You can cancel cable and still watch live sports—here's how
Want to ditch cable and still watch your favorite team? It's easier than ever.
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If you're tired of paying for cable TV service every month, it's never been easier (and cheaper) to ditch it. Services like YouTube TV, Sling TV, Hulu Live TV, DirecTV Now, and Playstation Vue all offer bundles that—just like cable—allow you to livestream channels like ESPN, HGTV, FX, and more.
But if you're into sports, ESPN alone doesn't cut it. Though not every service offers every channel, for most people it should be easy to find a bundle that nets you all the channels you're getting now (if not more) without the hassle of a cable subscription or price agreement.
The only problem? There are so many options it can be tricky to find one that works for you. We're here to help. Here we'll walk you through the available services, which sports channels they offer, and what it'll cost you to get them. For starters, let's look at the available streaming services and what their base packages cost:
Cost: $25-40/mo depending on bundle, $5 and up for add-on packages
Available on: Windows, Macs, Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast
Streams on mobile?: Yes, on Android, Windows, and iOS
Local Broadcast?: Some markets and some plans only
DVR and On Demand?: Cloud DVR with 50 hours storage for $5/mo
With Sling TV there are two base packages, Blue and Orange (both $25/mo). This is super frustrating because Blue includes ESPN (but not FOX or FS1), and Orange includes FOX and FS1/2 (but not ESPN).
You can pay $5/mo with either package to add more sports channels but those add-on bundles are different too. You can get an "Orange+Blue" bundle for $40/mo and get ESPN and the Fox channels (plus $5 more for extra sports channels), but it's a confusing mess.
Hulu Live TV
Available on: Apple TV, Xbox One, Chromecast, Fire TV, Android, iOS, and Mac/PC
Streams on mobile?: Yes, on Android & iOS apps
Local Broadcast?: Yes, widely available
DVR and On Demand?: Yes: 50 hrs DVR standard, 200 hrs DVR for $15/month
Hulu Live TV's combination of local broadcast channels, a wide array of regional sports networks, and sports cable channels like ESPN and FS1/2 for just $40 is a great fit for lots of people. The only issue is that we found the coverage of regional sports networks could be a bit spotty. Here in Boston you don't get NESN, for example, which is included in other services, so your mileage may vary.
Cost: $35-70/mo depending on bundle selection
Available on: Windows, Macs, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast
Streams on mobile?: Yes, on Android, Windows, and iOS with restrictions
Local Broadcast?: Yes, but not in all markets (now including CBS)
DVR and On Demand?: On Demand is available but delayed, Cloud DVR in "Beta"
DirecTV Now comes in 5 different bundles, so it can be a bit confusing to compare with the competition. The $50/mo "Just Right" bundle is the cheapest that includes regional sports networks, and it also gets you ESPN, FS1, and networks like YES. That's not as cheap as Hulu or Youtube TV, though, and you need to jump up another $10 to get FS2—something you get with other cheaper bundles already.
Cost: $39.99-74.99/mo depending on bundle selection
Available on: PS3/PS4, Windows, Macs, Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast
Streams on mobile?: iOS and Android, but heavily restricted outside home
Local Broadcast?: Yes, but only in a some markets
DVR and On Demand?: Cloud-based DVR and On Demand are available
Playstation Vue is a compelling service that has some great bundles, but you'll want to check and make sure it offers local broadcast networks in your area. Even then, many of the broadcast stations are on-demand-only, so live sports aren't an option. PS Vue does have the NFL Network and a lot of the Fox College Sports networks if you buy the $10 sports package, but at a minimum that bundle will cost you $55/mo total.
Available on: Windows, Macs, Android TV, Chromecast
Streams on mobile?: Yes, on iOS and Android
Local Broadcast?: Yes, local broadcast in these markets, including some sports cable channels
Premium channels?: Yes, Showtime is an additional $11/mo each and Fox Soccer Plus is $15/mo
DVR and On Demand?: Unlimited cloud-based DVR storage and On Demand are available
Youtube TV is the newest competitor in the streaming landscape, and it's very compelling for just $40/mo. For that you get live broadcast in most major markets, regional sports networks like YES/NESN, ESPN, FS1/2, and the SEC network. It's missing some biggies like the NFL Network, though that's always subject to change.
So which one is the best?
Unfortunately, none of the live TV streaming options offer you everything for a low price. Youtube TV, Sling, and Hulu Live TV are great places to start, though, as they should cover most people's needs for the most popular sports.
That said, it's critical you make sure that your bundle of choice actually works for the teams you want to watch. You can do that by heading to each service's page and entering your zip code to see what local broadcast and regional sports network you'll get.
Now, this gets a bit trickier if you are looking to watch out of market games. Most of the time, if you want to catch those you'll still need to invest in a premium league pass program like NFL Sunday Ticket. Worst case, if you're not sure, all these services offer free trials of at least a week. If you're unsure if a game will be on, that's the best way to know for sure.