How to cut the cord without losing sports
It's certainly not a new concept. People have wished they could do without their expensive cable TV bills for years. But thanks to the growing popularity of high-speed internet, smart TVs and streaming services, it's never been easier to make that dream a reality.
But for many die-hard sports fans, cutting the cord -- the popular phrase for saying goodbye to the cable company's stronghold over your TV -- can seem like an unfair sacrifice. Sure, you can find most of your favorite shows and movies on services like Netflix or Hulu, but how do you replicate the experience of coming home, plopping down on the couch and putting on the game?
We've put together this comprehensive guide to help you unlock the full potential of your streaming device, and to help you get over the fear of losing sports when cutting the cord. Follow these directions and you'll save money without missing a thing.
For those who just want to see national games
We get it. You don't want to give up Monday Night Football. Or maybe it's Sunday Night Baseball during the summer that's hard to say goodbye to. Whatever your preferred sport, if it's shown on the major cable networks, you can cut the cord and still catch the game with a number of options that allow you to watch live TV.
There's Sling TV, which will cost you $25 a month to get either ESPN or Fox Sports, or $40 a month to get all of those networks (and their offshoots). We recommend the $40 option because it ensures you can see all games regardless of what network they're on. One of the best parts about Sling is that it works on most streaming devices -- including Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire Sticks, among others.
YouTube recently expanded its live-TV offerings to compete with Sling and other services. For $40 a month, you get more than 50 channels, and the service bills itself as the perfect entertainment complement for college football fans. It also offers a familiar interface for people who already like YouTube. It's more limited on devices -- you can access it from a PlayStation -- and the service is reportedly looking to add Apple TV and Roku in 2019. It is great for sharing, though, as six users can access YouTube TV at a time.
Finally, Hulu with Live TV is a worthwhile option for just about anyone because it works on almost every streaming device. The entry-level package costs $49.99 a month and includes all of the major channels you'd expect live sports to be on. What makes this package stand out is that it has something for the entire family, as the cost unlocks all of Hulu's streaming library.
All of these options are great for fans of local teams because they offer the regional sports channels in the area where they're activated.
For fans of a particular sport
Each of the major leagues offer packages that allow you stream games, but be aware that they generally won't work in the television market where you live. So if you love the local team, services like MLB.tv or NBA League Pass probably won't be your best options.
Major League Baseball offers the best service as MLB.tv has unmatched stream quality and allows you to watch archived games (in condensed form, too, if you want to cut to the chase). It's a bit expensive, but if you're a true baseball fan, the $116 per season it costs is well worth it. If you live away from your favorite team, you can get a single-team package for $90.
NBA League Pass is a much less reliable option because it struggles to consistently deliver a quality stream. But for big-time NBA fans, there are few other options. It costs $200 per season and there are single-team options available for slightly less.
NFL fans have fewer options. Basically, you sign up through DirecTV for a Sunday Ticket option that allows you to see all the games, or you make do with what you can get through the local and national broadcasts. The good news is that if you live in a place that otherwise can't add DirecTV, you can buy the service à la carte. Learn more about this product here.
For true sports fanatics
If you need something a little bit deeper than what you'd get through cable, there's ESPN+. It's a service for die-hard sports fans, and at $5 a month (or $50 a year), it carries a ton of value. Not only does it provide tons of live sporting events (mostly from off-the-beaten track teams), it also allows you to unlock ESPN's entire 30-for-30 series.
The only thing that's missing from it is content from the NBA and NFL. But if you love college sports, especially at the mid-major level, ESPN+ unlocks an unbelievable amount of content. It also features some MLB, MLS and NHL regular season games.
It's a top option for fans of tennis, offering all Grand Slam events.
If combat sports are your preference, ESPN+ will be expanding its UFC options in 2019 to go with Top Rank Boxing matches.
What makes ESPN+ a great option for international sports fans is its access to UEFA Nations Cup and the EFL -- as well as some rugby options. You won't miss live matches from Italian Serie A, FIBA Basketball, some cricket options and others.
The streams are consistent and of high-quality. ESPN+ works with your Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Android, Apple TV, and Chromecast. If you aren't sure if it's the right option for you, you can give its 7-day free-trial a spin. You can also cancel at any time thereafter.
Finally, if you love to read about sports and want the most in-depth analysis, your ESPN+ subscription gives you access to ESPN Insider so you can read about the most up-to-date trade rumors and more.
We think ESPN+ is a great option for people who don't need a Netflix and would prefer to only watch sports.
You, as a sports fan, shouldn't feel overwhelmed by the prospect of cutting the cord. There are plenty of options that you can piece together for less than what cable costs. You will need to establish exactly what your needs are, and from there, it will be easy to ensure you don't miss any of the action.
Jacob Palmer is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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