The #1 Reason people hesitate to cut the cord is because they think they won’t be able to watch sports without cable or satellite TV.
That’s simply not true. You can watch sports without cable — online with streaming services and over-the-air with an HD antenna, all 100% legal.
Below, we’ll go over all the different ways you can get sports channels without cable or satellite TV, exploring the pros and cons of each option so you can choose best.
Seasonal Sports Calendar
The first step to learning how to watch sports without cable is knowing when your favorite sports will be on. Using the season sports schedule below, you can cost-effectively plan out your yearly streaming strategy. Why pay for a streaming service all year, if you only need it for 3 months?
Now, let’s take a look at how to watch the different types of sports programming you might be interested in without paying for cable:
Sports News ⇑
As far as sports news goes, you’re in luck. Getting your daily dose of stats, scores, and updates are relatively easy to do without cable. With streaming services like Sling TV (free 7-day trial; starts at $25/month thereafter) or Hulu Live (also offers a free 7-day trial; starts at $40/month thereafter) you’ll have a way to watch ESPN without cable bundled into your subscription. With ESPN, you’ll be able to see scrolling scores and news update at the bottom of the screen as well as routine SportsCenter updates. You can also get other sports channels like ESPN2, ESPNews, FS1, FS2, NFL Network, NBA TV, regional networks, and a whole lot more through these and other live streaming services.
Another option is PlayStation Vue. Their base package called “Access” comes with around 55 Channels and costs $45 a month. Like with Sling you do get ESPN, but it also costs $20 more a month.
Then there is the DIRECTV NOW (free trial) who offers a ton of sports related channels as well as the sports-centric FuboTV. Both of these services are fantastic options to watch sports online and should be highly considered.
Now if you don’t have one of these subscription streaming services, or you just want something a little different, you may want to check out 120 Sports for keeping up with sports news and highlights. 120 Sports is a digital broadcast network that breaks up sporting news up into digestible 2-minute chunks. You can search for stories through tags and the search feature or you can just let the news roll in on autoplay. And the best part? It’s free and available for both Android and iOS. Note, however, that 120 Sports only offers short news clips. It’s not a way to watch live sports like the other services we’ve touched on.
NFL Football ⇑
Luckily for NFL fans, watching professional football has changed very little in the last 50 years. The vast majority of games are still televised over-the-air on the major broadcast networks. CBS usually covers AFC games and several Thursday night football games, Fox handles the NFC, and NBC broadcasts the Sunday night game. All of those channels can be accessed with a simple OTA antenna like the Mohu Leaf, and most antennas range between $30-$60.
As far as Monday Night Football games, those are broadcasted on ESPN so in this case, an antenna won’t cut it. What you’ll need is a subscription to a live streaming service that carries ESPN, like Sling TV.
For $25 a month, Sling TV offers streaming access to over 30 live channels, ESPN included. It may seem like a lot for one game a week, but trust me when I say Sling will come in handy for a lot more than NFL football; which we’ll get to a little later.
Also worth noting here, Sling TV also offers RedZone Channel and NFL Network as channels you can add on in other packages. If you are not familiar with RedZone, you get every scoring play on one channel, with no commercial interruptions on Sunday afternoons. The channel does live cut-ins to games across the league so you never miss a big play. So if you love the game like I do, or play in a Fantasy Football League, RedZone is a must!
Other live streaming services also carry the channels you need to watch football and may be worth looking into depending on the overall selection of channels you want. These include Hulu Live TV, PlayStation Vue, DIRECTV NOW, and fuboTV. What’s really great about these services is that, unlike Sling TV, they also let you watch local channels like CBS, FOX, and NBC in most markets, allowing you to stream your local NFL games if you’re unable to get those channels with an antenna. All of these are great options to watch sports online, including football.
If you happen to be outside of the market of your game of choice, which happens more often than you think (especially if you play fantasy football), then what you’ll need is a subscription to NFL Game Pass. For $99 (free trial) a year, you get access to every NFL game this season after they air and a whole lot of extras; like streamable NFL games from 2009 to present.
So now you know how to watch football without a cable bill. Between Sling TV, NFL Game Pass, and an OTA antenna; there won’t be a single NFL game outside of your grasp. You can even watch the NFL Playoffs online without cable.
To learn more, read our guide to the best ways to Watch NFL Football without Cable TV.
College Football ⇑
While you could probably do without Sling TV when it comes to the NFL, it’s completely indispensable for the cord cutting college football fan. Nearly half of all televised college football games are televised on ESPN, ESPN 2, and ESPN 3 (also carries ABC games); including the national championship. With Sling TV you get all 3 ESPN channels in the $25 default subscription package. You can also access regional and national FOX Sports networks by upgrading to higher channel packages to get even more college football action.
Again, you also can go with Hulu Live, PlayStation Vue, or DIRECTV NOW and get the ESPN networks, but you need to be willing to pay the extra money each month. Read to find out if PS Vue is right for you “Is Sling TV or PlayStation Vue a Better Option for Cord Cutters“.
For an additional $5 you can unlock the SEC network and some other sports channels with Sling’s Sports Extra.
If you cheer for the minor teams as well as the P5 powerhouses, you’ll also want a subscription to College Sports Live. For $10 a month or $100 a year you can get streaming access to dozens of sports, college football including, from over 100 different colleges.
Finally, you can watch college football on OTA television. FOX usually offers at least 1 game a week (either Pac 12 or Big 12 ). ABC is typically good for an evening game and an additional 12 PM national game every week. CBS offers some SEC games every week, and NBC broadcasts most of your home-team games. So while the vast majority of CFB games are on cable/regional sports networks, there are usually 3-6 games on OTA networks each week.
To learn more, read “HOW TO WATCH COLLEGE FOOTBALL ONLINE AND OTA“
MLB Baseball ⇑
When it comes to MLB, there are a few variables you need to be aware of. The national games usually air on ESPN, MLB Network, FS1, FOX, and sometimes TBS. However, if you want to follow your local team all season long, their games will air on a regional network in your area, usually a FOX Sports or NBC Sports channel.
ESPN has three weekly broadcasts during the regular season, which are: Sunday Night Baseball, Monday Night Baseball, and Wednesday Night Baseball. In addition to playing regular-season games, ESPN also broadcasts several exhibition games such as the Taco Bell All-Star Legends and Celebrity Softball Game.
TBS broadcasts a weekly game on Sundays. But since TBS does not own the exclusive rights to the game, local markets are blocked from watching the game.
These days, most streaming services offer pretty good coverage of both national and regional sports networks. So, any of the live streaming services like Sling TV, Hulu Live, PlayStation Vue, fuboTV, or DIRECTV NOW should be a pretty good option for watching baseball during the season.
However, in the postseason coverage is a little different. TBS broadcasts one of the two League Championship series; trading off between the National and American League each year. TBS also covers two of the four MLB Division Series; again trading off between leagues. ESPN carries some playoff games, as well as MLB Network, FS1, and FOX. Again, you should be able to access all or most of these channels depending on the streaming service above you decide to use.
As far as over-the-air television goes, only one network broadcasts games: Fox. With Fox, you’ll get 12 in-market regular-season games, the All-Star Game, a division championship games (which one depends on the year), and most importantly, the World Series.
Perhaps the most robust non-cable option for baseball is something called MLB.TV. For $115.99 you get access to every regular season out of market baseball game. They also offer a single-team option for following one out-of-market team at the cost of $89.99 a season. The downside, of course, is baseball’s ridiculous blackout rules which make MLB.TV useless for watching your local team.
As far as postseason goes, another option is the subscription service PostSeason.tv. It works like MLB.tv except that you don’t get the official broadcast; rather you get up to 10 alternate camera angles and no announcer. If you truly miss having an announcer, you can always find an online radio broadcast to play the game. PostSeason.tv is not perfect, but for $5 a month, it’s hard to do better.
To learn more, read “HOW TO WATCH BASEBALL ONLINE“
NBA Basketball ⇑
National NBA games only air on a few television networks: ABC (also simulcasts on ESPN3), ESPN, NBA TV, and TNT; with the vast majority of games going to ESPN and TNT. Fortunately, you can get all of these channels with Sling TV, Hulu Live, PlayStation Vue, or DIRECTV NOW. Sling TV is the cheapest of the bunch and a very affordable way to watch sports without cable, starting at just $25 a month.
With ESPN, in addition to regular season games, you get access to one of the two conference finals; NBA playoff games that take place on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays; the NBA Draft; and the NBA Draft Lottery.
For the most part, TNT is the favored carrier of NBA basketball; and you’ll be able to watch most of the “important” games on TNT. In addition to their regular season play, you’ll get the other half of the NBA conference finals; any NBA playoff game occurring on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Sunday; and the NBA All-Star Game.
If you want to watch TNT games, but you don’t want Sling TV, then you’ll want to check out TNT Overtime.
TNT Overtime allows you to watch NBA games that TNT shows for free. Overtime doesn’t show you the exact broadcast, what it shows you is just four different camera angles of the game. It’s not quite as simple as turning on the TV, but it is better than paying for cable.
To watch the games on ABC, all you’ll need is a standard over-the-air antenna. With ABC, you get 15 regular season games and the NBA Finals.
But what if you want to follow your local team all season long and see every game they play? Local NBA coverage airs on regional sports networks, usually run by FOX Sports or NBC Sports. For example, Warriors games air in market on NBC Sports Bay Area.
Again, for the most part, you can get the regional sports networks in your area with Sling TV, Hulu Live, Vue, DIRECTV NOW, or fuboTV, making it easy to watch your local NBA team play throughout the season.
Another way to watch NBA basketball without cable is to use NBA League Pass. For approximately $200 a year you can get access to every out of market NBA game in the regular season, plus a bunch of extras like classic NBA games. For $120, you can simply follow one out-of-market team for the whole season (although blackout rules still apply). You can also now add NBA League Pass to your Sling TV subscription at a monthly cost!
What’s really interesting is that NBA League Pass allows you to buy individual games for $7 each. This is a fantastic option if you already have Sling TV and an OTA antenna, but you don’t want to fully commit to League Pass.
To learn more, read “HOW TO WATCH NBA WITHOUT CABLE“
College Basketball ⇑
You’ll find that you have a wide variety of options when it comes to watching college basketball without cable. With an over-the-air antenna, you can watch college basketball games on CBS, and Fox. However, most college basketball games will still find themselves being televised on ESPN networks.
You can watch ESPN without cable by getting a subscription to Sling TV, which costs $25 a month. That $25 will give you 30+ streamable live television channels; including ESPN and ESPN 2. When March Madness rolls around, Sling will be even more important because in the default package you will also get TBS and TNT; which will broadcast a good bulk of March Madness.
There’s also a $5 sports extra add-on that will give you the SEC Network and ESPN’s Buzzer Beater network.
If your favorite team isn’t very well known or is in a smaller conference, you can also check out College Sports Live. For $10 a month you get access to games from over 100+ different schools from over 30 different sports, basketball included.
To learn more, read “HOW TO WATCH COLLEGE BASKETBALL ONLINE AND OTA“
One of the great things about following an international sport like soccer is that there is a lot of options for cord cutters.
As far as over-the-air television goes; you can catch 34 regular-season Major League Soccer (MLS) games, two MLS playoff games, and the MLS All-Star Game on Univision’s UniMás station. NBC will also broadcast three regular-season MLS games and two MLS playoff games.
Then there’s FuboTV, which costs $40 a month to start (7-day free trial). When it comes to soccer, no other streaming service comes close to matching fuboTV’s coverage. You can watch live and on-demand matches from the LFP, LIGUE 1, SERIE A, BUNDESLIGA, Champions League, UEFA, & the LIGA Portugal league to name just a few. Also access Live Soccer Channels like beIN Sports, NBCSN, GOLTV, ENFICATV, FUBOTV Network, FOX Sports, the Daily Football Report, and a whole lot more. It’s without a doubt the best way to keep up with US and international soccer.
Next, there’s MLS Live; which shows you every out-of-market Major League Soccer game. It cost around $65 a year and it comes with some DVR-like features. Blackout rules still apply, but they mostly only pertain to games that air on ESPN, ESPN2, NBC, NBCSN, and UniMas; and those games are made available 48 hours afterward.
If American soccer is not your style and you’re looking for more European matches, then Fox’s Soccer Match Pass is perfect for you. For $19.99 a month or $140 a season, you can get access to over 1,200 soccer matches from around the world.
You get access to the following leagues: UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, UEFA European Qualifiers, FA Cup Scottish Premier League, Scottish Championship, England Home Internationals, Hyundai A-League, CONCACAF Champions League, CONCACAF Women’s World Cup Qualifiers, CONCACAF U17,s and U20s CONCACAF Gold Cup.
To learn more, read “HOW TO WATCH SOCCER ONLINE“
With the major live streaming services like Sling TV, Hulu Live, and fuboTV you can get coverage of major tournaments like The Masters, the U.S. Open, and the Open Championship. You can also get the Golf Channel for a whole lot more golf coverage throughout the year, including many tournaments as well as news and original series.
Over-the-air television with an antenna will also get you a solid amount of coverage of major golf events on CBS and NBC.
In short, it’s easy to watch a lot of golf without cable using the numerous streaming services available to you or just by setting up a simple antenna in your home.
To learn more, read “WATCH GOLF ONLINE AND OVER-THE-AIR“
If you’re a cord cutting tennis fan, there’s a lot to be happy about. While the only tennis tournament you can get over-the-air is The French Open; there are still several streaming options to choose from that will get you access to big tournaments like Wimbledon, US Open, Australian Open, French Open, and more.
A subscription to Sling TV will give you access to ESPN; which broadcasts Wimbledon, the Australian Open, and The Championships. You also get early coverage of the French Open, the US Open, the American ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournaments, the US Open Series, and the American WTP Premier.
On ESPN 3, which requires no subscription, you can get the ATP World Finals as well as the WTA Tour Championship.
Additionally, you can add NBCSN to your subscription to gain acccess to even more tennis coverage.
If you want the Tennis Channel with your streaming service, Vue, YouTube TV, and DIRECTV NOW all offer it in their various packages.
You can also subscribe to the service Tennis Channel Plus. For $70 a year, you can stream access to approximately 650 live events and 45 tournaments.
If Tennis Channel Plus is not enough, then check out Tennis TV (iTunes App link). As the official streaming service of the ATP World Tour and WTA, Tennis TV airs over 2,000 ATP World Tour and WTA matches a year. You can also watch any match on-demand for up to seven days after it airs. Tennis TV costs $20 a month or $130 a year.
To learn more, read “HOW TO WATCH TENNIS ONLINE“
With an over-the-air antenna, will be able to catch a few regional NHL games on ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX; with the Stanley Cup finals being broadcasted on NBC. But as you will quickly find out, not very many games are being broadcasted on these channels as of late, so if you are a serious NHL fan, an antenna will not be a great solution for you.
As far as streaming services are concerned, you’ll want a service that carries NBCSN, NHL Network, regional FOX Sports or NBC Sports channels depending on where you live, and possibly channels like USA and CNBC for playoffs coverage.
Your best options here are:
- Sling TV
- DIRECTV NOW
- Hulu Live TV
Another cable-free option for Hockey is to go with NHL Game Center Live. For $139 a year, or a monthly pass for $24.99, you get access to live out-of-market regular season games; as well as a bunch of extras, like condensed replays.
To see what games you will not be able to watch live with NHL GameCenter LIVE – due to their blackout rules, use the provided Zip Code search tool.
To learn more, read “HOW TO WATCH NHL ONLINE“
If you’re a fan of steel chairs, feather boas, and flying elbow drops; then there’s really only one option for you as a cord cutter, but boy is it a good one. It’s called WWE Network and streaming service packed full of goodies. You can watch every pay-per-view event this year, every past one, and hundreds of classic matches and original content. Simply put: WWE Network is a must for a wrestling fan.
The only downside is that you have to wait an entire month to watch weekly shows like Smackdown and Monday Night Raw. If you want to watch those shows live each week, you’ll also want to get a streaming service like Sling TV or Hulu Live that carries popular cable channels like USA at a fraction of the cost.
But don’t worry, because Hulu Plus has got you covered with on-demand streaming the day after it airs. It may not be live, but one day is better than 30.
To learn more, read “HOW TO WATCH WWE ONLINE“
Extreme Sports ⇑
Extreme Sports are perhaps the easiest genre of sports to watch without cable. To start, you can get almost 100 percent coverage of the X Games through ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPN3.To get access to ESPN and ESPN2, all you need is a subscription to Sling TV, DirecTV Now, or another similar live streaming service. ESPN3 is actually free through Watch ESPN.
If you buy the $5 sports extra add-on for Sling, you’ll also get access to the Outdoor channel. The Outdoor channel is, you guessed it, dedicated to all things outdoors; including extreme sports.
Not forgetting about GrindTV, Redbull.TV is also a good source for extreme sports. Available online and through a whole litany of mobile apps, Redbull.TV delivers hundreds of hours air racing, base jumping, you name it.
You can also watch millions of hours of extreme sports on YouTube through the #ExtremeSport tag or check out one of the thousands of YouTube channels dedicated to extreme sports; like the RIDE Channel.
Watching UFC events without cable currently requires Fox Sports 1 & 2 (available on Sling TV, Hulu Live, fuboTV, etc.). The occasional event also broadcasts on FOX which can be accessed with an over-the-air antenna.
However, in January 2019, the UFC’s deal with FOX expires and ESPN will be taking over the airing of their MMA events. Some events will air on the main ESPN networks while others will be exclusive to the new ESPN+ service. Your best (and cheapest) bet here for watching live UFC will be Sling TV and ESPN+, which will run you about $30 a month total.
If you want to stream live UFC events, then look no further than UFC Fight Pass. For $9.99 a month, you get access to exclusive UFC fights, a huge library of archived fights, as well as original content and UFC produced shows like The Ultimate Fighter.
You can also stream live Pay-Per-View events if you go to UFC.TV. You’ll still have to pay the full price as if it was over cable, but the plus side is that you don’t have to get locked into a lengthy cable contract in order to do so.
To learn more, read “WATCH UFC ONLINE AND OVER-THE-AIR”
The majority of NASCAR races air on Fox Sports and NBC Sports networks. Fox Sports and NBCSN are now both available in Sling TV’s Blue package that offers 45 channels for $25 a month.
With an over-the-air antenna you can also pick up the first 16 races of the Sprint Cup on FOX, including the Daytona 500; and you can get the final 7 on NBC.
Also, the first four races of the Xfinity series will on Fox while the last 15 will be televised on NBC, which you can get for free if you have an antenna. If an antenna won’t work for you, NBC is also available live in most markets with Hulu Live TV or fuboTV.
To learn more, read “CAN I WATCH NASCAR ONLINE?“
SUMMER OLYMPICS ⇑
Watching the Summer Olympics without a Cable Bill has never been easier. With a simple indoor or outdoor antenna, you can catch all the top events. And if you are looking to round out the edges, and catch 100% of the action, there are services that allow you to do that as well.
For complete details read “HOW TO WATCH THE SUMMER OLYMPICS WITHOUT CABLE“
If you’re tired of paying too much for your sports then good news, you don’t have to. There are tons of cable TV alternatives for fans of every sport and stripe; proving once again that not only does cord cutting offer a cheaper option but also more choice.
Is your favorite sport missing from this list? Then sound off in the comments below, send me a tweet, or shoot me an e-mail and we’ll find out how you can watch sports without cable!