ESPN has been entertaining sports fans since 1978, but today it’s far from its days of being exclusive to cable TV and satellite packages.
If you want to watch live sports on ESPN, streaming services offer the most flexibility and the best price compared to cable TV.
Hulu Live TV, YouTube TV and other live TV streaming services can give you a robust lineup of ESPN networks that is no different than a cable package. And some have extra features and perks that traditional TV bundles are without.
Savvy cord-cutters also know that network TV broadcasts on ABC at times simulcasts some professional sports from ESPN. You can watch ABC for free if you use a TV antenna. This article also covers using the ESPN app, streaming ESPN Plus and on-demand content.
Table of Contents
- How to Stream ESPN without cable
- Watching ESPN without cable FAQs
- What’s the best way to watch ESPN without cable?
How to Stream ESPN without cable
All you need to start streaming ESPN live is an Internet connection, a streaming device or Smart TV.
A Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Fire Stick or Apple TV will do the job. Smart TVs by Samsung, Sony Bravia and LG also support most live TV services. Game consoles including XBox and PlayStation also work.
If you are a sports fan in search of your ideal streaming service that has ESPN, chances are you want other sports channels too.
ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN3, ACC Network, Big Ten Network, CBS Sports Network, SEC Network, NBA TV, Longhorn Network, MLB Network, ESPNews and ESPN Deportes cover football, baseball and other professional and college sports.
Local channels will also matter, too. You may want ESPN for Monday Night Football during NFL season, but you will also need a local broadcast networks such as ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX to watch your favorite NFL team.
I’ll be sure to mention whether the streaming platforms below carry those channels.
Some of these services have a free trial that lasts a week without any obligation. Just remember to cancel before the trial ends if you decide that the streaming service isn’t for you.
A subscription costs $35 per month. Subscribers get 50 hours of Cloud DVR storage. Sling Blue subscribers get NFL Network, FOX Sports 1, and FOX Sports 2. To maximize sports channels, you can combine the Sling TV Blue with Sling TV Orange for $50 per month.
Sling TV works on just about any streaming device: Roku, Firestick, Apple TV and even an Xbox. It is also supported by Samsung Smart TVs and Smart TVs operating on Android TV or Google TV. Sling TV also supports mobile apps for iOS and Android.
Sling TV also has the cheapest sports add-on channel package at $11 per month. That adds networks such as NBA TV, SEC Network and MLB Network.
There are no hidden fees or contracts if you decide to keep the service. You can even use your subscription to activate the ESPN app after you sign up for service. You can look over the latest offer Sling TV has for new and returning customers.
YouTube TV has 85+ channels, including ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and NBA TV for $64.99 per month.
The YouTube TV base plan also carries other key sports channels for fans such as TNT, TBS, SEC Network, ACC Network, ESPNews, FS1, FS2, NFL Network, and MLB Network. YouTube TV carries regional NBC Sports networks across the U.S., but is missing others such as Bally Sports and YES Network.
Despite those missing RSNs, YouTube TV is still one of the best sports streaming services for your money.
The nice thing about YouTube TV is that you can watch ESPN online at home, or on your smartphone when you are traveling.
The service works with Chromecast, Roku, Fire TV, NVIDIA Shield TV, Apple TV and Chromecast. Try out YouTube TV free for a week.
The Pro channel package has 140 channels, including local ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX in most areas of the U.S. Food network, HGTV, Big Ten Network and Comedy Central are part of the starter bundle.
Subscribers get 1000 hours of Cloud DVR storage. If you miss a game, you can use fuboTV’s “look back” feature to watch sporting events that aired in the last 72 hours.
A subscription costs $69.99 per month. fuboTV has a library of on-demand movies, and TV shows. Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Apple TV and Smart TVs all carry the fuboTV app.
Fubo has mobile apps for iPhone and Android so you can watch ESPN live on your smartphone. Subscribers can also watch live TV through their web browser.
Hulu Live TV
You can watch live TV on up to two screens at once.
Hulu with Live TV comes with unlimited Cloud DVR storage so you can record sports, news, movies or whatever else you want. Hulu carries local ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC across the U.S.
A subscription costs $69.99 per month, and now includes Disney+ and ESPN+. With a Hulu Live TV subscription, you can activate the ESPN app for ESPN3, and unlock all live sports on ESPN Plus.
So you’re getting more than just live TV channels to watch.
Hulu’s channel lineup also has local NBC, ABC and FOX stations across the U.S. Hulu no longer offers a free trial for live TV, but you can look over the channel lineup before deciding whether to sign up.
Vidgo lets you live stream ESPN on a Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and iPhone.
If you’re someone who like to weigh in online during sporting events, Vidgo’s mobile app is worth a try because you can participate in ‘watch parties’ for TV shows and sporting events.
The live TV service has 110+ channels, including Big Ten Network, SEC Network, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Goal Line, ESPNU, ESPN2 and ESPNews.
Subscribers get local FOX and ABC affiliates in some markets. A Vidgo subscription costs $59.95 per month. You can look over the channel packages before deciding whether to sign up.
DIRECTV STREAM (formerly AT&T TV) is the only live TV streaming service that carries ESPN and regional Bally Sports Networks.
Across most of the U.S., that combination of sports networks is important if you’re a fan of your local Major League Baseball team.
The Choice plan, which carries 90+ channels, is $89.99 per month. You can sign up for a free 5-day trial without any obligations.
Subscribers can get three months of HBO Max, Showtime, Cinemax and EPIX for free before the monthly rates kick in.
A&E, History and USA Network are included in the channel lineup. You get unlimited hours of Cloud DVR and 40,000 on-demand movies and shows.
You can watch live TV on up to 20 screens at once. If you have used AT&T TV in the past, then you should be pretty familiar the streaming quality and capabilities of DIRECTV STREAM.
DIRECTV STREAM works on Roku, Android TV, Fire TV devices, Apple TV and smartphones and tablets. Subscriptions run month to month and so you can cancel whenever you want.
You can look over the different channel lineups before deciding whether to sign up.
Watching ESPN without cable FAQs
Here are some questions that sports fans ask when searching for ways to watch ESPN without cable.
Is the ESPN app free?
The ESPN app is free to download, but you need a cable TV, satellite or streaming service to activate the app to watch live sports. Activating the ESPN app also gives you access to ESPN3 with most providers.
Does ESPN+ include ESPN?
No. ESPN+ is a standalone streaming service that has daily MLB and NHL games and other programs for $9.99 per month. The service does not get you the ESPN cable networks, including ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3 or ESPNews.
But you can watch a hundreds of exclusive college football, NCAA basketball games and UFC fights. A subscription to ESPN Plus costs $9.99 per month, or get it with Hulu and Disney+ for $13.99 per month as part of the Disney Plus bundle.
Does the WatchESPN app still exist?
No, not anymore. But some people still refer to the modern ESPN app as WatchESPN. The WatchESPN app shut down on July 1, 2019 and was replaced with the ESPN app.
Can I watch ESPN live on Amazon Prime?
No. ESPN is available only through a cable provider, or a live TV streaming service. DIRECTV STREAM, fuboTV, Hulu + Live TV, Sling TV, Vidgo and YouTube TV all include ESPN in their channel lineups.
Can I live stream ESPN for free?
ESPN, the cable network, is not free. The ESPN app (formerly the WatchESPN app) is free to download. However, you need to activate the app as a cable subscriber or through a live TV streaming service to watch live sports.
ESPN+ subscribers also get specific live sporting events that are exclusive to the service.
Is it possible to watch ESPN using a TV antenna?
No. ESPN is a cable TV network, not a broadcast network that uses public airwaves. Over the years, ABC has simulcast live sports that also airs on ESPN. This year, ABC will air seven Monday Night Football games that are a simulcast from ESPN.
A TV antenna can get you those broadcasts for free along with other over-the-air broadcasters such as NBC, CBS and FOX.
Can I watch ESPN3 on YouTube TV?
Yes, YouTube TV supports watching ESPN3 without cable. Subscribers to DIRECTV STREAM, Hulu Live TV, Sling TV (Orange plan), Vidgo and YouTube TV can all access ESPN3 through the ESPN app.
What’s the best way to watch ESPN without cable?
For more regional sports networks you’ll want to add the Sling TV Blue bundle as well, which doubles your channel lineup for $50 per month. You can get a free or discounted streaming device if you sign up for a brief subscription.
The best thing about live streaming is that – unlike cable – you can easily cancel online anytime without any penalties or obligation.
Note: This guide was originally published on Nov. 9, 2017 and has been updated in September 2022 to reflect the latest plans and pricing.
Founder and Editor of The Cord Cutting Report. Before launching the site in 2016, he worked for more than two decades as a staff writer or correspondent for a number of daily newspapers, including The Boston Globe. His enthusiasm for tech began with the Atari 2600. Follow @james_kimble