice at tv.apple.com. There will also be some other baseball content, including on-demand classic games, replays of the Friday contests, and a live highlight show, MLB Big Inning.
Leagues available: Just the MLB, for now.
Cost: Free for baseball games through the end of June. The full service is $4.99 per month.
Free trial? Twelve weeks of baseball, as mentioned. The full service has a seven-day trial.
Amazon Prime Video
You’re not going to sign up for Prime for the sports coverage, but if you’re looking for some games to go along with your Bosch and next-day delivery of gardening gloves, the streamer has a few offerings: Thursday-night NFL and select WNBA games, plus some Yankees tilts if you live in the New York region. Otherwise, you can always just add in a premium subscription, like NBA League Pass for $200 a season.
Leagues available: Limited NFL, WNBA, and baseball offerings, plus add-on options, including the NBA (League Pass), boxing (through Showtime), and MLB (through MLB.tv).
Cost: $15 per month.
Free trial? Seven days.
For American subscribers, DAZN caters mostly to fight fans, with plenty of exclusive live and on-demand boxing and MMA, excluding UFC. On top of that, you’ll get documentaries, soccer, snooker, and darts.
Leagues available: Women’s UEFA soccer, MMA, boxing (including an archive), Masters snooker, and Premier League darts.
Cost: $20 per month or $100 per year.
Free trial? One month.
If you’re looking to watch eSports, certain traditional sporting events, or just randos doing whatever they feel like, you can just head to Twitch without signing up. The streamer doesn’t have regularly scheduled games and bouts but does have deals in place with top leagues and fighting promotions to broadcast select events throughout the year, so it can be a fun place to watch and chat along, but it’s not a place to go if you’re looking for consistency in your viewing. The paid subscriptions are more for supporting certain channels and come with varying perks, including unique emoticons, ad-free viewing, exclusive streams, and subscriber-only chat functions.
Cost: Free to watch, subscriptions start at $5 per month.
Three of the top four major sports leagues in the States — MLB, NFL, and NBA — each have their own subscription service for out-of-market games, making those ideal for those who live far away from their team of choice. (The NHL’s dedicated service, NHL.tv, was rolled up under ESPN+ in 2021.) The NFL’s Sunday Ticket is a pain — you can only get it without signing up for DirecTV if you live in certain areas where that service isn’t available — and it costs a ton, running $300 per season or $400 if you want RedZone and a fantasy football channel. Luckily, that DirecTV deal is expiring after the 2022 season, so there’s hope that it becomes more widely and easily available.
Cost: Varies widely by plan, sport, and season — from MLB.tv’s current yearly package (now $140, with single-team packages for $120) to NBA’s League Pass (now $50, versus $230 for the regular season) to NFL’s Sunday Ticket bundle with RedZone ($400).
Buy an Antenna
Yes, you can still get television over the airwaves, literally. Even some of the cheapest digital antennas let you get the major broadcast networks that host sports — ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox — without any subscription, provided you don’t live in a completely remote location. Believe it or not, there are even some rabbit-eared versions you can buy on the cheap to get HD viewing of whatever major events, like the World Series, Super Bowl, and NCAA tourney, are on.
Cost: Antennas Direct’s ClearStream Eclipse TV model is great and goes for $40, but cheaper models will also get the job done.
If you subscribe to a service through our links, Vulture may earn an affiliate commission.