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How to Watch ESPN Without Cable: 10 Great Options to Consider

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Want to watch ESPN without cable but don’t think you can? We share 10 options to watch your favorite ESPN shows without a nasty cable contract.

I’m a sports fan; I love watching college football and NFL games so knowing how to watch ESPN without cable or satellite is high on my list. I even have a claim to fame that many sports fans don’t – the ESPN SportsCenter theme song was my wedding recessional. So, I understand why the ability to watch live sports keeps many people locked in to expensive cable contracts.

The great news is that you don’t need a cable or satellite TV plan to follow your favorite teams. If you want to know how to watch live sports without cable, this post is for you.

How to Watch ESPN Without Cable

 

You don’t need an expensive cable contract to check in on SportsCenter or catch the latest episodes of “Pardon the Interruption” or “First Take.” If you’ve been wondering, how to watch sports without cable, there are at least 10 different ways to get ESPN without cable.

We’ll share the best and easiest ways to watch ESPN without cable (many of which include how to watch Fox Sports 1 without cable).

Ways to Watch ESPN on TV Without Cable

 

The cable companies don’t want you to know that you don’t need an expensive cable contract or set top box to watch Monday Night Football (MNF) without cable. Here are some of the best ways to watch live sports without cable.

Hulu Live

 

“Watching” a football emoji go back and forth on your phone screen without any video isn’t the ideal way to follow your favorite team.

Thankfully, Hulu with Live TV is a great way to watch ESPN without cable and an excellent way to watch the live sporting events you don’t want to miss.

A pioneer in the field of streaming TV content, Hulu Live comes with ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN News, and the SEC Network, plus tons of other great content from your favorite networks, all for one contract-free price of $44.99 per month.

When you compare that price to what you’re currently paying for cable, you’ll see savings of nearly $70 per month. That alone is reason enough to cut the cord on your expensive cable contract.

But, Hulu Live ups the ante with compelling original content like the critically acclaimed “The Handmaid’s Tale” series as well as access to live content on all the major networks as well as cable standbys like FX (“Americans” anyone?), Food Network, TBS, and more.

If you want to learn more about the content offerings as well as pros and cons of Hulu Live, check out our Hulu with Live TV review now.

Hulu Live works with just about any device on the market, including Amazon Fire TV and Amazon Fire TV Stick as well as Apple TV, Roku, Xbox, and more.

The $44.99 per month price tag slashes your cable contract by more than half and gives you 50 hours of cloud DVR storage so you can record those games you may have to miss while you’re on the clock or away from your TV.

Hulu Live isn’t just a great option for sports fans, it’s also an excellent choice for the whole family. If you want to watch HGTV without cable, Hulu Live is your go-to option.

The Hulu Live 7-day free trial lets you test drive the streaming service and see just how easy it is to watch ESPN without cable completely risk-free.

Try Hulu Live for free for seven days now

Sling TV

 

Sling TV is another excellent way to watch ESPN without cable. It’s probably the second largest and most well-known streaming option for people looking into how to watch live sports without cable.

Sling TV is a little different than other streaming services in that it offers its channels in two base packages – Sling Orange for $25 per month and Sling Blue for $25 per month.

Each package comes with different sports channels. If you are looking for how to watch ESPN without cable, the Sling Orange package is best for you.

***Related: Want to watch March Madness but don’t have cable? March Madness is not on ESPN, but you do need cable channels to catch a lot of the action. Check out our guide on how to watch March Madness without cable to learn how to watch all the action!***

If you’re looking for how to watch ESPN3 without cable, Sling Orange is your answer. In addition to being your answer to how to watch SportsCenter without cable, Sling Orange gives you:

  • ESPN
  • ESPN2
  • ESPN3
  • Plus about 30 other channels

For only $25 per month, Sling Orange gives you access to 6,200 live and original hours of programming across 65 different sports including exclusive access to Monday Night Football, NBA games, College Basketball games, College Football games, and the College Football Playoffs.

For the same $25 per month, you get Sling Blue which DOES NOT include ESPN but does offer 13 channels of sports including:

  • Fox Sports 1 (FS1)
  • Fox Sports 2 (FS2)
  • Fox Sports Regional Networks
  • NFL Network
  • NBC Sports (NBCSN)

If you want more live sports without cable, Sling TV offers a Sports Package that you can add on to your Orange or Blue subscription for an extra $10 per month.

That add on will get you NFL RedZone, NBA TV, NHL Network, the PAC 12 Network and more. Check out our guide on the Sling TV packages to see how you can further customize your sports content.

When it comes to cutting the cord on your cable contract, Sling TV makes it pretty easy. Learn more about the pros and cons and channel lineup of Sling TV in our Sling TV review.

We mentioned that Sling TV had a shaky launch with lots of buffering issues, but with two million subscribers and counting, they’ve improved the viewing experience drastically.

You can likely stream Sling TV on the device you already own, as it works with smartphones, Amazon FireTV and Amazon Fire TV Stick, Roku, Apple TV, and more. Sling Orange lets you stream on one device at a time; Sling Blue gives you the ability to stream on three devices at once.

If you have roommates or want all of the sports channels in both packages, you can purchase both Sling Orange + Blue for $40 per month and get all the sports channels already mentioned plus the ability to stream content on up to four devices at once.

It is worth noting though that you can still only stream ESPN on one device at a time. However, that does make it easy for you to watch ESPN without cable on one device while someone else can watch HGTV without cable on another device

All of this makes Sling TV one of the best ways to watch ESPN without cable or satellite. If you’re looking for a way to watch ESPN on TV without cable, Sling TV may be the best choice for you.

Try Sling TV for free for seven days now

PlayStation Vue

 

If you’re looking for more ways to watch ESPN without cable, PlayStation Vue is another option. PlayStation Vue includes ESPN in their Access Package, which costs $39.99 per month.

You also get ESPN2 with the Access Package. However, if you want to watch ESPN, ESPN News and the SEC Network without cable, you’ll need to upgrade to the $44.99 per month package.

At that price, you may want to try Hulu Live, which makes it possible for you to get ESPN without cable plus a host of other content including excellent original programming for only $39.99 per month.

One benefit of watching ESPN without cable through PlayStation Vue is that with it, you can watch ESPN online with the WatchESPN app.

Try PlayStation Vue for free for five days now

YouTube TV

 

YouTube is working hard to promote its live TV streaming option. The nice thing for sports fans is that you can watch ESPN without cable on YouTube TV for only $40 per month. The base package offers more than 50 channels, including ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPN News.

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You can also watch NBC Sports, Fox Sports 1, and Fox Sports 2 as well as the MLB Network, NBA TV and more.

You can watch ESPN online through YouTube TV on an unlimited number of devices and you can stream it via iOS, a few smart TVs, any web browser, Roku, Chromecast, AppleTV, and more.

If you’re interested in how to watch ESPN without cable through YouTube TV, they offer a free trial, which allows you to test drive the streaming service free for 7 days.

DirecTV Now

 

DirecTV Now is perhaps the industry-leading streaming, contract-free TV service. We’ve tested the DirecTV Now platform multiple times and cover all the ins and outs of it, including how we found it to be an easy and enjoyable way to watch ESPN without cable in our DirecTV Now review.

For $50 per month, you can watch ESPN without cable as well as Fox Sports 1. For other sports channels like the Big 10 Network, SEC Network and more, you will need to opt for the “Go Big” package, which costs $80 per month.

As with many of the other streaming options covered here, with DirecTV Now, you only need an Internet connection and a device, which could be a smartphone, tablet, laptop computer, PlayStation, Roku, Google Chromecast, Amazon FireTV, or Amazon FireTV Stick to stream ESPN on TV without cable.

Other things to like about the DirecTV Now platform include:

  • Fast loading content
  • Simple to use channel guide
  • No contract
  • Watch TV and search other content at the same time

If you’re concerned about getting local channels, DirecTV Now includes them in some markets for free. If you’re not in one of those markets, you can easily get your local channels for free by purchasing a Mohu Leaf antenna, like we did.

One low, one time cost gets you free local channels for life.

How to Stream ESPN Online

 

Aside from all the ways to watch ESPN without cable that we’ve already discussed, there is another way to consider how to watch ESPN online.

ESPN seems to have gotten wise to the cord-cutting trend sweeping the nation and is now offering ESPN+ – its standalone streaming service. For only $4.99 per month (or $49.99 annually), ESPN+ gives you a way to watch live sports without cable. ESPN+ does offer a free 7-day trial to try out the service to see if you like it.

While it doesn’t give you a way to watch ESPN without cable, it does offer plenty of additional sports content for a low monthly fee.

ESPN+ lets you watch:

  • MLS live
  • One NHL game a day
  • One MLB game per day
  • Original programming like 30 for 30
  • Lots of on-demand sports events

In addition, you can watch live boxing, cricket, rugby, tennis, and more. If you don’t need access to all ESPN live sports content, ESPN+ might be a good option.

If you want to watch ESPN without cable, Hulu Live, DirecTV Now, Sling TV or one of the other options mentioned here may be a better bet. Especially when you consider that cable subscribers pay $7.21 per month for ESPN and $9.06 for ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and the SEC Network), paying $20 – $40 per month for a streaming service makes more sense.

Another option for how to watch ESPN online is with a Watch ESPN subscription. However, Watch ESPN requires a cable subscription.

So, if you cut the cord that option won’t work for you. However, you’ll have nearly $70 per month that you’re not spending on your expensive cable contract so you can go see a game live and in person if you want!

Can You Watch ESPN on Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, or Roku?

 

The short answer is yes.

Hulu Live, Sling TV, DirecTV Now, and PlayStation Vue all have apps for Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Amazon Fire TV Stick, AppleTV, and Chromecast. If you have any of these streaming platforms, you will be able to watch ESPN without cable very easily.

YouTube TV works on Roku, AppleTV, and Chromecast.

If you have a Nvidian Shield, you can watch ESPN without cable through Hulu Live, Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, and YouTube TV.

Finally, all of the streaming platforms mentioned here have apps that work with iOS and Android and most Mac and Windows-based computers.

If you are looking for a way to watch ESPN without cable, finding a compatible device shouldn’t be a problem.

Can You Watch ESPN Online Free?

 

Nearly every sports fan alive wishes the answer to this question were yes. But, if it were possible to watch ESPN online for free, they wouldn’t be making as much money as they could, so of course there’s no legitimate way to watch ESPN online for free.

Sites that do claim to let you watch ESPN online for free are full of spam, malware and worst of all, are illegal. The damage that could occur to your device just isn’t worth it.

As discussed already, many of the streaming options mentioned here including Hulu Live, Sling TV, and DirecTV Now, offer free trials. We’ve used these in a pinch in the past when we needed access for just a game or two that our favorite college football team was playing.

Want to watch ESPN without cable but don’t think you can? We share 10 options to watch your favorite ESPN shows without a nasty cable contract.

How to stream ESPN Without Cable – Wrap Up

 

In summary, if have finally grown tired of paying for your overpriced cable or satellite TV contract, but losing access to live sporting events is holding you back, you have options.

From Sling Orange at $25 per month to Hulu with Live TV for $44.99, there are plenty of excellent, contract-free ways to watch ESPN without cable. Since most platforms offer free trials, you could cancel your expensive cable contract today, and try them each out, one week at a time.

After a few months of trying the various services free, you can select the one that works for you. You’ll know exactly what you’re getting and you’ll feel good knowing you can watch SportsCenter without cable and all the other sports content that matter to you without overpaying for it.

If you’re tired of paying too much for ESPN, cut the cord on your cable contract and put that extra money to better use.

 

What are your reservations about watching ESPN without cable? Are you worried that you won’t be able to watch your favorite team play? Have you already cut the cord and tried a few of these options? Which streaming platform do you like best?

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John is the founder of Frugal Rules, a dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry whose writing has been featured in Forbes, CNBC, Yahoo Finance and more.

Passionate about helping people learn from his mistakes, John shares financial tools and tips to help you enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. One of his favorite tools is Personal Capital , which he used to plan for retirement and keep track of his finances in less than 15 minutes each month.

Another one of John's passions is helping people save $80 per month by axing their expensive cable subscriptions and replacing them with more affordable ones, like Hulu with Live TV.

26 Comments

  • Michael says:

    Great list John! I think sports channels are what’s holding a lot of people back from cutting cable out but these are some great alternatives at very good prices. Thanks for sharing!

    • John Schmoll says:

      Thanks Michael! Completely agreed. I know it’s what kept us from cutting the cord. There are just so many options available today that it doesn’t make sense to pay for cable.

  • Judy says:

    SO, is ESPN+ with or without cable? Your article is saying both:

    “….ESPN+ gives you a way to watch live sports without cable.”

    “While it doesn’t give you a way to watch ESPN without cable, it does offer plenty of additional sports content for a low monthly fee.”

    • John Schmoll says:

      I can understand how that’d be confusing Judy. It does offer live content, but only on a limited basis. It won’t replace full games, but it does allow you to watch some live content as well as some on demand stuff.

      • Kelly Bost says:

        I”m even more confused. So you can or cannot subscribe to ESPN+ for 499 per month and and get partial programming or games – ‘some live content’ Explain ‘live content’ on a limited basis please. How do I know what I’m getting (or not) if I subscribe. Golf? collegiate sports? NASCAR? I don’t want to go with SLING as it offers other options which would be duplicated with what we already have.

        • John Schmoll says:

          There’s no real way to explain it beyond what’s in the post, unfortunately. They provide what’s listed and it changes each week. They don’t intend it to be a full replacement, but something to give you access to less popular sports and their original content without needing cable.

  • carla aselton says:

    This was very helpful. We were trying to watch ESPN without paying for a service. However, we went with Sling TV. Thank you for breaking down the different sport options under the Blue and Orange options.

  • Linda Wirshup says:

    I don’t want special content. I want to live stream games. Not from the sky cam, not the trophy ceremony. I did not get that with swing TV. I tried to use the ESPN2 that came with it, but everything I wanted was restricted.

    • John Schmoll says:

      Sling TV does allow you to stream live games. Hulu Live does as well, as does DirecTV Now & PS Vue. The only issue you should run into is if a local game is blacked out. Beyond that, all of those streaming services let you stream live games.

      • Mary Hofstra says:

        This is where the real problem is. We live in MI. We want to watch the Detroit Lions football, Tigers baseball & The Pistons basketball! We’d also like to watch U Of M games, & I guess MI State. Not just the away games. We really don’t care too much about other teams except when they’re playing our teams. (With the exception of some Chicago teams!) Will we be able to watch OUR guys play on the devices you suggest?

  • Mark M says:

    The article stated that I would be able to stream (the entire game) then, towards the end; it mentions that some services would be limited or I wouldn’t be able to see certain games. My question: Will I be able to have unlimited espn service with the companies mentioned? One more question: If I have a gig internet service, will I be able to watch buffering free tv?

    • John Schmoll says:

      I think you’re confusing the streaming platforms with ESPN+ Mark. You can watch anything on ESPN, assuming it’s offered by the service, as they operate just like cable does. ESPN+ is a different service and not a streaming platform, they have limits on what’s offered and what you can watch. Most streaming providers require at least 3 Mbps to stream without any issues – but most are closer to 5 Mbps.

  • Austin says:

    This is all well and good, but it’s just replacing one overpriced service with another.

    I think you’re too fast to ignore the power of the consumer. We probably SHOULD be streaming illegally until these services get bundled at no added cost into an already reasonably priced service, like Netflix or Amazon Prime.

    What’s more, most sports are rife with advertising. I don’t believe anyone should double dip. If you’ve got sponsors, then I get the content for free. If I pay for the content, I expect to watch without being marketed to.

    Again, I think you’re too quick to fold. These are all still more cost than it makes sense to pay.

    • John Schmoll says:

      Wow, justified stealing…sorry, that shouldn’t be an option. While I love your myopic vision of watching content without any advertising, it completely overlooks the cost to produce said content. Without the said advertising, content costs would be outrageously expensive. If you’ve ever watched the credits of a movie, show, etc. etc. you would see all the names of the people responsible for creating that content – that all comes at a cost. To expect it for free would eliminate paying jobs for countless people.

      • Chris Conway says:

        I agree with austin. It’s to expensive for the service offered considering we have to be marketed to. If you guys were smart you would stream it free, up your subscriber base and sell advertising at higher prices. But this america where extortion and greed rule the day. I tried sling and ended up getting everything I did not want and nothing I wanted. The matches and sports I wanted to watch all came at a higher premium price that was un affordable and blackouts were pretty much every home game for the red bulls . Dumped it after two months. The other content/movie channels etc that came with sling were riddled with so many commercials that it was unwatchable. The average hour and a half movie was dragged out to almost 3hrs. It was the most miserable experience I have ever had.

        • John Schmoll says:

          You must not understand how advertising works. Content is expensive to create. If advertisers foot the bill, that will result in more commercials for you. If you pay a subscription fee, that should translate into less or no commercials (i.e. Netflix). To say that it’s okay to stream content without paying for it is theft. You’re taking money out of the pockets of people doing their jobs, not from the higher ups who run the cable companies. I’ve tried Sling. It’s not perfect but it does the trick. For you to say it’s the worst experience you’ve ever had is a pretty low bar for bad experiences. 🙂

      • CHERYL MASSEY says:

        Not if you had 2 price options. One with ads, one without. There are some services that offer that option. And by the way, the without ads is not that much more soapparently it’s not as costly as you’re trying to make it out to be!

        • John Schmoll says:

          You’re missing the point. No paid service offers a way to get content completely without commercials. Even those that offer limited commercials don’t do it on all content. The business I own with my wife deals directly with advertising, so I know what it costs. 🙂 I’m all for getting something for free, but what you don’t realize is that directly impacts jobs for those in creative fields.

  • RD says:

    So how exactly did the big OTA networks thrive and continue to survive to this day when it was all free? John Schmoll, you are the one missing the point. Listen to your audience.

    • John Schmoll says:

      You want to know how the OTA networks did that RD? It was/is…wait for it…ADVERTISING! The first soap opera was called “soap opera” because it was sponsored by Ivory Soap. Most shows got their start that way. Expecting to get content without any sort of advertising is misguided at best and lunacy at worst. But, my wife has a Master’s in this, and we run an advertising business, so I guess I don’t know anything about it at all. Our audience isn’t people trying to steal content. It’s people who want to save money.

  • Mike Craig says:

    If I subscribe to sling TV,do I need to subscribe toESPN also for $4.99 per month

  • Joseph says:

    Do you know if you need these services work outside of the US? As I spent half of my time in the UK

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