Choosing a streaming service for watching shows or movies is easier than choosing one for sports. It’s likely because sporting events are meant to be watched in real time. That’s why , such as DirecTV Stream and YouTube TV, are usually the best services for sports fans.
However, many sports fans want to watch their local regional sports channel and network selections, or RSNs, for access to their home team’s games. Boston-area fans looking for the Bruins or fans hoping to catch the Red Sox need NESN to view the majority of their games, even if they subscribe to a league-sponsored, sport-specific package such as MLB TV, which doesn’t cover in-market games. That’s why dedicated sports streaming services that offer live streaming for your specific teams and games could be a boon to any devoted sports fan.
Because of rights agreements, most live TV streaming services don’t carry many RSNs. is the one exception to this among streaming services. It has nearly every RSN, particularly the Bally Sports (formerly Fox Sports) channels offered by Sinclair, but the company just , and you’ll need to spring for its now $90-a-month plan to access them.
However, once your sport reaches the playoffs, games tend to shift from smaller, regional channels to those that reach a national audience and tend to be included in most TV packages. The is one of the major exceptions to this, as you’ll still need access to NBA TV — which generally costs extra — in order to catch every first round playoff game. Also, some sports, like , feature all of their contests on one national network, such as ESPN.
Depending on location, the diehard sports fan of some teams might ultimately save more money by getting a cable subscription than by paying for some of the sports streaming services. Sometimes, going the livestream route is more expensive than opting for a cable or satellite channel plan, which tend to come bundled with your RSNs along with ESPN, TBS, TNT and your local network sports channel set. This could especially make sense if the package is bundled with the home internet you’ll likely be getting anyway.
If you’re a determined cord-cutter or know that you only need one or a few channels to get your sports fix, here are the best streaming services for you.
DirecTV Stream is expensive. It’s the priciest of the five major live TV streaming services, but it’s also the one with the most RSNs and offers the most for sports fanatics. Its cheapest, $70-a-month Plus package includes the major networks as well as ESPN, TNT, FS1 and TBS. You’ll need to move up to the $90-a-month Choice plan to get any available RSN and many league channels such as the Big Ten network and NBA TV. You can use its channel lookup tool to see which local channels and RSNs are available in your area.
Read our DirecTV Stream review.
ESPN’s stand-alone streaming service is great for casual sports fans and is a must-have accessory for the zealots. It costs $7 a month or $70 a year and shows all out-of-market games, NHL hockey and MLS soccer games.
It’s also heavily invested in global soccer, hosting LaLiga games from Spain and Germany’s Bundesliga. ESPN Plus is also the home of some English soccer: the FA Cup, the Carabao Cup and the Community Shield, along with the EFL Championship — which is the league below the Premier League.
ESPN Plus doesn’t show any live NBA basketball or NFL football games, but it does offer coverage of Wimbledon and the US Open. During the MLB baseball season, the service carries select out-of-market Major League baseball games as well as unlocking the MLB Archives of classic games. It also offers some NCAA football and basketball, as well as the Little League World Series for fans looking to watch up-and-coming athletes. Some UFC matches are included as part of the subscription, with pay-per-view matches usually requiring an extra fee.
The service is also home to exclusive shows, such as Peyton’s Places starring Peyton Manning, and the vast 30 for 30 library. As an added inducement, the subscription removes the paywall on the ESPN website, giving you access to all online articles and reporting.
There’s something here for most sports aficionados and it’s almost a necessity for hard-core hockey, soccer and UFC fans.
Read our ESPN Plus review.
FuboTV costs $70 per month and offers 12 RSNs. It includes ESPN, but not TBS and TNT — which might be a problem for some sports fans. It also has most of your local networks like ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox, along with FS1, FS2, BeIn Sports, the Big 10 and the Golf channel.
You’ll have to pay an extra $7 a month for the Fubo Extra Package or pay for the $80-a-month Elite streaming tier that includes Fubo Extra for the NHL, NBA, MLB, SEC, PAC 12 and Tennis channels. Check out which local networks and RSNs FuboTV offers here.
Read our FuboTV review.
Hulu Plus Live TV offers an interesting middle ground for sports fans. On the one hand, the service lacks the ability to get many league-owned channels, but on the other, it comes automatically bundled with an ESPN Plus subscription.
Hulu Plus Live TV costs $70 a month and carries four RSNs along with all the major networks plus ESPN, TBS, TNT, FS1 and FS2. It does come with the NFL network, but even the Sports add-on lacks the MLB, NHL, NBA or Tennis channels. The biggest appeal of the add-on is the inclusion of NFL Red Zone. Otherwise, it doesn’t bring much value to the package.
The inclusion of the Disney bundle might make Hulu Plus Live TV more appealing than some of the other services on this list. Not only do you get full access to the sports on ESPN Plus, but you also get Disney Plus as well. Perhaps Hulu Plus Live TV could be a good compromise for sports fans who are also Disney lovers or who share a house with those who are.
Click the “View all channels in your area” link at the bottom of Hulu Plus Live TV’s welcome page to see which local networks and RSNs are available where you live.
Read our Hulu Plus Live TV review.
YouTube TV costs $65 a month and offers four RSNs, along with FS1, FS2, ESPN, TBS, TNT and all of the major national networks. The standard package includes just about every league channel with the exception of the NHL Network. There is an additional Sports Plus package, but it doesn’t offer much other than BeIn and NFL Red Zone, so you might be able to skip it. Plug in your ZIP code on YouTube TV’s welcome page to see which local networks and RSNs are available in your area.
Read our YouTube TV review.
Peacock, owned by NBC, offers some live sports to go along with its on-demand entertainment. The $5-a-month tier gives users access to English Premier League soccer, the Olympics, Sunday Night Football, select WWE events, Indy Car races and some PGA golf tournaments. The service also airs a few other less popular sports, such as rugby, figure skating, track and field and cycling. Access to Sunday Night Football is great during the season, but for most of the year the platform is best suited for soccer and wrestling fans.
Read our Peacock review.
The Sling TV packages don’t have a ton to offer any but the most casual fan. Sling Blue currently lacks a single RSN, but you can use it to watch some national broadcasts. Sling TV’s Orange plan includes ESPN, while the Blue plan has FS1 and the NFL network. While both plans offer TBS, none of them gives you access to ABC, which could be a problem for many fans. The Sports Extra add-on, which costs $11 a month for either the Blue or Orange plan or $15 for the combined Orange and Blue plan, offers the NBA, NHL and MLB channels, along with the PAC 12, BeIn and Tennis channel, among others. The individual plans cost $35 a month each, and the Orange and Blue plan costs $50 a month. You can see which local channels you get here.
Read our Sling TV review.
Sports Streaming Services FAQs
Don’t some on-demand streaming services show live sports too?
Yes. Hulu, Amazon Prime and Paramount Plus all air live sports once in a while, but their sports offerings are currently fairly limited.
Paramount Plus, a CBS company, gives its $5-a-month Essential subscribers access to AFC football games during the NFL season, along with some UEFA Champions league soccer matches, though viewers don’t have full access to their local CBS station. Paramount Plus is also home to the NWSL women’s soccer league.
Hulu has started streaming select NHL hockey games on its regular service, but it tends to save most of its sports streaming for its Hulu Plus Live TV package.
Amazon Prime Video has partnered with the NFL to exclusively stream Thursday Night Football starting in 2022. This means that anyone who wants to watch their team play on Thursday night will need to be an Amazon Prime member. This could be important for fans while the season is in action, but the platform doesn’t offer too much else during the rest of the year. Prime airs a few WNBA games over the summer, but that’s about it.
While these services do air some sports offerings, they focus mainly on on-demand entertainment. This might change in the future, but right now they don’t offer too much specifically for sports fans.
Is there a lag or delay when streaming sports live compared with cable?
There is. The streaming delay is often as long as 40 seconds, compared with around 5 seconds for cable and satellite.
This might be particularly worrisome for those with Twitter, group chats and phone push notifications, where a delay of this length can lead to spoilers of big plays. It could also potentially make it difficult for sports bettors to get in on the action. If you plan on legally betting, it might be a good idea to watch your game via cable or satellite.
Turning off your phone’s notifications and staying away from Twitter will let you stream your games without spoilers. Sure, your friends might try to call and text to brag about the score, but you can always choose to ignore them while you watch.
Can I cancel my subscriptions when the season is over?
Yes. All of these services are free of contracts and you can cancel at any time. Some offer free trials or special introductory discount memberships, which you will only get to use once. If you cancel and return at a later date, you will most likely have to pay full price. That said, you might not need a particular service year-round, which might make temporary cancellation an appealing way to save a few bucks.
How do I access these services on my devices?
All of the services on this list have apps that you can download. You will need a smart TV or a streaming device to watch the content on your TV. Just search for the name of the service on your smart TV or device, download the app on your TV and enter your sign-in information, and you should be ready to stream.
You can also download the apps of these services on your phone, iPad or Android device for streaming around the house or on the go.
More sports TV recommendations