Live sports coverage is a huge draw for cable subscribers, but you can get the same content, if not more, from a dedicated streaming service. Although some on-demand video streaming services include occasional sports commentary shows, the best options for sports fanatics are the cable-replacement services that offer game streams from local, national, and international networks.
The first thing to consider when choosing a sports streaming service is which one has the channels you need to watch the sports you care about. For instance, if you want to watch the Tour de France, all you need to do is subscribe to one of Peacock’s Premium plans. Coverage of the cycling event runs through July 18.
NFL fans still have the easiest job. All NFL games air on local broadcast affiliates (CBS, FOX, or NBC), ESPN, or Prime Video, which means you don’t have to deal with regional sports networks (RSNs) to watch every game available to you. However, the games that air on your local broadcast affiliates will almost always feature local teams; if you are a fan of an out-of-market team, the NFL’s Game Pass and DirecTV’s Sunday Ticket are your best options. Other sports programming such as PGA Tour events (CBS, Golf Channel, or NBC) and NASCAR races (FOX, FS1, NBC, or NBC Sports Network) also air on national channels.
Some MLB, NBA, and NHL games air on national channels, too; for example, you can watch NBA games on ABC, TNT, or ESPN. That said, many of the games from these leagues air on RSNs owned by Sinclair (Bally Sports, previously known as FOX Sports), Comcast (NBC Sports), or AT&T (SportsNet). Currently, AT&T TV is the only service we’ve reviewed that includes RSNs from each of these owners, though fuboTV, Hulu + Live TV, and YouTube TV all offer NBC Sports RSNs. Which RSNs you need to watch sports in your market depends on your location. Check out each RSN’s listing page to see which teams they cover.
Baseball, basketball, and hockey fans should respectively check out our roundups of the best MLB streaming services, the best NBA streaming services, and the best NHL streaming services for all the details on streaming these sports without cable.
Many of the services we reviewed offer major sports channels for international markets, such as BEIN, ESPN Deportes, Fox Deportes, and Univision Deportes, but some require you to subscribe to extra packages for more regional and international sports content.
Dazn, on the other hand, is better for users in international markets (such as Germany, Switzerland, Japan, and Italy) who want to watch mainstream US sports. However, for US subscribers, it offers a mix of Boxing, MMA, and MLB content.
Live Sports vs. Sports Content
Presumably, most sports fans want to watch both live sports and sports-related programs. However, we restricted this roundup to those services that regularly stream live sports events. After all, there’s no point in cutting the cord if you can’t watch your favorite teams live. Sports commentary and shows about sports certainly add value, but they don’t alone qualify a service as a sports streaming service.
For those reasons, HBO Max does not make the list, despite its historical association with boxing and current high-quality sports shows, such as Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, Hard Knocks, and Ballers. That could change, however, as the service may stream live NHL games as soon as next year. Starz also does not qualify, as it requires you to pay extra to watch its live streaming MMA content. Amazon Prime Video, on the other hand, streams Thursday Night Football games during the regular season and select MLB games in the New York region, so it makes the cut.
Just as with cable broadcasts, streaming services are subject to coverage blackouts, so it’s a good idea to find a service with both RSNs and local broadcast affiliates, in case one outbids the other for broadcast rights.
More Than Sports
While the focus of this roundup is on sports content, these services do not exist in a bubble. Monthly subscription costs can add up, and there’s a good chance that not everyone in your household wants to watch sports exclusively. Many of these options cost upwards of $60 per month, depending on the package you choose, while add-ons can easily push that monthly price even higher.
Therefore, you should consider whether the service offers value for anyone else in your household. Most of the best sports streaming services are also some of the best for general audiences, with good lineups of news and entertainment programming.
That said, some video streaming services, such as ESPN+ and Dazn, primarily focus on sports content. Amazon Prime Video, Paramount+, and Peacock, which are primarily on-demand services, offer large libraries of shows and movies to stream in addition to their live sports content. Hulu + Live TV also gives users access to a vast library of TV series and films.
Streaming Extras and Limitations
Sometimes sports coverage, and particularly international sports coverage, doesn’t air at a convenient time. If you can’t watch the game for whatever reason, finding a service with good DVR functionality is worthwhile. Many video streaming services offer a specified number of hours you can record (some offer unlimited recording), which you can keep in storage for a set amount of time or until you stop paying for your subscription. However, no service we reviewed currently allows you to take those recordings offline, as some on-demand video streaming services allow.
What if two programs are airing at the same time and neither person wants to watch a recorded version later? If you make sure that the video streaming service you pick supports simultaneous streaming, then this won’t be a problem. Most services in the category support at least two simultaneous streams, but many services offer add-ons that increase that limit for an extra monthly fee.
One disadvantage of streaming services is that the picture quality may not always be as consistent as that of cable. The upper streaming resolution is dependent on the broadcast itself, so you may occasionally find games or channels that are limited to 720p. To get smooth 1080p streaming, you also need to make sure that your internet connection reaches a service’s minimum bandwidth requirement. Hulu + Live TV, Paramount+, and YouTube TV are among the services we tested that support 1080p/60fps streams on select platforms. Streaming at 4K resolution requires even more bandwidth (as well as a compatible device) and few services even support that resolution. FuboTV and YouTube TV are exception: Both broadcast some live events in 4K, though the latter requires you to pay an extra monthly fee for that capability.
Alternatives to Sports Streaming Services
Not all sports events require a subscription to watch them online. Major sports events such as the Super Bowl or The Masters are typically free to stream online. You can also purchase a TV antenna to get free over-the-air local channels, though the number and quality of said channels may vary wildly based on your location.
Yes, there are illegal options too. For example, there’s likely a sketchy subreddit (if it hasn’t already been shut down) or sports streaming site with several dozen hosted links for whatever sport and event you want to watch. We do not condone the use of these sites.
You won’t find esports on any of these services, but many game companies broadcast major events for free online. Twitch is your best bet for video game live streaming.
Hulu is a great streaming service for sports fans. The service includes all the major broadcast networks and many sports-specific cable channels such as BTN, CBS Sports Network, ESPN, FS1, FS2, Golf Channel, and NBC Sports Network. It is missing a few league-specific channels, such as MLB Network, and NBA TV, as well as RSNs from AT&T and Sinclair (it has all the NBC Sports RSNs). That said, Hulu is adding NFL Network and NFL RedZone before the start of the next NFL season, and you can pay for the Español add-on ($4.99 per month) to get international sports coverage.
Like YouTube TV, Hulu also excels as a replacement for cable, with nearly as many news and entertainment channels at your disposal. Plus, a subscription to Hulu + Live TV includes access to Hulu’s expansive library of on-demand shows and movies.
In order to watch Peacock’s sports content, you must subscribe to its Premium tier. The main draw of Peacock for sports fans is its coverage of Premier League matchups and the Tour de France. In addition to hosting IndyCar and WWE content, the service recently debuted a live PGA Tour betting show. Peacock streamed an NFL playoff game last season, but it is not clear whether NBC will continue to add NFL coverage to the service.
Peacock’s on-demand library is most notably the home of The Office, but you also get older and current NBC shows such as 30 Rock, Cheers, Parks and Recreation, Saturday Night Live, Will and Grace, Law & Order: SVU, Superstore, and This is Us.
The service doesn’t have any 4K content, DVR features for live sports, or the ability to download shows for offline playback, but you can stream on up to three devices at the same time and use parental controls to filter content. The Peacock app is available on mobile platforms (Android and iOS), media streaming devices (Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, and Roku), and gaming consoles (Xbox One and Series X|S; PlayStation 4 and 5).
YouTube TV offers an excellent selection of live sports channels, including all the broadcast networks, CBS Sports Network, several ESPN Channels, FS1, FS2, Golf Channel, MLB Network, NBA TV, Olympic Channel, and Tennis Channel. You can also pay an extra monthly fee for the Fox Soccer Plus ($15 per month), NBA League Pass ($39.99 per month), and Sports Plus ($10.99 per month package that includes NFL RedZone) add-ons. Note that YouTube TV does not offer international channels or the NFL Network, however. It is also missing AT&T and Sinclair RSNs, though it does have NBC Sports RSNs.
If you are looking for a service with more than just sports, YouTube TV meets that criteria with a good range of news and entertainment channels as well. This lineup of 90+ channels does not come cheap; the service’s latest price hike added $15 to the monthly subscription cost.
With YouTube TV, you get unlimited cloud DVR storage, and the service keeps your recordings for up to nine months. YouTube TV allows you to stream on up to three devices simultaneously and supports up to six user accounts. Those extra streams and accounts are particularly convenient for when family members want to watch different programs that are set to air at the same time. The service is also notably one of the few that streams a significant number of its live channels in 1080p/60fps. A new $19.99-per-month 4K Plus add-on enables subscribers to watch live and on-demand content in 4K; stream on an unlimited number of devices on a home network; and watch DVR content offline on mobile devices