The Complete Guide to Watching Live Sports Without Cable in 2021

Looking to watch your favorite team live without shelling out cash for costly cable bills? Nowadays sports fans have plenty of options for streaming sports online without cable TV. 

As long as you have access to a decent WiFi connection, you can watch games as the action unfolds using a variety of services, such as YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV, and ESPN+. Let’s run through the best options for cord cutters looking to watch live sports.

Which live sports streaming service is right for you?

Streaming sports live can be tricky due to exclusive streaming contracts and blackout restrictions. The best streaming service for you depends on where you live and what teams you want to watch. 

Before making a commitment to any live streaming service, make sure you’ll be able to see the games you want in your region. A quick internet search of your team’s broadcasting schedule for the season should give you an idea of what networks show the team’s games. 

After you know which networks you’re looking for, you can check which streaming services offer those networks. However, it’s important to research the blackout restrictions in your area, as some live streaming services may limit their broadcasts based on region. 

Below are the different ways live sports stream online.

Local networks

Big networks like ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC have local affiliates that are region-specific. These local networks air plenty of live games from pro leagues like the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL. You can also find a good amount of college games on local networks. 

To watch a local network in your area, you may only need a digital TV antenna. However, some live streaming services, such as Sling TV and YouTube TV, offer subscribers access to local networks through their service.

Regional sports networks

Regional Sports Networks, or RSNs, are some of the best places to find live pro games, as well as college matchups. Most RSNs are subject to blackout restrictions, so where you live matters when you’re trying to watch a specific team.

Different streaming services will give you access to different RSNs. For example, the only streaming service that currently carries Bally Sports networks is AT&T TV. If you’re interested in a specific team that has a broadcast contract with one RSN for most of the games, make sure that RSN will be included in the streaming package you sign up for.

Major cable networks

ESPN, TBS, and TNT are all large cable networks broadcast nationally. Some regular-season games in a few different pro leagues, such as the NFL and NBA, are broadcast on these national networks, and you can find pro tournaments here, as well. 

Major cable networks are easier to find on streaming services than RSNs. And because these networks are broadcast across the country, U.S. viewers usually don’t have to worry about blackout restrictions. If you follow a team that plays lots of games on a big cable network, just check the subscription package details before signing up to make sure the network is included in the service.

Pro sports channels

If there’s just one sport you’re interested in, there are a few different league-specific services you can try, such as NBA TV or MLB.TV. These premium services usually broadcast out-of-market games, as well as exclusive highlights and analyses. 

You can find these league-specific streaming platforms as add-ons you can buy through other live streaming services, or you can purchase the platform as a stand-alone service.

The imaginary stadium is modelled and rendered.

Compare sports streaming services

Sports fans don’t need cable to follow their favorite team. There are many ways to watch online. We gathered the best streaming services available for watching live sports, so you can get rid of that costly cable bill without sacrificing your access to live games throughout the season.

fuboTV

A sports-focused service, fuboTV broadcasts more than 30,000 live sporting events annually — some are even shown in 4K. From $64.99/mo., you’ll have access to local networks like CBS and FOX and regional sports networks from NBC, AT&T, MSG, NESN, SNY, and Marquee. Major names like FS1 and pro channels like NFL Network are also included in the Starter package.

If you want the broadest range of sports channels, you’ll have to upgrade to fuboTV’s $85/mo. Ultra plan. This includes premium extras like NBA TV, NHL Network, and MLB Network. There’s a range of channel add-ons to invest in, too, from the $11/mo. Sports Plus with NFL Redzone to the $7/mo. International Sports Plus. Subscribers can record up to 250 hours of content for free and restart select live events, so you never have to miss the beginning of a game again. All plans currently come with a free trial.

Check out the full fuboTV review.

Hulu + Live TV

Hulu + Live TV carries more than 15 sports networks. Big names like ESPN and FS1 are on the list along with national channels such as CBS. That means you can watch live games from the NBA, NHL, MLB, and more. Regional sports networks like YES Network are available in certain areas, but Hulu + Live TV does offer widespread local coverage from ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC.

The one big thing the service is missing is pro networks. Right now, there’s no way to watch the likes of NBA TV or NFL Network. A lack of sports add-ons also means you may struggle to stay in the loop with out-of-market teams. A Hulu + Live TV subscription costs $65/mo. and comes with a free trial. You’ll also get access to Hulu’s impressive on-demand catalog and 50 hours of cloud DVR storage.

Check out the full Hulu + Live TV review.

Philo

Philo costs just $25/mo., making it one of the cheapest streaming services around. And there’s a reason for its low price: it doesn’t house any sports channels whatsoever. So if you’re looking to watch regional, pro, or national networks, you’re out of luck. Instead, the service focuses on entertainment from the likes of AMC and BET. It goes without saying that Philo isn’t a great service for the sports-obsessed.

Check out the full Philo review.

Sling TV

When it comes to local and regional sports networks, Sling TV is lacking. Only three regional channels are available — NBC Sports Bay Area, NBC Sports California, and NBC Sports Washington — and the local list only features channels from FOX and NBC. But that doesn’t mean Sling TV has no sports at all. The service has a range of major networks, but you’ll have to pay for the more expensive plan to access them all.

Sling’s $35/mo. Orange plan comes with ESPN and TNT, and the $35/mo. Blue plan has FOX, FS1, and NBC Sports Network. Combine the two for $50/mo. for a long list of pro networks, including MLB Network, NBA TV, and NHL Network, and invest in the Sports Extra add-on for a further $10/mo. Sling TV doesn’t usually offer free trials, but you can currently enjoy 14 days for free. Sling Blue and Sling Orange both include 50 hours of DVR storage.

Check out the full Sling TV review.

YouTube TV

YouTube TV is one of the best all-around streaming services for sports fans. Get access to the four biggest local networks — ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC — along with national coverage from the likes of ESPN, TBS, and TNT. Popular networks like CBS Sports Network and FS1 are part of the package too. So are league-specific channels like the NFL Network, the MLB Network and NBA TV. NHL Network is missing from the line-up, but you can add FOX Soccer Plus and NBA League Pass for additional monthly fees. If you’re a regional sports-lover, you can watch broadcasts from FOX and NBC channels. 

Costing $65/mo., YouTube TV is one of the few services to include unlimited DVR storage. Plus, YouTube TV features a deal where you can try all of its sporting goodness for 14 days without paying a single dollar.

Check out the full YouTube TV review.

ESPN+

ESPN+ is one of the newer options for live sports streaming. It’s important to note that ESPN+ is a separate service from the regular ESPN network. While ESPN+ may air some regular ESPN programming, subscribers should not expect the same live game coverage that ESPN broadcasts. Instead, ESPN+ includes a variety of live and on-demand sports-related programming.

ESPN+ shows live games of pro baseball, soccer, tennis, golf, and more. You can also catch college games on ESPN+. But you can’t choose which teams or games you want to watch, and there is no live NFL or NBA coverage. You can buy ESPN+ for $7/mo. or $70/yr. ESPN+ does not currently offer a free trial, but if you bundle ESPN+ with Disney+ and Hulu, you can get a discount on all 3 subscriptions.

Check out the full ESPN+ review.

The final cut

If you’re wondering how to stream sports without cable, there are plenty of options to watch the teams you love. Live TV streaming services can allow you to watch different games without having to sign up for a contract like most cable companies require.

Just make sure the service you choose includes the sports live stream you want to watch. And don’t forget, you’ll likely save yourself money each month when switching to a streaming service.