ESPN is the most popular sports network in the United States. It covers everything from mainstream sports like NBA, NFL and MLB games to more niche sports like motocross and rugby. For sports fans, ESPN is really a must-have. But what if you don’t have cable? Can you watch ESPN without cable TV?
Thankfully, the answer is yes! If you’re wondering how to watch ESPN without cable, this guide will explain how. There are several different options, which we will cover in detail below.
How to Watch ESPN Without Cable: At a Glance
For sports fans who are also cord-cutters, there are a couple different ways to watch ESPN online without cable. Note that they are all paid options – currently, there is no way to watch ESPN for free. Here are our top recommendations – find the complete list of services further down this page.
Hulu with Live TV offers a great way to watch ESPN and 50+ other important networks, without cable. You can use it on devices like streaming players, smart TVs, computers and smartphones. It costs $40 a month, with no contract or commitment required.
Sling TV is another great option for ESPN streaming without cable. It works on all your favorite devices, from your smartphone to your streaming player (like Roku, Apple TV, AirTV, etc.) Plans start from $25 a month, and do not require a contract.
Using Streaming Services to Watch ESPN Without Cable
If you’re new to the world of cable TV alternatives, things can get a bit confusing. Many streaming services include ESPN in their channel lineup – but how does it all actually work? This section will explain the basics of online live streaming services.
Essentially, live streaming services (like Hulu Live TV, Sling TV, etc.) seek to provide a viable alternative to cable TV. They function in a similar way, offering the ability to watch live TV on anywhere from 20-100+ channels, depending on your package. Generally speaking, everything that airs live on cable will also air live on streaming services, so long as they include the relevant channels.
So, how are streaming services any different from cable? Are they better?
The primary differences are in price and flexibility.
First, for pricing – the average cable TV bill now exceeds $100 per month. Compare this to streaming services, which average around $40 per month (and can be as low as $25), and it’s easy to see why these options are quite popular!
Second, flexibility – most cable providers lock you into a contract of at least 1 year. Additionally, you can usually only watch cable when you’re at home. On the other hand, streaming services are non-contract, so you can cancel at any time – and they let you watch while on-the-go!
Another difference is in the details of how they actually work. Cable TV requires a cable box, which is usually rented from the cable provider. Streaming services work over the internet, and require a streaming device. You’ll have to provide this yourself, but you can use just about anything – like a Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, computer, smartphone, tablet, etc. See our guide to streaming devices for more info.
So, to sum up:
- Streaming services give you LIVE access to your favorite TV channels
- Prices span from $25 to $80 per month, with an average around $40
- No contract is required – cancel any time
- You’ll need a device to use, like a Roku or a smart TV
Now that we know the basics, let’s dive into specific services that we recommend!
Watch ESPN Without Cable via Hulu with Live TV
Hulu with Live TV is one of our top recommendations overall. The service is very affordable, easy to use, and works on all your favorite devices. Here are the basics:
- Best for folks who want both live and on-demand entertainment
- 50+ channels included
- Highlights include ESPN, FS1, AMC, TNT, FOX News, CNN and more
- Includes NBC, FOX, CBS and regional sports networks in most areas
- Great coverage of local sports
- $40 per month, with no contract
- Free 7-day trial
- Works on Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, smartphones, tablets, computers and more
- Includes a HUGE on-demand library to catch up on past shows
Hulu with Live TV is among our top recommendations because it’s a true one-stop-shop for your entertainment needs. It’s live channel lineup is impressive, covering everything from news to sports to TV shows. And when there’s nothing on, the service also comes with an on-demand library to stream any time!
You can check out our Hulu Live review to learn more about the service.
Stream ESPN Without Cable via Sling TV
Sling TV is another popular option, and a very budget-friendly choice! With plans from $25 a month, it’s a great option if you’re looking to save as much money as possible. Here are the basics:
- Best for folks looking for the cheapest plan possible
- 25+ channels included
- Highlights include ESPN, AMC, CNN, Comedy Central, Food Network and more
- Less coverage of local sports, compared to other options
- $25 per month, with no contract
- Free 7-day trial
- Add-on channel packages available to expand selection
- Works on Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, mobile devices, computers and more
- Includes limited on-demand library
Sling TV is an affordable streaming solution. It’s also highly customizable, thanks to the $5 add-on packages that are available. Currently, it’s the cheapest way to stream ESPN without cable.
Our Sling TV review has more information.
Watch ESPN Online Without Cable via DIRECTV NOW
DIRECTV NOW is a streaming service that’s well established and quite popular. Note that it’s different from normal DIRECTV, as it does not require a satellite (DIRECTV NOW is an online streaming service). Here are the basics:
- Best for folks who want the biggest selection possible
- 65+ channels included (up to 125+ in the bigger packages
- Highlights include ESPN, AMC, FOX News, TNT, FS1, CNN and more
- Good coverage of local sports
- Plans from $40 per month
- Works on Apple TV, Roku and other streaming devices, plus mobile devices and more
- Includes some on-demand content
For folks who crave selection, it’s tough to beat DIRECTV NOW’s huge channel packages. That said, on the upper end their plans cost as much as $80/mo, which is not that much less than cable.
Our DIRECTV NOW review has some more details you may find useful.
Get the ESPN Live Stream Without Cable via YouTube TV
YouTube TV is one of the newer streaming platforms, but it’s growing quickly. It’s got a solid channel lineup, and some unique features like a built-in DVR with unlimited storage.
- Best for folks who love to record live TV to watch later
- 60+ channels included
- Highlights include ESPN, AMC, CNN, FOX News, FX and more
- Great coverage of local sports and local news channels
- $40 per month, no contract
- Works on Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, mobile devices and more
- Includes cloud DVR with unlimited storage (for recording live TV)
YouTube TV is another viable option for watching ESPN without cable. That said, it’s not yet available everywhere, so make sure it’s live in your area!
Take a look at our YouTube TV review to learn more.
Enjoy Watching ESPN Without Cable on PlayStation Vue
Last but not least, PlayStation Vue is another great option. The service is very popular among families, because it can be used on several devices at the same time.
- Best for families and large households
- 45+ channels included
- Highlights include ESPN, CNN, Cartoon Network, FX, TNT and more
- Good coverage of local channels
- $45 per month, no contract
- Works on Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, PlayStation devices, mobile devices and more
- You can stream on up to 5 devices at once
Vue is a great choice for larger households – other than that, it’s a bit more costly than the other options discussed here.
So there you have it – the best ways to watch ESPN without cable TV! Now, you can watch sports without cable, like NFL (including one NFL playoffs game), MLB, NBA, college football, and a whole lot more on the most popular cable channel of all.
Each of these options will provide the ESPN live stream – so the differences lie in the other channels they include, and the features they offer. We recommend checking out the channel lineups to choose the best one for you.
Again, there is no way to legally watch ESPN for free, so you’ll need to pay for a service. That said, you may be able to watch some highlights and clips on ESPN’s website.
You may also be wondering about ESPN’s new streaming service, ESPN+. This $4.99 a month streaming service does not offer the regular ESPN channel. Instead, it’s additional sports and documentaries that are exclusive to the new digital platform and not available on regular ESPN networks.
If you have any questions about how to watch ESPN online without cable, don’t hesitate to ask!
Need help getting rid of cable TV? Make sure to check out our full guide to cable TV alternatives.