How To Watch ESPN Without Cable in 2020

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Gone are the days when cable was your only access to premium television and events. This is especially true for specialized channels like ESPN or Disney Plus. Ten years ago, to enjoy movies or specified content, you had to double your cable bill to do so. Paying for cable and internet could cost you upward toward $150 or more depending on your cable provider. Not anymore! Thanks to wireless and streaming services, cable is a thing of the past. Now you can stream events, television, and videos for free or for a minimal charge from your phone, TV, Xbox, PlayStation, or anywhere there is wireless service. However, not every channel has embraced this service as well as others. Some still require you to subscribe to a channel, or cable, before you download their app.

If you are interested in finding a cable alternative but do not want to forfeit your favorite sports network, you are in the right place.

Here Are 8 Ways to Watch ESPN Without Cable

1. ESPN Plus

4.5
4.5/5

DollarFlow rating

COST

Free trial and $4.99 per month

INCLUDES

ESPN, Original Shows, MLB, Serie A, UFC, and MLS

BEST FEATURES

It is affordable and can be watched across devices

If you are not interested in bundles, packages, or anything other than ESPN, than ESPN Plus is for you! It includes live stream sports content, UFC, and original programming. Also, if you want to replay your favorite moments, ESPN Plus provides entry to their archives to enjoy at your leisure. However, it is important to note that ESPN Plus is not ESPN in its entirety and there may be limitations regarding content. That being said—it is solid, mobile option, if you are mainly looking for live events. Furthermore, ESPN Plus is not only limited to your streaming device! You can stream all live and archived content from the convenience of your phone or tablet. All you must do is download the app from the Google Play store. For $4.99 this is the easiest, most affordable way of obtaining ESPN without cable.

2. Disney Plus

4
4/5

DollarFlow rating

COST

$12.99 per Month

INCLUDES

ESPN, Disney Plus, and Hulu

Luckily for sports fans, when Disney launched their own streaming service it included ESPN within its bundle! Why? For those of you who may not know, Disney owns ESPN, and therefore offers it at a lower cost than most skinny bundles will. In fact, aside from free trials—this is the second most cost-effective way to achieve endless access to ESPN and ESPNU. Moreover, Disney throws in Hulu, which is a standalone option. Hulu is an excellent portal to all the perks of cable, including free streaming on all your favorite programs as well as live TV.  

3. Hulu with Live TV

4
4/5

DollarFlow rating

COST

$5.99 to $54.99

INCLUDES

ESPN and many others. This varies depending on subscription type

BEST FEATURES

Cost and Direct Access without paying for items you do not want

Speaking of Hulu, purchasing it has your streaming go to is another great option. While Disney Plus provides you with ESPN in their triple pack, Hulu with Live TV provides you with the entire spectrum of ESPN channels, to include ESPN, SPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPNU, SEC Network, and ESPN Goal Line. Hulu’s plans can be as affordable as your tv needs and come equipped with an no ad option. Hulu is available on your phone through your mobile app or any streaming device.

4. Sling

4.5
4.5/5

DollarFlow rating

COST

$30 A Month, + Free Trial

INCLUDES

Up to 100 channels including ESPN

BEST FEATURES

With Sling you get all the bells and whistles for half the price

For $30 a month, Sling offers up to 100 channels for less than half the cost of traditional cable, including ESPN. Sling operates a bit differently than others in how they package their channels. Instead of offering a cohesive package, or add-ons for wanted channels, Sling has two you choose from: Sling Orange and Sling Blue. After reviewing each for a relative theme, one does not appear to be tailored for one type of viewer over the other. However, if you are in the market for ESPN than the Orange package is your best choice. Unlike standalone apps that provide you only with the channel you are looking for and their programming, options like Sling provide cable-like services with multiple channels to choose from. Sling has both on demand and streaming (live tv) features so you can make the most of your ESPN experience.

5. FuboTV

4
4/5

DollarFlow rating

COST

7-day free trial and $59.99 per month

INCLUDES

ESPN, MTV, AMC, Comedy Central, USA, Discovery, CBS, Fox, ABC, and more

BEST FEATURES

DVR and live stream features, created with the sports fan in mind

Fubo was built with sports fans in mind! Unlike general streaming platforms, which offer one or two sports related channels, Fubo sets sports as their top priority. One unique feature about Fubo is their dedication to live streaming, which is important if you are looking for a wireless service that airs live events. One of the reasons cable has not been completely replaced by wireless service has to do with picture quality and interruptions that often come with streaming apps. Therefore, choosing a sports-centered app who places live streaming at the forefront of their user platform is worth consideration. Furthermore, Fubo is not only restricted to ESPN and sports. They offer their customers a unique blend of channels and truly work to replace your enhanced basic cable package. Lastly, Fubo offers up to 30 hours of memory for DVR and recordings and has no contracts or hidden fees. You can cancel anytime.  

6. YouTube TV

4.5
4.5/5

DollarFlow rating

COST

Free trial and $64.99 per month

INCLUDES

ESPN and over 85 premium cable channels

BEST FEATURES

Accessibility, versality, and no DVR storage limits

While YouTube TV may be one of the most expensive options on this list, it’s versatility and on the go features make it a solid option for those viewers who watch channels in the interim or travel often. Hands down, one of the best features of YouTube TV is how versatile their platform truly is. You can access YouTube TV from any device at any time, with all the perks and dependable functions you have come to expect from YouTube over the years. Plus, you can share your account up to six devices—for optimal versatility! Although YouTube TV may be more expensive than some options already presented, YouTube does not impose DVR storage limits or penalize you for going over a certain number of recorded hours. This is the only streaming service that offers this feature making it well worth your time and consideration.

7. Vidgo

4
4/5

DollarFlow rating

COST

$15-$50 per month (Special Pricing)

INCLUDES

ESPN & 60-80 premium Spanish and English channels

BEST FEATURES

Spanish language options & Cost-effective  

Like others in this category,  Vidgo offers up to 80 premium cable channels at a significantly lower cost than cable. However, unlike its predecessors, Vidgo’s inclusive platform offers language-based packages and the ability to watch from your phone, Roku, Amazon Fire Stick, or download the app from your Google Play store.  Right now, Vidgo is trimming $5 off all package prices for the first 90 days of service. If you are searching for a customer friendly, affordable, streaming service that offers ESPN and dual language options, Vidgo may be the platform for you. 

8. AT&T TV Now (Direct Now)

4
4/5

DollarFlow rating

COST

$55-$80 per month (Special Pricing)

INCLUDES

ESPN, premium cable channels, HBO, MAX, and more

BEST FEATURES

Most resemblance to a cable platform 

If you are searching for an ESPN option that mostly resembles what you would find with cable, AT&T’s Now (previously Direct Now) meets all that criteria and more. Right now, you can choose from two packages AT&T Plus, which gives you 45 channels for $55 or AT&T Max, which offers over 60 channels, HBO, and MAX for $80. However, their format tends to change swiftly so be on the lookout for updates before you decide and to assure that ESPN is apart of the package you are considering. Not only is this platform most like cable, but it offers premium movie channels as apart of their package deal. Furthermore, AT&T Now offers free HBO and MAX trials as well as other promotions that occasionally come up. This is ideal for someone who is looking to add a bit more to their streaming experience without signing a contract.

Obtain a Cable Alternative

Cable alternatives bring you the ease of traditional television through your wireless provider, for potentially half the cost. One of the major reasons more individuals are turning to this method has to do with minimizing their monthly output. Our culture is dependent upon our internet service. Therefore, it would make sense to stream your television needs wirelessly as opposed to paying two different bills, when one can provide you with the same service.

While apps are always available for individual streaming, some prefer a single place where all their apps are stored, and their watching experience resembles cable for television. Not only are these platforms generally less money than cable, but they often come with admission to free or paid for channels and services.

The two most popular devices on the market are the Amazon Fire Stick and Roku. While both are comparable, there is a slight lean toward Roku being better overall. Not only is Roku cheaper, but they offer a user-friendly design where you can store all your apps and build your streaming experience. Lastly, Roku offers additional movie and free channels at no cost.

Amazon Fire Stick vs. Roku

Amazon Fire Stick:

  • $40-$50
  • Major differences between economical choice and 4K upgrade
  • Powered by Amazon technology
  • Voice control options
  • YouTube or YouTube TV does not work on older models
  • Less customizable display screen
  • Equipped with a “What to Watch” feature that some find helpful
  • Confusing layout and setup
  • Can download side apps
  • Powered by USB. It is small and operates a nearly invisible design

Roku:

  • $30-$100
  • Offers several models ranging from basic to tailored
  • Customizable display screen
  • Free live stream channels to mimic basic cable
  • No voice controls
  • Lackluster suggestion features that are not easy to find
  • Easy layout and setup, like a phone screen
  • Cannot download side apps
  • Designs vary from subtle to what would appear to be their version of a cable box

However, if you are a gamer, do not go and purchase one of these right yet. Your XBOX One and PlayStation can perform all the features of the above and store your streaming apps right from your gaming platform.

Another less popular option is Google Chromecast, which is surprising given the momentum of Google in our culture. Nevertheless, their overall reviews come up just alright when compared to Roku and the Amazon Fire Stick.

Once you decide which platform to use, you can choose to set up your wireless TV one of two ways: you can choose to purchase the specific apps of the channels you want like HBO, Netflix, or you can choose to purchase a cable bundle app, where you gain access to over 100 channels as you would cable.

These are called skinny bundles.

This is where ESPN lives outside of traditional cable.

Is There a Way to Stream ESPN for Free?

Unfortunately, unless you take advantage of free trials, there is no way to stream ESPN for free. However, there are options to meet every price point, including as little as $4.99 per month.

Read the Fine Print and Maximize Your Options

It is always smart to read the fine print before you enter a contract or begin service. Streaming options that offer DVR services, less for YouTube TV, often require payment over a certain number of recorded hours. Be sure to understand how their billing process works so that you do not face unexpected charges in the future. Some free trials expire in as little as seven days, and others offer a package deal for up to ninety days. While there are no contracts, there may be fees or expirations you need to be sure of before moving forward.

Additionally, if you are choosing wireless service over traditional cable packages to save you on monthly costs, be sure it is saving you money. Compare prices, channels, and take into consideration any additional apps you pay monthly for, such as Netflix, or Amazon Prime. While individual apps are considerably lower, they do add up and can easily meet or exceed a monthly cable bill.

Wi-Fi Considerations

Lastly, because streaming quality is dependent upon dependable Wi-Fi, be sure your internet is set up to withstand all your devices. Average household appliances, such as computers, phones, tablets, Alexa or other virtual assistants, gaming, and television streaming, can easily overload your internet if you are not operating enough network bandwidth. Without it, your shows and live streams will spend most of their time buffering. This can be extremely frustrating, especially if you are in the middle of a live stream! Therefore, it is best to be sure your internet is set up to meet the needs of all your wireless devices.

Another consideration to keep in mind is the monthly cost of expanded Wi-Fi services. While some may not be affected by this, others can pay a great deal more depending on their servicer. Keep this is in mind as you are shopping for bundles and apps, so you are staying within your monthly budget.

Watching ESPN Without Cable

Given the fact the average person works more than 90,000 hours in their lifetime, having access to quality modes of entertainment is a major component of obtaining a good quality of life. However, spending hundreds of dollars on cable when you could have the same experience for fraction of the cost can place strain on one’s financial health—making the choice to switch from cable to streaming an easy one. Not only are all your favorite networks and channels available through individual purchase or through cable bundles, but you can access them across all mobile devices, download their app from your local app store, and watch your favorite sports programs from anywhere there is a Wi-Fi connection. Depending on your watching culture, switching to streaming has the potential of saving you up to $500 a year. 

ESPN is the most watched sports network in America. With wireless streaming, you can enjoy your favorite sports programs and news across all devices wherever you are for as little as $4.99 per month.  

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