One of the most frequent questions we are asked about getting rid of cable TV is, “What about sports?” Believe me when I tell you we are HUGE sports fans in my house, and this has been a major concern for us also. As with everything we cover on this site, we’ll point out all the alternatives and you can decide whether to pursue them or keep your cable subscription.
Yes, the rest of this article is about finding sports online, but we thought we’d point out the obvious first. Over-the-air sports broadcasts are by far the BEST option for watching sports without cable TV. It’s easy, it’s free, and it doesn’t involve any extraneous gadgets or online subscriptions. For games on national broadcast networks, such as NBC, ABC, CBS, or Fox, hook up your digital antenna. Stations broadcast over the air digitally now, meaning you should have a crisp, clear signal and not have to worry about a snowy, choppy signal. If your sporting event is not broadcast over-the-air, keep reading. You may not be out of luck.
>> Read our Guide to Digital Broadcast TV — Learn how to find out which channels you can receive in your area and learn about digital TV antennas & digital-to-analog converter boxes.
ESPN3 is ESPN’s online home where several sporting events can be streamed live. You can get access to ESPN3 through a subscription to Xbox LIVE or you may be eligible to stream it without having cable with certain Internet Service Providers. Go here to find out about access options in your area: http://espn.go.com/espn3/channelFinder. We really love ESPN3, but if you
Watching Sports Online with a Cost — Subscription Sports Packages
Many professional and collegiate sports leagues offer online streaming packages for a subscription fee. The prices listed here may change for future seasons and are listed to give you a general idea of the costs of these packages. Many of these packages are available for viewing on your computer or through various streaming media devices.
>> Read our Guide to the BEST Streaming Media Players and What They Offer — Learn about the most popular streaming media players and what streaming services they’re compatible with.
Please note: If a team has blackout restrictions in place in a certain location, this likely will apply to your online access as well.
Major League Baseball
MLB.tv allows you to stream live games online and works with several devices. You can watch on your PC or Mac or through devices that have MLB.tv apps: iPhone, iPad, Android phones, Roku players, Boxee Box, Apple TV, Playstation 3, and also select Samsung, Panasonic, and LG Internet-enabled televisions. There are 2 main tiers to the service. The base package gets you all the games and costs $19.99/month or $59.99* for the whole season. The Premium package allows you the option to watch the home or away broadcast, gives you DVR controls, and adds Picture-in-Picture. The Premium package costs $24.99/month or $79.99* for the whole season. There is also a package for $29.99 for the season that just streams on mobile phones.
*Note: These prices were found on the mlb.tv website in July 2011 and may be mid-season prices. Cost for a full season may be higher.
National Basketball Association
Through NBA League Pass Broadband, you can stream live games to a number of devices. You can choose the smaller package and follow 7 teams for $120 for the season, or the bigger package will give you access to all the games for $190. The service is available on Roku players, Apple TV, and Google TV.
National Hockey League
The NHL’s streaming service, NHL GameCenter Live, allows you to watch up to 40 games each week. The service costs $170 for the season and works on iPhone, iPad, Android phones, Roku players, Boxee Box, and Playstation 3.
National Football League
The NFL is not embracing online streaming as much as some of the other professional sports leagues. You may be able to get several games through the over-the-air broadcasts of NBC, CBS, and Fox. If this doesn’t suit your needs, NBC does stream their Sunday Night Football games online. In addition, Direct TV offers NFL Sunday Ticket which allows you to stream games online for around $350 for the season.
Many universities and some league networks offer packages that let you stream some of their sporting events over the web for a subscription fee. Check the athletic department website of the university to see if that option is available.
Watching Sports Online for FREE
When writing this article, we checked out what keywords people were searching on Google about watching sports online and, by far, most people were looking to watch sports online for free.
Let’s get one thing straight. Sports = Big Money. Professional and collegiate leagues sell the broadcast rights for coverage of their events. This is how they make a very large portion of their income. The terms of these contracts stipulate how these events can be broadcast. Unless you find your event broadcast on the website (or an official app or a licensed carrier) of the network covering it (which they will have negotiated the right to do in their coverage contract), FREE online sports broadcasts are not legal, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon.
There are websites over which people can broadcast their own content, and frequently people will illegally stream sporting events to these websites. Most of these websites are now run out of Europe because their US counterparts have been shut down. The broadcasts on these sites may be unreliable, the quality is likely to be poor, and as with anything of questionable legality online, you will risk getting computer viruses, etc. For these reasons, we will not be linking to these websites, but they are not difficult to find in Google if you are determined to do so.
Another Offline Alternative
How many sporting events would you be missing out on by cutting ties with cable TV? If the number of must-see events you’d miss is not very high, consider going to a friend’s house or sports bar to catch these games.