Watch ESPN without cable: Live Streaming Guide


How to watch ESPN without cable

Back around 2014, cutting the cord meant having to give up ESPN. And that was a deal breaker for a lot of people who wanted to lose their cable bill, but not Monday Night Football.

Those days a long gone. Yet plenty of people still wonder what the best option is for live streaming ESPN without cable. The short answer is: Sling TV or DirecTV Now.

Either service lets you watch ESPN live on a Roku or most other streaming devices, including your smartphone. And it’s much cheaper than cable.

Here’s the rub.

Cable companies have been known to not-so-subtly discourage you from cancelling the TV portion of a subscription for an Internet-only deal. So to make this work well long term, you should do two things before calling up Comcast or Spectrum to cancel your cable package.

Before you start live streaming ESPN

  • Check out a number of free trials with services like DirecTV Now and Sling TV. Just about every live streaming platform that’s mentioned below has a free trial that lasts between 5 and 14 days. Try out one or two on your Roku, Amazon Fire TV or other streaming device of choice. It doesn’t cost you a dime as long as you cancel before the trial expires.
  • Get yourself an inexpensive Internet connection. If you call your local cable provider and ask for a deal for just an Internet connection, you’ll probably be quoted a price of $60 or $70 per month. That’s nuts! Don’t do it. Instead, head over to a site like BroadbandNow, and look for Mom and Pop internet providers in your area. You can also read my techniques for lowering the cost of Internet-only plans. See How to get the best deal for Internet without cable for my battle-tested techniques that I still use today to pay as little as $35 to $45 per month for Internet.

Watch ESPN without cable: Top 5 Options

Just about every live streaming service works on Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Android TV devices like a NVIDIA Shield TV.

There are some exceptions, especially with newer services like YouTube TV. Not to worry. This guide will give you a comprehensive breakdown based on my hands on experiences with these platforms and streaming devices.

So you don’t have to go searching anywhere else once you’re done reading this, and you can quickly start watching SportsCenter instead.

Sling TV: best budget option for watching ESPN without cable

There’s no question that Sling TV offers the cheapest way to get ESPN. Sling TV offers two main channel bundles called Sling Orange and Sling Blue.

Sling Orange gives you 30+ channels for only $20 per month. You’ll only be able to stream on one TV, smartphone or tablet at a time. Aside from getting ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN3 is part of your subscription.

Sling Orange also gets you AMC, A&E, Lifetime, EPIX Drive-In, HGTV and IFC in your channel lineup. You can add 50 hours of Cloud DVR storage for an extra $5 per month. ESPN isn’t available in the Sling Blue package unless you combine it with Sling Orange.

PROS: You can get ESPN for as little as $20 per month! You’ll also get full access to WatchESPN app.

CONS: Sling TV doesn’t let you use Cloud DVR for recording games or shows on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3 and others.

OPTIONS: Try out Sling TV free for 7-days, or pre-pay for two or three months and get a free Roku.

Sling TV works on pretty much any streaming device, including Roku, Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV. You can also stream on your smartphone and PC with its in-browser app.

DirecTV Now: Best mobile option for live streaming ESPN

DirecTV Now has the best channel selection and the most flexibility with where you watch ESPN. You can live stream ESPN from a DirecTV Now app on a Roku, Fire TV and any other streaming device. If you’re not at home, you can live stream ESPN on your DirecTV Now mobile app. And you won’t have to worry about using up all your data if you’re already an AT&T customer.

DirecTV Now includes ESPN in the entry-level “Live a Little” package, which gives you 60+ live channels -for $35 per month. You’ll also get ESPN2, FS1 and plenty of entertainment channels like A&E, FX and  TBS. ESPN is offered in all four of DirecTV Now’s channel lineup. You can live stream on two devices at once with DirecTV Now.

A subscription also gives you access to about 54 TV Everywhere apps like WatchESPN and FOX Sports Go. The advantage of these apps is that you can watch live feeds of games from outside your home, and even tap into some other channels that may be offered within the app, but not your subscription.

PROS: Stream at home or on your smartphone. TV Everywhere access to WatchESPN and more than 50 other apps.

CONS: Cloud DVR won’t be available until 2018.

OPTIONS: Try any package of DirecTV Now free for 7-days. If you prepay for a brief subscription, you get an Apple TV

YouTube TV: Watch ESPN without cable on NVIDIA Shield TV, Chromecast

YouTube TV has an impressive lineup of 40+ channels for $35 per month. ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN U, SEC ESPN and ESPN News is part of its channel lineup.

Unlimited Cloud DVR is included with a subscription. And you can create up to 6 profiles for a household per account.

YouTube TV has a nice mix of channels that will include at least a few locals in your area. You’ll also be able to watch Nat Geo Wild, BBC America, Golf Channel and FXM. YouTube TV started out as just being available on Chromecast, Apple TV via AirPlay and on mobile devices.

But that’s quickly changing.

A new app just rolled out for NVIDIA Shield TV, and an app for Roku should be coming sometime over the next several weeks.  I tried out YouTube TV and I really loved it. It’s now available in more than half the U.S. You can stream on three devices at once with YouTube TV.

And while you can’t (legally) watch ESPN for free on the Internet, YouTube TV does offer the longest free trial around – two whole weeks.

PROS: Nice, varied channel selection, and unlimited Cloud DVR.

CONS: Limited device support (for now).

OPTIONS: Try out YouTube TV for free with a 2-week free trial.

PlayStation Vue: Watch ESPN without cable or satellite

The Access channel bundle on PlayStation Vue will ensure that you’ll never miss an episode of Around The Horn or Mike & Mike. ESPN is among 48+ live channels that you’ll get for $39.99 per month. Cloud DVR is part of any subscription, and there’s no limit to its storage capacity. Animal Planet, Investigation Discovery and National Geographic are part of this channel bundle. You can stream on up to five devices at once with PlayStation Vue.

I’ve used PlayStation Vue for more than a year and it’s a really dependable service that makes a nice alternative to cable. PlayStation Vue raised its prices over the summer, making the entry level price to the Access bundle $10 more per month.

PROS: Good channel selection. Widespread TV Everywhere access, including WatchESPN app.

CONS: Among the top-priced platforms.

OPTIONS: Only a 5-day free trial.

Hulu with Live TV: New option to watch ESPN without cable

One of the newer options for getting ESPN is through Hulu with Live TV. This new live streaming service works on all major streaming devices like Roku, Apple TV, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and Amazon Fire TV. The Live TV option with Hulu gets you 50+ channels.

Aside from ESPN, you’ll get CBS, FOX, FX, History Channel, HGTV and both National Geographic channels. Cloud DVR with 50 hours of storage is part of the Live TV package, which costs $39.99 per month. You can watch on two screens at the same time with a Hulu with Live TV subscription.

PROS: Comes with on-demand access to all Hulu content, including movies, documentaries and Hulu’s original shows.

CONS: Among the top-priced platforms.

OPTIONS: Try out Hulu with Live TV free for a week

Is ESPN on fuboTV?

No. Despite fuboTV being one of the top sports live streaming platforms around, it’s without ESPN. So you will have to rely on the following to watch ESPN without cable: Sling TV, DirecTV Now, YouTube TV, PlayStation Vue and Hulu with Live TV.

What’s the best way to watch ESPN without cable?

DirecTV Now is one of the better ways to watch ESPN without cable. DirecTV Now brings the most value to the table for $35 per month. You get 60+ channels, a robust library of movies on-demand, and the ability to access more than 53 TV Everywhere apps including the WatchESPN app. You can use two live streams simultaneously. So you can watch Monday Night Football in one room, while you’re significant other is catching up on a movie or HGTV. DirecTV Now is also designed for people who like to watch live TV on their smartphones.

You can try out DirecTV Now free for 7 days, or get an Apple TV by prepaying for a brief subscription.

Hulu with Live TV free for a week is a great option because you’ll also get access to Hulu’s massive on-demand library, and Hulu Originals like “The Handmaid’s Tale”.

Sling TV is a budget option because you’ll only need to pay $20 per month. Check out Sling Orange free for 7 days. If you want a free or discounted Roku, then you can look into the prepaid options as well. 

The best thing about live streaming is that – unlike cable – you can easily cancel online anytime without any penalties or obligation. What’s your favorite way to watch ESPN without cable?

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1 Comment on Watch ESPN without cable: Live Streaming Guide

  1. I just switched from PSVue to YouTubeTV because, well, it’s $10/month cheaper.
    I decided that savings was worth the hassle of having to “cast” from my laptop or tablet or phone to one of my Chromecast, since while my FireTV boxes and PS4’s had apps for PSVue, no such app exists yet for YouTubeTV. I find this silly since FireTV runs Android, Google owns YouTubeTV and produces Android, it would be nothing for them to submit a YouTubeTV to the Amazon app store like Sony, Hulu, DirectTV, etc. all have.

    One note about YouTubeTV: If you have “old” original Chromecast’s like I do, you’ll get a warning message when you start casting to them. So every “live” show takes 10-15 seconds to start playing. After your first paid month Google is supposed to offer you a free current gen Chromecast, so I’ll stand by to get that offer from Google before I judge too harshly that my Chromecast hardware is out of date.

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