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How to Watch ESPN Without Cable: 9 Great Options to Consider

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Want to watch ESPN without cable but don’t think you can? We share 9 options to watch your favorite ESPN shows without a nasty cable contract.

I’m a huge sports fan. I love watching college football and NFL games so knowing how to watch ESPN without cable or satellite is vital. I even have a claim to fame that many 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 you don’t need a cable or satellite TV contract to watch 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 watch SportsCenter, Pardon the Interruption, or First Take. If you’ve been wondering, how to watch sports without cable, there are multiple ways to get ESPN without cable.

We’ll share the easiest ways to watch ESPN without cable (most also include how to watch Fox Sports 1 without cable).

Ways to Watch ESPN on TV Without Cable

 

Cable companies don’t want you to know that you don’t need cable to watch Monday Night Football (MNF) without cable. Here are a few of the best ways to watch live sports without cable.

1. Hulu Live

 

“Watching” a football emoji 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. It’s an excellent way to watch the live sporting events you don’t want to miss.

Hulu Live comes with ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN News, the ACC Network and the SEC Network. You receive those plus other great content from your favorite networks, for $54.99 per month.

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

Hulu Live ups the ante with compelling original content like the critically acclaimed The Handmaid’s Tale series. You also receive access to live content on local networks and cable standbys like FX, Food Network, and TBS.

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, Apple TV, and Roku. The $54.99 per month price tag gives you 50 hours of cloud DVR storage so you can record games you have to miss.

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 risk-free.

Try Hulu Live for free for seven days now

2. Sling TV

 

Sling TV is another excellent way to watch ESPN without cable. It’s one of the most well-known streaming options for people looking into how to watch live sports without cable.

Sling TV is a little different than other streaming services. 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 $25 per month, Sling Orange gives you access to 6,200 live and original hours of programming across 65 different sports. This includes 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)
  • NFL Network
  • NBC Sports (NBCSN)

Sling Blue also offers access to Fox Sports regional networks. 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 cable or satellite, Sling TV makes it easy. Learn more about the pros and cons and channel lineup of Sling TV in our Sling TV review.

You can likely stream Sling TV on the device you already own, as it works with smartphones, the 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. This gives you 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

3. AT&T TV Now

 

AT&T TV Now (formerly known as DirecTV Now) is perhaps the industry-leading streaming, contract-free TV service. We’ve tested the DirecTV Now platform multiple times have enjoyed it for the most part.

We cover the platform, including how we found it to be an easy and enjoyable way to watch ESPN without cable in our AT&T TV Now review.

For $65 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 AT&T TV Now, you only need an internet connection and a device, which could be a smartphone, tablet, laptop computer, Roku, Google Chromecast, Amazon FireTV, or Amazon FireTV Stick to stream ESPN on TV without cable.

Other things to like about the AT&T TV 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, AT&T TV 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.

4. 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 $49.99 per month. The base package offers more than 70 channels, including ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPN News.

Are you paying too much for cable?
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You can also watch NBC Sports, Fox Sports 1, and Fox Sports 2 as well as the MLB Network and NBA TV.

You can watch ESPN online through YouTube TV on an unlimited number of devices. It’s possible to stream YouTube TV 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.

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 has gotten wise to the cord-cutting trend and is now offering ESPN+ – its standalone streaming service. For $4.99 per month (or $49.99 annually), ESPN+ offers 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 additional sports content that isn’t available on the channel 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 (including PPV events), cricket, rugby, and tennis. If you don’t need access to all ESPN live sports content, ESPN+ might be a good option.

Read more about the platform in our ESPN+ review.

If you want to watch ESPN without cable, Hulu Live, DirecTV Now, Sling TV or one of the other options mentioned are a better bet. 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.

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.

All of the streaming providers have apps for the major devices. This makes it simple 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, and YouTube TV.

*Related: Love college football? Check out our guide on how to watch college football without cable to catch all the action without a pricey contract.*

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?

 

Every sports fan wishes the answer to this question were yes. If it were possible to watch ESPN online for free, they wouldn’t be making as much money as they could. 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, or are illegal. The damage that could occur to your device isn’t worth it.

Most of the streaming options mentioned here including Hulu Live, and Sling TV, offer free trials. We’ve used these in a pinch in the past when we needed access for a game or two we wanted to watch.

Want to watch ESPN without cable but don’t think you can? We share 9 options to watch your favorite ESPN shows without a nasty cable contract.

How to stream ESPN Without Cable – Wrap Up

 

In summary, if you are tired of paying for cable, 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 $54.99, there are excellent, contract-free ways to watch ESPN without cable. Since most platforms offer free trials, you could cancel your cable contract, 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 other sports content 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.

44 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!

    • 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.”

    • 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.

        • 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.

    • 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?

    • 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.

    • 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.

        • 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!

        • 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.

          • Marc says:

            Uh, network channels? You can get them free over the air? How do they survive? Seems like that simple example pretty much nullifies all your arguments. I understand that some high-cost movies and shows (Game Of Thrones) are a totally different beast, but we used to be able to watch some Monday Night Football totally free, sigh. Now it costs $50/mo AND they still have the Ads.

            • We also used to believe the Earth was totally flat, but that’s no longer the case. Yea, and network channels have…wait for it…ads! Ads, regardless of the medium you’re consuming, are all over the place. Instead of acting like an old man screaming at kids to get off their yard, move on if you’re not happy. This post has absolutely nothing to do with ads. It’s about how to get ESPN without paying $110+/month for cable. Have a nice day.

    • Duviel Rodriguez says:

      Sounds like John is protecting paid content companies.

      I agree. These companies make too much profit of backs of working class. Profit after costs!

      Some good profit is okay but they are making millions or billions.

      If they are going to advertise heavily programming should be free. If I’m paying $50 for content it should be add free.

      If you can find a way to get it free do what everyone including corporate America does. Take Advantage!!!

      • Wow, I don’t know where to start with your illogical rantings.

        So, who is going to determine how much these companies can profit? You? You sound like you believe you’re pure enough to make that decision without any obvious agenda or prejudice. Because, we all know that you work for free and are above anything like making money or supporting your family.

        Seriously though, you and others are mistaking protection or support when it’s actually living in reality and knowing why you must pay for content. I’d restate all the historical background, but it’d fall on deaf ears.

        The fact of the matter is you’re supporting theft at the expense of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of good people losing their jobs as a result. Just hope that theft doesn’t impact your moral purity too much!

  • 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.

    • 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.

      • JT says:

        But the complaint is about ESPN specifically. The point your commenters are making is that content should be free to the consumer and ad supported (ABC, NBC, CBS, etc) or paid for and ad free (HBO, Showtime). ESPN is getting both, and that’s the complaint. They’re not doing it because that’s what it costs to pay the announcers and camera crew, they’re double dipping because they CAN…as many comments have noted, the main reason people haven’t cut the cord is due to live sports, ie ESPN.

        And, before you spout off about ‘that’s what the athletes cost’, I have two rebuttals: 1) ESPN started gouging (double charging, ad + subscription), raked in huge profits, and then could afford mega billion $ TV deals that the leagues could then trickle down to athletes. The only reason athletes are paid so much now is because of how rich ESPN has been for ~30 years. These athletes would still play even if their salaries were cut from 10M to 5M per year. 2) What about college sports like football and basketball where the athletes are free? Are those sports broadcast ad free since the costs are lower? Here’s a hint: nope.

        One last point that speaks to the cronyism that has fueled this monopoly: as you mentioned, cable subscribers pay roughly $15/mo for all ESPN rights. So why don’t they (ESPN) offer a streaming service at that price to go direct to consumers (not the ESPN+ garbage)? The fact is, you have to have a $40-50/mo bill for cable/streaming/satelite to get ESPN, so ESPN protects the cable monopoly and vice versa.

        People aren’t complaining about paying for content. People are complaining about being GOUGED by a monopoly that is having ads + $15/mo subscription + $25-35/mo additional subscription that I don’t even want.

        I pay for NFL Gamepass and guess what? I can watch all the games with NO ADS. Once the NCAA wises up and follows suit (or even just the Big Ten so I can watch my beloved Nittany Lions play), I can say goodbye to ESPN/cable forever.

        I’m not necessarily saying people should steal content, but I understand it if they do. Like the classic ethical question, is it OK to steal to feed your family? Likewise, is it OK to steal from a monopoly that has been double charging (stealing from) you for 3 decades?

        • Like the others, you’re wrong. The issue you’re complaining about it inherent with any non-premium cable channel. That’s also not to mention the fact that this site is not the means to whine and moan about the perceived ills of ESPN. We’re not ESPN and we have no affiliation with them. This article is a resource to help people legitimately save money on cable, and from the countless people we’ve spoken with we know it’s a help. And, yes, you are saying people should still content. You just don’t want to come out and say it.

  • 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

  • Craig says:

    I’ts dishartening hear all the people who think the things they want should be free or at a cost they think is appropriate. My first thought is that they must have gone to college and still haven’t ‘woke’ to how the real world operates. The old networks had very little cometition and they could charge a lot more advertising and therefore programming could be free. today the veiwer are spread between so many channels that advertising alone can’t cover the cost. It is the competition now that has given us all these choices at lower costs. We of course could have it all “free” again if the gov. controlled all broadcasting. Then instead of advertising we would only have to put up with a steady stream of propaganda.

  • Fuck says:

    So basically I just read this entire article to find out who offers services for money. You sir, falsely advertised your services. “ how to watch free” would be something you know nothing about obviously. You wasted my time, so I think I’ll do the same to you and report you. I will also turn your site in to the bbb just so there’s a record of your falsehoods. To anyone who reads reviews first please don’t waste your time.

    • Ha ha, go ahead and report us to an organization solely made up of companies that pay so they can look good. While you’re at it, learn how to read. Nowhere in this article do we make claims you can watch ESPN for free. Secondly, we don’t have any services. We can’t help you can understand and discern a simple how-to article. Lastly, you really need to learn how to decompress. It’s obvious from your comment that you have some pent up aggression to deal with at some level.

  • Greg Peirce says:

    Be aware. I signed up for ESPN+ but it’s not the same as ESPN on TV. Many events are blacked out. For example, the USOpen Tennis at night requires you to validate your TV cable provider in order to watch it. Seems very unfair that you have to have cable TV to watch but you still pay the $4.99 service fee.

    • Thanks for the comment, but the warning isn’t necessary. We have an entire section in the post discussing it and providing a warning to ensure expectations aren’t too high.

  • JB says:

    When cable came out you paid for NO COMMERCIALS, they made money you was happy not seeing commercials, the slowly the cable companies figured out that they can make tons of money by adding commercials! OTA channels have commercials to pay for programming and that is fair, anything we have to pay for should be no commercials, the way it was at the beginning. Go ask your parents or grand parents how it used to be…..

  • Jeff says:

    I know this article was about ESPN, but Sling has lost my regional Fox Sports, FS1, FS2, and the local Fox affiliate since the beginning of the year. I was a loyal Slinger, but this has me looking at other options.

  • Arno says:

    we have fire TV cube and no cable provider…sounds like sling may work for us for MNF
    Still, the NFL could make so much more if they operated a bit differently

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