Since its launch in 1978, ESPN has evolved from exclusive cable TV and satellite access to widespread digital availability.
Today, fans can watch ESPN without a traditional cable package, thanks to live TV streaming services like Sling TV, YouTube TV, Fubo, Hulu Live TV, and DIRECTV STREAM.
These platforms offer ESPN as a live channel, often at better prices than cable. Another, completely different option is on the horizon.
A new sports-focused streaming service featuring ESPN, FOX, and Warner Bros. Discovery is set to debut this fall. This service promises to further expand the ways fans can access ESPN live alongside a dozen more sports networks.
How to Watch ESPN Without Cable
Live TV streaming services provide a full range of ESPN networks, similar to cable packages but with extra features. To start streaming ESPN live, all you need is an internet connection and a Smart TV or streaming device such as a Roku.
Sling TV’s Orange plan is currently the cheapest option to watch ESPN without cable at $40 per month. Not ready to commit? Before you drop cable forever and become a cord-cutter, you can get a free trial of DIRECTV STREAM, Fubo or YouTube TV. Be sure to cancel before the trial ends if you don’t want to be billed.
A number of these streaming services that carry ESPN sibling networks such as ACC Network or SEC Network can activate the ESPN app for extra live streams not found in your channel lineup such as ACC Network Extra, and SEC Network+.
ABC broadcasts, available for free with a TV antenna, at times simulcast sports events from ESPN. This article also covers the ESPN app, ESPN Plus, and on-demand content, so you won’t miss out.
The streaming services covered in this comprehensive guide are supported across a wide range of TV-related hardware, including Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Chromecast with Google TV and Apple TV. Smart TVs from Samsung, Sony Bravia, VIZIO and LG support these services. Game consoles like Xbox and PlayStation are also compatible.
Sling TV: Stream ESPN Affordably
Sling TV offers the most cost-effective way to access ESPN live.
With the Sling TV Orange plan, you can enjoy ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPN3 among 32 other channels for just $40 per month. This plan includes 50 hours of Cloud DVR storage.
For fans wanting other sports networks, the Sling Blue plan adds NFL Network, FOX Sports 1, and FOX Sports 2. You can combine Orange and Blue for a comprehensive sports lineup at $55 per month.
Sling TV is compatible with nearly all streaming devices, including Roku, Firestick, Apple TV, and Xbox.
It also works on Samsung Smart TVs and those using Android TV or Google TV platforms. Sling TV supports mobile streaming on iOS and Android devices. I have been a Sling customer on and off over the years and they provide smooth streaming and crisp picture clarity at a budget price.
The service offers the most affordable sports add-on package at $11 per month, adding NBA TV, SEC Network, and MLB Network. With no hidden fees or contracts, Sling TV provides flexibility and value. Subscribers can also activate the ESPN app for extended coverage. Check out Sling TV’s latest offers for new and returning customers.
|41 (Locals included)
|Orange + Blue
YouTube TV: Streaming ESPN Coverage
YouTube TV features an expansive channel lineup, including ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, and NBA TV among its 128 channels, priced at $72.99 per month.
This plan covers essential sports channels like TNT, TBS, SEC Network, ACC Network, ESPNews, FS1, FS2, NFL Network, and MLB Network.
While it lacks some regional sports networks (RSNs) like Bally Sports and YES Network, YouTube TV remains a top choice for sports streaming.
Subscribers get unlimited Cloud DVR storage and can create up to six profiles per account. YouTube TV’s profile system makes it easy to build a personal watchlist, and maintain your own DVR recordings.
YouTube TV allows you to watch ESPN online both at home and on the go. The service is compatible with devices such as Chromecast, Roku, Fire TV, NVIDIA Shield TV, and Apple TV.
Offering a free 7-day trial, YouTube TV invites users to experience its comprehensive sports and entertainment offerings without an immediate commitment.
Fubo: Watch ESPN Live Without Cable
Fubo (formerly fuboTV) stands out by offering ESPN alongside hard-to-find regional sports networks like NESN, Bally Sports, and ROOT Sports Northwest.
Its Pro channel package has over 189 channels with local coverage from ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX in most U.S. areas. Food Network, HGTV, Big Ten Network, and Comedy Central are some of the top entertainment networks in the Pro package.
Subscribers get 1,000 hours of Cloud DVR storage, and the unique “look back” feature allows you to catch up on games you’ve missed in the last 72 hours.
Priced at $79.99 per month, Fubo also offers an extensive on-demand library of hit movies and TV shows. The service is compatible with Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Apple TV, and various Smart TVs.
The Elite package adds an additional 65 channels, including the Pac-12 Networks, enhancing your sports viewing options.
Subscribers to the Elite and Premier packages get select sporting events in 4K. I have enjoyed Fubo, especially when I need a regional sports network such as NESN to watch in-market MLB and NHL games.
Fubo supports mobile streaming on iPhone and Android, making it easy to watch ESPN live wherever you are. New users can explore fuboTV with a seven-day free trial or review the channel lineup for their area.
|264 & Showtime
Hulu Live TV: Streaming ESPN & ESPN+
Hulu Live TV offers a robust selection of over 90 live TV channels, featuring ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN College Extra, ACC Network, CBS Sports Network, and SEC Network.
Hulu’s live TV service costs $76.99 per month, and stands out because it includes ad-supported subscriptions to ESPN+ and Disney+. Hulu carries some regional sports networks (RSNs) like NBC Sports Chicago, but lacks Bally Sports and YES Network.
With Hulu Live TV, viewers can stream on up to two screens simultaneously and enjoy unlimited Cloud DVR storage for recording their favorite sports, news, and movies.
The service has local channel access, including ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC, across the U.S. Subscribers can use their Hulu Live TV subscription to activate the ESPN app for ESPN3 access and unlock all live sports on ESPN Plus.
While Hulu has phased out its live TV free trial, potential subscribers can still peruse the channel lineup before making a decision.
|Hulu (With Ads) + Live TV, Disney+ (With Ads) and ESPN+ (With Ads)
|Hulu (No Ads) + Live TV, Disney+ (No Ads) and ESPN+ (With Ads)
DIRECTV STREAM: Stream ESPN Live & Regional Sports Networks
DIRECTV STREAM (previously AT&T TV) stands out as the sole streaming service offering ESPN alongside the largest number of regional sports networks.
This unique combination is crucial for MLB and NBA fans eager to follow their local teams closely. Bally Sports, ROOT Sports, NESN, Altitude, SportsNet Pittsburgh, MASN, MSG, NBC Sports, SNY, Spectrum SportsNet LA and YES Network are among the RSNs available.
The Choice plan has over 105 channels. It costs $108.99 per month. New customers can get a 5-day free trial, commitment-free.
The lineup includes popular channels like A&E, History, and USA Network, along with unlimited Cloud DVR storage and access to 40,000 on-demand titles.
DIRECTV STREAM allows streaming on an unlimited number of screens. Those familiar with AT&T TV will recognize the high-quality streaming and extensive capabilities of DIRECTV STREAM.
Roku, Amazon Fire TV devices, Apple TV, and mobile devices support DIRECTV STREAM along with Smart TVs running on Android TV and Google TV.
It’s among the most pricey options, but for diehard sports fans needing ESPN and their RSNs, it will definitely give you comprehensive game coverage and a clear, bright picture. With month-to-month subscriptions, online cancellation is straightforward.
Upcoming Streaming Service: ESPN, FOX & Warner Bros. Discovery Unite
ESPN, FOX, and Warner Bros. Discovery is set to launch a new sports-focused streaming service in the fall of 2024.
This service aims to consolidate the sports entertainment landscape, bringing NFL, college football, and numerous other sports directly to fans without the need for traditional cable or satellite subscriptions.
The service’s channel lineup is impressive, including ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, SECN, ACCN, ESPNEWS, ABC, FOX, FS1, FS2, Big Ten Network, TNT, TBS, and truTV. Subscribers will get ESPN+ as part of a subscription as well.
No official price has been set by this new joint venture. Pricing is anticipated to be between $40 and $50 per month, according to various media reports.
Subscribers will get a wide variety of sports once exclusive to cable TV and satellite providers, including:
- Professional Football: NFL and UFL
- Basketball: NBA and WNBA
- Baseball: MLB
- Hockey: NHL
- College Sports: Coverage from nearly two dozen conferences and 40 NCAA Championship Events
- Golf: PGA Tour, PGA Championship, The Masters, TGL
- Tennis: Wimbledon, US Open, Australian Open
- Cycling: Giro d’Italia, UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, Giro Donne
- Soccer: FIFA World Cup, U.S. Soccer, NWSL, MLS, LaLiga, Bundesliga, UEFA, CONCACAF
- Combat Sports: UFC, Top Rank
- Auto Racing: Formula 1, NASCAR, 24 Hours of Le Mans
This yet-unnamed sports streaming service will be accessible through a new app, and will also be available as an add-on with Disney+, Hulu, and Max.
As details emerge, this innovative service stands as a significant advancement in sports streaming, merging leading sports networks and direct-to-consumer offerings into one extensive package for fans.
Watching ESPN Without Cable FAQs
Here are common questions fans have about accessing ESPN without a traditional cable subscription.
Is the ESPN app free?
Yes, downloading the ESPN app is free. However, to watch live sports, you must have an active subscription through a cable TV, satellite, or streaming service. Most providers also offer access to ESPN3 when you activate the ESPN app.
Does ESPN+ include ESPN?
No, ESPN+ is a separate service, available for $10.99 per month. ESPN+ offers MLB and NHL games, the “30 for 30” library, plus a variety of other live and on-demand sports programs. It does not have the traditional ESPN cable networks like ESPN, ESPN2, or ESPN3.
You can combine a subscription to ESPN and ESPN+ through Hulu + Live TV.
Does the WatchESPN app still exist?
No, the WatchESPN app was discontinued on July 1, 2019, and replaced by the modern ESPN app. Some users might still refer to it as WatchESPN, but the current app offers a broad range of ESPN content.
Can I watch ESPN live on Amazon Prime?
No, ESPN is not available through Amazon Prime. To access ESPN live, you need a subscription to a service like DIRECTV STREAM, fuboTV, Hulu + Live TV, Sling TV, or YouTube TV.
Can I live stream ESPN for free?
ESPN is not available for free streaming; it requires a subscription through a cable provider or a live TV streaming service. However, you can get a brief free trial with ESPN through DIRECTV STREAM, Fubo and YouTube TV.
Is it possible to watch ESPN using a TV antenna?
No, ESPN is a cable network, not a broadcast network that’s available on over-the-air TV. However, ABC broadcasts, which sometimes simulcasts ESPN sports events, can be accessed for free with a TV antenna.
How can I get ABC and ESPN together?
The most cost-effective way to get ESPN with ABC together is by subscribing to Sling Orange and using a TV antenna to watch ABC for free as an over-the-air station.
Can I watch ESPN3 on YouTube TV?
Yes, YouTube TV subscribers can access ESPN3 without cable. This is also true for subscribers of DIRECTV STREAM, Hulu Live TV, and Sling TV (Orange plan). However, you must use your subscriber credentials to activate and use the ESPN app to stream ESPN3.
What’s the best way to watch ESPN without cable?
Sling TV Orange is the most affordable option at $40 per month, offering a solid selection of channels, including ESPN.
For access to ESPN and regional sports networks, you should pick Fubo or DIRECTV STREAM. Live streaming services provide the flexibility to cancel at any time without penalties, unlike traditional cable subscriptions.
I spend hundreds of hours throughout the year conducting hands-on testing of streaming services, including Peacock, DIRECTV STREAM, Fubo, Sling TV, YouTube TV, Hulu Live TV. I do the same rigorous testing for TV antennas and TV-related hardware. Check out the review policy to see how I compare products and services. The Cord Cutting Report is a reader-supported publication, and may earn affiliate commissions when you pick a streaming service through a recommendation. Read our affiliate policy for more information.