Are you thinking about cutting the cord but are worried about how you’ll watch sports?
There are options for streaming sports in 2021 that don’t require costly cable or satellite subscriptions. You can watch sports via live TV streaming services, and you also can access league-specific subscriptions that provide the broadcasts of every game.
So it’s entirely possible to watch your favorite teams without paying the cable company a dime!
Team Clark has its finger on the pulse of all areas of the streaming industry. In this article, I’ll walk you through all your options to ensure that you don’t miss out on the sports that matter most to you.
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5 Things To Consider for Watching Sports Without Cable
So you’re ready to leave your cable or satellite provider? Great. There is money to be saved, and there are ways to continue watching the sports you love.
But before you pick your course of action, let’s take a look at some important factors to consider.
1. Take Inventory of Teams/Leagues/Sports That Matter to You
Before you can devise a good plan for replacing your cable sports content, you must first take inventory of the sports, leagues and teams that really matter to you.
There are more sports streaming than you have hours in a day to consume, so having access to everything isn’t necessary. However, having access to the right things could make or break your sports streaming experience.
If you haven’t watched a tennis match in the last decade, having access to the Tennis Channel is really more of a luxury than a necessity. But if you tune in for 100 Yankees games per year, you’re probably going to want to make sure you have access to those games.
2. Determine Which Channels Carry the Games or Sports You Want to Watch
After you’ve decided which sports, leagues and teams matter most to you, it’s time to start jotting down a list of channels that carry this content.
Some professional leagues have contracts with specific networks that you can predict will air the big games you want to see.
For example, the NBA playoffs will be on ABC, ESPN and TNT. So if you enter that time of year knowing you’re going to want to see those games, signing up for a live TV streaming service that carries all three should be a priority.
3. How Your Team Is Broadcast: ESPN vs. Regional Sports Networks vs. Local Channels
If you watch only those games that involve your favorite teams, it makes sense to prioritize the streaming method that will get you access to those games most affordably.
So you’ll want to look at your team’s streaming schedule to see which channels most often will carry their games. This likely will vary by sport.
A pro football team may primarily be streamed on local channels such as CBS or FOX, while baseball, basketball and hockey teams may rely more on regional sports networks. Your team may also have a few games carried by ESPN.
4. Regional Sports Networks Are Going To Be Tricky
Becoming a streamer simplifies home entertainment in many ways, but watching regional sports networks is not one of them.
Thanks to some pretty public disagreements with providers like YouTube TV in recent years, many regional sports networks (RSNs) are limited in their streaming availability.
The fact that some areas have regional sports networks that are owned by different broadcast companies (Bally Sports vs. AT&T SportsNet, for example) makes it tough to give blanket advice on this subject because each of those companies negotiates its own deals with streaming services.
What I can say for sure right now is that AT&T TV is both the most expensive live TV streaming service on the market and also the one most likely to have your regional sports network included in its package.
You can read more about why this is a problem for baseball fans in particular here.
5. Local Teams Are Usually Subject to Blackout on League-Wide Subscriptions
If you live in the local television market your favorite teams call home, be aware that you could be subject to blackouts on league-wide streaming services.
People who live in Atlanta can buy the MLB TV or NBA League Pass subscription packages that grant access to most of those league’s games, but they should expect to find the Braves and Hawks blacked out on those services.
This happens because the regional sports networks that carry those broadcasts (in this example, Bally Sports South) have negotiated the right to be the sole distributor of that game in that market.
Aside from paying for a live TV streaming service that carries that network, the only way to work around that may involve hiding your IP address by using a VPN. That’s an ethical grey area, but one money expert Clark Howard says these leagues and networks have brought upon themselves.
How To Stream ESPN, FS1 and League Networks
If you’re a fan of a variety of different sports, you’re probably going to want access to ESPN and its family of networks.
And if you’re trying to access these networks without paying a cable subscription, your best bet is going to be a live TV streaming service.
These services pay for the streaming rights to sports networks, so you’ll be able to pay a monthly subscription fee to get channels like ESPN and FS1. This operates much like a cable subscription, only cheaper and without long-term commitment (in most cases).
However, not all of the live TV streaming services carry the same sports channels. So you may have some decisions to make to balance your monthly costs and sports channel selection.
For example, YouTube TV carries the entire ESPN family of networks, FS1 and FS2 as well as the NFL Network, SEC Network, Big Ten Network and MLB Network within its standard $64.99 package. But a service like Sling TV has only some of these networks and makes you choose between it different subscription offerings to pick the ones you like. The payoff there is that Sling’s monthly subscriptions start at $35 per month and reach $50 on the high side.
You can search for the availability of specific channels on our live TV streaming channel guide, and Team Clark has a guide specifically for accessing ESPN here.
Football is one of the most popular sports in America, and it’s also one of the sports that spans a wide variety of TV channels.
That means that finding the game you want to watch without a cable subscription can sometimes be challenging.
NFL games can be streamed on CBS, FOX, NBC, ESPN, NFL Network, Amazon Prime Video and Twitch.
CBS and FOX are the primary homes for Sunday afternoon NFL games, while NBC (Sunday Night Football), ESPN (Monday Night Football) and NFL Network (Thursday Night Football) also get a piece of the streaming pie. Amazon Prime Video and Twitch (also owned by Amazon) carry select Thursday Night Football games and have promised more exclusive game content in the future.
You can also access most NFL games through a season-long subscription to the NFL Sunday Ticket. NFL RedZone is another streaming option that gives you “around the league” access to games in real time.
College football offers games on a much more complex streaming menu. The ESPN and FS1 families of networks carry many games weekly, but there also are games on CBS, ABC, FOX and NBC each week. You’ll also need access to conference-backed networks such as the SEC Network, Big Ten Network, ACC Network, just to name a few, to make sure you’re seeing all the games.
You can search for the availability of specific channels in our live TV streaming channel guide, and Team Clark has a guide specifically for accessing NFL and college football games here.
How To Watch Basketball Without Cable: Stream NBA and College Basketball
When it comes to basketball, you’re looking at a mix of national and regional channels that carry most of the live games.
For national broadcasts, NBA games can be streamed on ABC, ESPN, TNT and NBA TV.
If you’re trying to watch your local team on a regular basis, you’ll need access to a regional sports network. For example, the Atlanta Hawks games air on Bally Sports South (formerly Fox Sports South), and a streaming subscription is required to access the live stream of the games. Read our more detailed article about streaming basketball to get more information on the channels required to stream a specific team.
The NBA League Pass is a streaming subscription that allows you to pay one fee to see the broadcast of most games each night. However, local broadcasts are subject to blackout and would require a VPN to circumvent that.
College basketball streaming also will require access to a wide variety of channels. The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, sometimes referred to as March Madness, is available to stream on CBS, TBS, TNT and TruTV. You also can access streaming options on the NCAA’s website and app.
Regular-season college basketball games are televised both nationally and regionally. The national broadcasts appear on ESPN, ABC, CBS and FS1 as well as conference-backed channels such as SEC Network or Big Ten Network. There also are select games that appear on regional sports networks.
You can search for the specific channels in our live TV streaming channel guide, and Team Clark has a guide specifically for accessing NBA and college basketball games here.
How To Watch Baseball Without Cable: Stream MLB and College Baseball
With a regular season that spans six months and features 162 games for each team, Major League Baseball has far-and-away the most live broadcasts per season.
Channels such as ESPN, MLB Network, FOX, FS1 and TBS have weekly broadcasts that highlight some of the best MLB games.
But most of the sport’s streaming is going to be done through regional sports networks. As I mentioned earlier, these are particularly hard to stream due to contractual disagreements between streaming providers and broadcast networks. Team Clark will help you find the regional sports network for your favorite MLB team here.
MLB TV is a streaming subscription that lets you pay just one fee to see the broadcast of most Major League games. However, local broadcasts are subject to blackout and would require a VPN to circumvent.
The College Baseball World Series is broadcast on ESPN’s family of networks.
To watch regular-season college baseball games, you’ll need access to conference-backed networks such as the SEC Network or ACC Network. Some colleges that don’t have contract agreements offer streaming subscriptions through their school websites or for free on platforms like YouTube or Facebook Live.
You can search for .specific channels in our live TV streaming channel guide, and Team Clark has a guide specifically for accessing MLB and college baseball games here.
How To Watch Golf Without Cable: Stream the PGA TOUR
Golf is one of the few major sports that offers nearly year-round live streaming opportunities.
So if you want to watch a tournament each weekend, you’re going to need to bounce around between a handful of different channels.
Luckily, golf’s four major tournaments are at least partially broadcast on local channels for most U.S. streamers. CBS, NBC and ESPN have broadcast rights for most of golf’s biggest tournaments.
The Masters, which is golf’s most popular tournament, airs on CBS and ESPN. It also can be streamed for free on The Masters website.
The Golf Channel is another channel offered by live TV streaming services that broadcasts many PGA TOUR events through the season.
PGA TOUR fans also can stream events by subscribing to the PGA TOUR Live service.
You can search for the availability of specific channels on our live TV streaming channel guide, and Team Clark has a guide specifically for accessing golf events and the PGA TOUR here.
How To Watch Hockey Without Cable: Stream the NHL
Hockey fans are going to experience some changes in where they’ll find nationally televised games in future seasons.
While the NHL Playoffs and Stanley Cup Final can be found on NBC and the NBC Sports Network for now, the latter channel is soon to be phased out and NBC’s contract with the NHL is set to expire.
Beginning in the 2021-22 season, nationally broadcast hockey games will be found on ESPN’s family of networks (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN+) as well as Turner Sports (TBS and TNT).
If you’re trying to watch your local team on a regular basis, you’ll need access to a regional sports network. For example, the Nashville Predators games air on Bally Sports South (formerly Fox Sports South), and a streaming subscription is required to access the live stream of the games. Read our more detailed article about streaming hockey to get more information on the channels required to stream a specific team.
You can search for .specific channels in our live TV streaming channel guide, and Team Clark has a guide specifically for accessing NHL games here.
How To Watch Soccer Without Cable: Stream EPL and MLS
If you’re a soccer fan in America, you know that finding the best matches is a global search that requires streaming games at all hours of the day. For example, the best soccer league in the world is based in Europe which is several time zones away.
But the good news is that the streaming availability of these games has increased dramatically in recent years.
NBC Sports holds the rights to broadcast the English Premier League (EPL) in the United States. So if you’re going to stream the EPL here, there are a few options.
EPL matches can be found on NBC, NBC Sports Network and through the Peacock streaming service.
If you’re interested in what’s happening in American’s top soccer league, you also can steam Major League Soccer (MLS) without a cable subscription. Nationally broadcast MLS contests can be found on ESPN, FOX and FS1.
Watching the local broadcast of your favorite team is a more complicated endeavor. Some teams have exclusive agreements with specific streaming services, while others go the more traditional route of appearing on a regional sports network.
You can search for the availability of specific channels on our live TV streaming channel guide.
How To Watch Tennis Without Cable: Stream ATP and WTA
One of the best ways to watch men’s professional tennis (ATP Tour) and women’s professional tennis (WTA Tour) is on the Tennis Channel.
Unfortunately, this channel is not carried on any of the basic packages for live TV streaming services. But you can get it if you’re willing to pay a little extra. You can access it through premium packages on AT&T TV, fuboTV and Sling TV.
Tennis fans also can see action from big tournaments on channels such as ESPN, ABC and NBC.
Here’s how to watch the four tennis majors without cable each year:
- Wimbledon: The most famous tennis tournament of them all is broadcast on a mix of ABC and the ESPN family of channels, but you also can stream select matches for free on the official tournament website.
- French Open: The matches for this tournament typically are split between NBC, ESPN and the Tennis Channel. You’ll want streaming access to all three if you want to ensure you see it all.
- Australian Open: ESPN owns the broadcast rights for this tournament, so you’ll need streaming access to the ESPN family of channels to enjoy this one.
- US Open: ESPN also owns the broadcast rights for this tournament. The cheapest way to get access to ESPN and ESPN2 is through a Sling Orange subscription for $35 per month.
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