Cut the Cord: Best live streaming services for sports fans
The live streaming landscape is an all-out fight between massive platforms, and a successful tactic that’s helping certain outlets stand out is catering to sports fans.
It’s tough out there. Some streaming services are lagging due to lack of sports chops, and others are outright folding. PlayStation Vue used to carry sports, but they’re going under in January, and the same is reportedly true for AT&T Watch Now.
Let’s take a look at the best streaming services for sports lovers. We’ll cut to the chase with the best of the best at the top.
YouTube is branching out into the live streaming business in a big way. The $49.99 per month fee comes with a lot of channels already included: ABC, NBC and CBS for local games, along with TNT. Oh, but there’s much more: NBA TV, MLB Network, ESPN, ESPN2, NBC Sports and NBCSN, CBS Sports Network, Fox Sports, FS1, FS2, ACC Network, SEC Network, SNY, Tennis Channel, TruTV and YES Network.
This is clearly the longest list of included channels, and those aren’t even quite all of them. YouTube TV’s DVR also holds up to nine months of unlimited content. It’s hard to beat all that.
Hulu Live TV
Prominent athletes such as Joel Embiid, Damian Lillard, Saquon Barkley and Baker Mayfield have helped promote “Hulu Has Live Sports!” Let’s just say it’s working.
Not only do you get essentially all the ESPN channels, but there are specialty networks included as well. Some of those are ACC Network, Big Ten Network, Olympics Channel, CBS Sports, TNT and Golf Channel. Local FOX, ABC, NBC and CBS affiliates are also included in this package.
So any major sports are often televised on the latter channels anyway. Anything a fan could miss in between are on the more specific channels also included in the service.
That’s why Hulu Live TV ranks near the top of live streaming services for sports fans. It offers most of what YouTube TV does, but not all of it.
In addition to its own sports network, fubo distinguishes itself with international sports programming in sports like soccer (GOLTV, Fox Soccer Plus), its own cycling outlet, MSG, NFL Network and NFL RedZone, and all regions of Fox College Sports. They even offer the Fight Network and TVG2, the latter of which is dedicated to horse racing.
Cornering so many niche markets definitely helps fuboTV make up for whatever it lacks in name recognition at this point. Now, it does have the most expensive subscription price at $54.99 per month, and at least in the U.S. market, offers channels that may not be used.
But there’s so much upside with fuboTV on an international scale that it could definitely climb the rankings and lower its subscription price once more people catch on to this option.
CBS All Access
Instead of dropping a good chunk of change for DIRECTV’s NFL Sunday Ticket, you can get as many as eight NFL games per week for the remainder of the season; at least five each week save for Thanksgiving. Even then, the Buffalo Bills and Dallas Cowboys matchup will be on CBS All Access.
Of course CBS Sports HQ is innately included, and the cheap cost of $5.99 per month ($9.99 without ads) is reasonable enough. There’s SEC football on Live TV for CBS All Access as well, which is the best conference in the country year in and year out.
In the same college sports vein, and don’t forget NCAA basketball is included in the same form the NFL package is. CBS All Access could be a ton of fun once March Madness rolls around —the NCAA tournament might be the perfect time for a one-month free trial run. This outlet just doesn’t provide the variety of sports the other live TV streaming giants offer.
Amazon Prime Video
Although Amazon isn’t as into the live game as say Hulu or YouTube TV, it’s still a formidable force in the marketplace. That’s largely due to the fact that it streams Thursday Night Football games for free. There’s not much in the way of live sports otherwise, but NBA League Pass, PGA Tour Live, MLB.TV and even CBS All Access are available as add-ons at extra cost.
Now this is all under the assumption the sports fan has a Prime membership, which is $119 per year and $59 per year for students. Non-scholar membership amounts to $12.99 per month, but Prime Video subscription on its own is $8.99 per month.
When considering the vast selection of movies and TV shows Amazon has, both original and rights-owned, Prime Video is well worth the investment on its own. Never mind all the free shipping and perks that come with being a Prime member on Amazon at large.
It stands to reason Amazon will only expand its influence in the entertainment industry, and as a result streaming, in the coming years. That should be true in sports, and Amazon even has their own Hard Knocks-style show titled All or Nothing.
One edge Amazon has over the aforementioned live TV streamers besides fuboTV: 4K resolution.
Much like CBS All Access is specialized toward the NFL and NCAA basketball, Dazn is very much for the boxing and MMA fan. That’s really all this platform is geared towards. Given that bouts are often difficult to find on major networks and even require expensive pay-per-view for individual fights, Dazn is a relative bargain compared to that specific sport’s market.
Starting at $19.99 per month, there’s also an option of $99.99 per year, which knocks 58 percent off that monthly fee. It’s just a matter of personal taste, really.
Dazn caters to a very niche market. The good news is, you can watch it on TV, mobile phones and tablets, on the computer or on game consoles. That wide availability certainly works in Dazn’s favor, and having all those bouts on-demand is an undeniably great experience for diehard fans of the Sweet Science and the Octagon.
Slinging was on the original front lines of cord-cutting. However, the novelty factor has worn off, and Sling TV’s price compared to what it offers simply doesn’t compete with other big-name rivals.
It’s gotten to the point where the company is offering different plans and making it all a little confusing. There’s “Sling Orange” and “Sling Blue” — separate plans at $15 per month that have all different channels. Alternatively, you can bundle them together under “Orange & Blue” for $25 per month.
All these are 40 percent discounted rates only for the first month, though. After that, the Orange and Blue would be $25/month, while the combined package would be $40/month.
Even with all those channels in the combined deal, there’s still not nearly as much offered for sports fans as other streamers. All that’s included is: ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN3, NBC/NBCSN, Fox/FS1 and FS2 — and NFL Network. That latter channel is cool, but not at the expense of the lack of options. Pay the minimally extra subscription fee elsewhere for a far wider selection.
Yes, users can pay a minimal fee of $4.99 per month for exclusive content, such as Peyton Manning traveling around and doing some interesting excursions with other famous athletes and people. But is that really worth the cost of subscription?
Going to go with “no.” Sorry, Peyton. Your “United Way” sketch on Saturday Night Live still holds a special place in my heart along with your legendary football career. Take your act to a bigger streamer, though!
YouTube TV and Hulu Live TV already offer a wide array of what ESPN+ does with its affiliates. It’s smart of the four-letter network to invest some in the streaming game, yet it won’t be a surprise to see their parent company, Disney, take the platform and do something superior with it through Disney+.
It was announced in August that Disney will offer a bundle of Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+. Probably best to go with that package rather than ESPN+ on its own.