Watching sports these days is needlessly complicated. Agreements between sports leagues, cable companies, and regional broadcasters means that you'll only be able to catch local games, so long as you're ready to jump through hoops, and sign up for the right package.
Streaming services have made watching sports online a lot easier (though still more complicated than we'd like), by cutting out intermediaries (aka cable companies), which allows you to watch the games you'd like anywhere in the United States. There's no Netflix equivalent in the world of sports streaming services, but that may not be an issue if you're only interested in one sport, or only care about watching the most important matches across the board.
If you're considering cutting the cord, but don't want to give up sports, or want to continue supporting your hometown teams after moving away, these are the best streaming services for sports.
How We Picked the Best Sports Streaming Services
We determined the best sports streaming services with a mix of hands-on testing and research. Some streaming subscription services for sports lock you into a direct relationship with a major sports organization like the MLB or NFL, which means you'll only be able to use them for watching a single sport. Other services allow you to stream games from multiple sports, but may not include every game. You'll have to make the decision about which tradeoff is worthwhile.
Platforms: One of the biggest benefits to using a streaming service is the ability to watch it on all of your devices. We made sure to select services that could be watched on your phone or tablet (iOS or Android), or media streamer of choice (Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV, or Chromecast).
Resolution: Most sports are still broadcast in 1080p (full HD), whether you're streaming them online, or watching them the old- fashioned way. This is a limitation of the video equipment that's available at the stadium.Upgrading a stadium's infrastructure would require an incredible amount of money, so don't expect to watch many games in 4K just yet. That said, we'll let you know whether a streaming service offers 4K video streaming when it's possible.
Non-Sports Content: Many live TV streaming services include a handful of key sports channels, and may be the right pick if you want to replace your entire cable package.
Best Overall: ESPN+
Why It Made The Cut: This service covers the widest range of sports, and is available for an impressively low price.
— Sports: Multiple
— Platforms: All
— Price: $6.99 per month ($69.99 annually)
— Covers a range of sports
— Includes the full 30-for-30 documentary series
— An extremely good deal
— Won't have as many matches for each sport as dedicated services
For many people (ourselves included) ESPN is synonymous with watching sports, even if they don't know that it stands for Entertainment and Sports Programming Network. The channel has been a cable channel staple since its debut in 1979, and launched ESPN+, its first official streaming service, in 2018.
What makes ESPN+ so appealing — both in theory and based on our hands-on testing – is the wide breadth of sports you can watch using a single service. At the time of this writing, it's possible to slip between an Indian Premier League soccer match, NCAA baseball game, and MLB game. Its current on-demand offerings include a UFC match, the Masters golf tournament, and an NHL game.
There's a little something for everybody, which is especially helpful for soccer fans who want to watch international games — like the recent World Cup-qualifying matches — in real time. Fifa has just announced its own streaming service, but ESPN+ has you covered if you're champing at the bit to watch some footie. Of course, taking that little-bit-of-everything approach meant ESPN+ couldn't get rights to every single game for every single sport. Some sports, like hockey and soccer, are represented a little more heavily than MLB and NFL games.
Still, the ESPN+ catalog is vast, and may yet expand thanks to Disney's 80 percent stake in the company. We wouldn't bet against the "house of mouse" using ESPN to slowly take over the sports streaming industry. Disney's war chest is also the main reason that ESPN+ is available for the ultra-reasonable $6.99 per month, or $69.99 per year. The service is also available as part of a bundle that includes ESPN+, Disney+, and Hulu for $13.99 per month, which is arguably the best value in the increasingly convoluted world of video streaming.
While ESPN+ doesn't offer a free trial, we can recommend signing up for a month to dip your toe into the world of sports streaming.
Best for Baseball: MLB.TV
Why It Made The Cut: If you care about following the entire Major League Baseball season, this is your only option.
— Sports: Baseball
— Platforms: All
— Price: $24.99 per month ($139.99 annually)
— Free trial
— Pre- and post-game coverage
— On-demand content
— Only covers pre-season games
If you're a baseball fanatic who wants to watch every match of the season, MLB.TV is the only game in town. That said, the service is a mixed bag, and could be worse given its monopolistic hold on America's pastime.
That starts with its omnipresence on every major platform; if you can stream videos on a device, there's a chance you could even download the MLB.TV on it. We're also pleased with its free trial, which lets you kick the tires on this admittedly expensive service. We're also intrigued by its Single Team Package, which is $20 less expensive than its yearly package and may be the perfect fit if you only plan to watch your favorite team's games.
There are two major downsides to MLB.TV though, that may be deal breakers. First, a subscription will only entitle you to watch regular season games. If you want to watch postseason games, including the World Series, you'll need to subscribe to both MLB.TV and a cable provider. Hopefully this changes over time, but for right now, MLB.TV is the only game in town.
While the MLB organization can't change its contracts with cable companies — at least not yet — the service is adding new perks, including pre- and post-game coverage, and an "expanded content library" that includes a growing library of on-demand videos. We can only hope that the MLB continues to sweeten the pot for subscribers as more baseball lovers cut the cord. Until then, we recommend taking advantage of the service's free trial, and deciding whether its limitations are worth the cost.
Best for Football: NFL Sunday Ticket
Why It Made The Cut: NFL Sunday Ticket is the only way to stream every NFL game regardless of the region you live in.
— Sports: Football
— Platforms: All
— Price: $73.49 every four months ($293.96 annually)
— The only way to watch the entire NFL season
— Student discount
— Available everywhere
— Doesn't include the playoffs
NFL's Sunday Ticket streaming service is the only way to watch regular season NFL games, and it's the least appealing sports streaming service in our guide.
Subscribing to NFL Sunday Ticket allows you to stream every match in the regular football season for close to $300 without a cable subscription. If you want to watch playoff games, you'll need to get a cable subscription, too. The NFL does give a break to college students, who can use their credentials to get a season's worth of NFL games for the far more reasonable sum of $100.
The figures above are all based on NFL Sunday Ticket's 2021 prices, and may change before the 2022 season. An NFL Sunday ticket subscription doesn't come with any extras, though again, that may change before next year. There isn't that much to say about NFL Sunday Ticket beyond mentioning that it's the only way to stream every football match of the year regardless of where you live in the United States.
One upshot is that you can watch the Super Bowl live without paying for a sports streaming service if you invest in an HDTV Antenna. The big game is available live on CBS, which is a channel that's freely available with an antenna.
Best for UFC: Fite+
Why It Made The Cut: Fite+ makes it easy to watch combat sports like wrestling or MMA without jumping through any annoying hoops.
— Sports: MMA, Boxing, Pro Wrestling
— Platforms: All
— Price: $4.99 per month ($49.99 annually)
— Includes Pay-Per-View matches
— On-demand streaming
— On-demand videos available 30 days after fights air
Combat sports fans who want to stay up to date on the latest matches are in luck thanks to Fite+, a paid video streaming service offered by FiteTV.
The service makes it simple to stream boxing, wrestling, MMA, and other combat sports from all of your devices. FiteTV is completely ad-free, includes unlimited video on-demand watching for previously aired matches, and entitles you to two free Pay-Per-View fights, which are typically purchased a la carte. If you have specific matches that you want to save for the duration of your subscription, you can use Fite+ to DVR them for quick access.
What makes Fite+ so remarkable is its incredible price. For $5 a month, you're basically getting to watch as many combat sports matches as you want. Wrestling fans also have the option of subscribing to Paramount+, which has the rights to the entire WWE back catalog and all pay-per-view matches, but Fite+ is still the better value, especially if you want to watch non-wrestling fights.
Our hope is that Fite+ becomes the framework for streaming subscription services for sports in the future. It provides comprehensive access to matches from several sports in a single package, plus extras like DVR-ing matches or watching them on demand for a reasonable price.
Best for More Than Just Sports: FuboTV
Why It Made The Cut: FuboTV is a live TV replacement that brings the perks of traditional cable into the modern age.
— Sports: Multiple
— Platforms: All
— Price: From $69.99 per month
— Get the cable TV experience without a contract
— Some content is available on-demand
— Includes Cloud DVR
— You're inevitably paying for channels you don't watch
One way to stream sports online while also satisfying the TV-watching needs of other members of your household is getting a live TV replacement service like FuboTV. With FuboTV, sports fans can watch matches broadcast live on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, NBC, CBS, ABC, MSG, the NFL Network, and FS1, as easily as you can with a cable plan.
FuboTV also comes with 1,000 hours of DVR space, so you can save and replay games; the ability to stream on up to 10 devices simultaneously; and access to up to 172 channels depending on the plan you pick. We understand if you're apprehensive about signing up for a live TV service — whether to watch sports or not — since it seems counterintuitive to cord cutters. The benefit to trying FuboTV is that you're not entered into a long-term contract. If it's not for you, or you don't feel like you're getting enough value out of the service, you can cancel it.
We're also pleased that FuboTV offers a free trial, so you have a chance to check it out before making a full commitment. We recommend doing a little research to determine whether your most frequently watched sports, or most anticipated matches are going to be broadcast on the channels above. If they are, it might be worth syncing up your free trial with one of those games, so you can put the service through its paces in a real-life test.
For some, FuboTV is going to be a little too much content, but if you live in a multi-person household where each individual wants to watch something different on the device of their choice, it's a solid option.
Things To Consider When Choosing a Streaming Subscription Service For Sports
How often you watch sports: Some of the streaming subscription services for sports can get pricey, so they might not be worthwhile if you only want to catch a few games per year. If you price out the price you'd pay per match, that could help you determine whether it's worthwhile for you.
Q: Can I get a free trial of a streaming subscription service for sports?
It depends. Some streaming subscription services for sports offer free trials or discounted service during the first month of your subscription to give you a sense of whether it's right for you.
Q: How can I cancel my streaming subscription service for sports?
Most streaming subscription services for sports allow you to pay for them on a month-to-month basis, so you won't be locked into a subscription for an entire year. Each subscription service has a different method for canceling your subscription, but it shouldn't take more than a few clicks.
Q: Can I watch games after they've aired, or re-watch them if I caught them live?
It depends. Some streaming subscription services for sports do allow you to watch certain games on demand, but only keep them available for a limited time. You cannot download or save games to watch them later.
Q: Can I watch U.S. games internationally using a streaming subscription service for sports?
No. Unfortunately, streaming subscription services for sports only allow you to watch matches in the U.S.
Q: Can I use a promo code to get a discount on a streaming subscription service for sports?
Not likely. Streaming subscription services for sports don't typically go on sale. Some allow you to save money by subscribing to an annual plan rather than paying month-to-month, but that requires a greater up-front investment, and means you can't cancel your service as easily.
Final Thoughts on Streaming Subscription Services for Sports
Streaming subscription services for sports haven't revolutionized sports watching the way Netflix changed the way we can (and expect to) watch TV shows and movies, but they’re a start. Subscribing to one of the services above can actually save you money each month compared to paying for a cable package with sports channels, and you have more flexibility in how (and sometimes when) you watch games.
Over time, we hope to see the balance of power shift in such a way that services get more feature rich while dropping in price. We don't know when (or how) this disruption will take place, but we wouldn't bet against technology making it easier to watch sports matches rather than more difficult.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.