At the start of industry shifts into streaming as a solid alternative to cable, the one thing that sat as the last remaining bastion of traditional cable was how to watch live sports online. What seemed like a stronghold for these cable providers has shifted into the mainstream of cord cutting over the last five years, though, and now it is easier than ever to watch things like NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, soccer, and all types of other sports with a variety of streaming service.
The best part? Most of these streaming services barely cost one-third of a traditional cable package, and rarely force subscribers to sign a long-term contract. So if you’re thinking you only need a streaming service for the length of a specific sport season, it’s easy to only pay what you want.
However… over the last couple of years, things have become a little tricky to detangle when it comes to knowing what streaming services offer each sports network or local broadcast channel to watch your favorite sports team.
Below is our complete guide to finding what the best streaming services are for live sports, and the specific strengths and weaknesses is are of each service.
The best overall streaming service for live sports: FuboTV
If you’re here for one simple answer, then our recommendation for the best streaming service to watch sports without cable is going to be FuboTV.
The service started back over a decade ago as a way to bring US soccer fans more ways to watch their favorite teams that play in non-US markets online and in one place.
Since then, FuboTV has turned into an absolute behemoth of live sports streaming, with tons (and we mean tons) of sports-specific networks.
Perhaps it’s worth mentioning the *downside* here is that FuboTV is so focused on bringing tons of sports networks to their streaming service that you might end up paying for things that you won’t end up using.
Still, if you’re looking for an overall best option, you should at least check out their free trial here:
The best all-around streaming service that also features sports: Hulu Live
If you’re looking for more of an all-around streaming service that also offers a decent offering of live sports, we 100% recommend you check out Hulu Live. You’ve probably seen their commercials mentioning that “Hulu has live sports.” We can picture Baker Mayfield saying it in our minds now.
Hulu is probably the closest thing to an all-around cable replacement that’s on the market today, and they do a decent job offering live sports like local broadcast networks, major national sports networks (like ESPN and NFL Network), and continue to impress with the quality of their streams.
If you want some live sports (think like being able to stream your local NFL team, or the NBA playoffs, etc), but also want dozens of other favorite channels, check out Hulu’s free trial here:
The best streaming service for each major sports league (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL)
- The best streaming service for NFL games: Hulu Live
- The best streaming service for MLB games: FuboTV
- The best streaming service for NBA games: Sling TV
- The best streaming service for NHL games: FuboTV
If you’re looking for specific coverage of one sport, the above list should help you with the four largest sport leagues in the United States.
Overall here too, we’d declare FuboTV the overall winner for straight up sports coverage, but Hulu and Sling TV are also good options.
How to stream out-of-network sporting events and games online
Let’s say you live in Chicago but you’re a huge San Francisco Giants fan. Unfortunately, not very many Giants games are available to you in Chicago through traditional cable or through a streaming service, right?
There is actually a pretty cool way to get around this, and it’s by using what is called a VPN or a virtual privacy network. Basically, it blurs out your location and allows you to select a location for where you want your internet traffic to route through.
With this, you can sign up for a streaming service that offers local broadcast streams (like the local network that a San Francisco Giants game might be on), then use the VPN to have the streaming service route traffic through that location.
This gets you access to the local broadcast of the Giants game through your streaming service in the comfort of your own home. Of all the VPNs out there, we love NordVPN. They’ve got a super affordable option at only a couple bucks a month. Give them a trial here:
What are some other options for watching sports online?
One great all-around streaming service that offers a lot of choice when it comes to being able to set up a streaming service with the channels you want is Sling.
Sling offers a lot of modularity in their packages, meaning you can basically set up a streaming package however you want. Want a package with ESPN and Red Zone? They’ll have a plan just for you. Looking for lots of local MLB coverage? They’ve got those too.
Of all the major streaming options, Sling is also one of the most affordable, with packages half the cost of their existing competitors at their starting point.
Check out Sling’s free trial here:
Do streaming services lag during live sports? I’d hate to miss a big play
Two or three years ago, we might have a different answer to this question, but internet performance has gotten so good over the past few years that it’s no understatement to say that most people streaming live sports these days don’t have very many problems with lag and buffering.
Does any streaming service offer all major sports?
Unfortunately for now, it will require perhaps two or three subscriptions to major streaming services to get access to everything streaming. Still, the best part about streaming services is that they don’t have contracts. You can easily cancel one to use another depending on what service currently is streaming the current season of a sports league.
Do streaming services have contracts?
None of our above recommendations have any sort of contractual engagement. Most offer month-to-month subscriptions meaning you can cancel at any time.
Are VPNS illegal for streaming live sports?
Nope, not at all. While some streaming services might try and prevent you from using a VPN, they aren’t illegal for this type of usage. Check your streaming service terms of service to make sure they’re alright with it.