The Best Sports Streaming Services
How We Found the Best Sports Streaming Service
9 sports considered
6 streaming services tested
3 top picks
How We Chose the Best Sports Streaming Services
One of the biggest appeals of live TV streaming is that you’re not locked into a long contract. Some cable companies will charge as much as $200 if you want to get out of your contract early. By contrast, all of the streaming services we tested operate on a month-to-month basis. You can stop at any time, with no early termination penalty.
We looked for streaming sites that carry the national games people most wanted to watch. To figure this out, we turned to a 2018 Gallup survey that asked 1,049 Americans, “What is your favorite sport to watch?” We used these results to prioritize the providers that covered the most popular sports. Since more people watch football than golf, for example, we gave more points to packages that included the NFL Network than the Golf Channel. Some providers had almost identical lineups, save for a couple of specific channels: The only difference between PlayStation Vue and YouTube TV is that Vue includes the NFL Network, for instance.
Regional sports networks
These are the channels that carry your local MLB, NBA, and NHL team’s games, and they’re the most important channels for a lot of sports fans. One study from Nielsen found that in many cities, these networks draw larger prime time audiences than the “big four” networks ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC. Because regional sports networks (RSN) are the only way to catch your local team’s games, they’re also what keep many fans tied to their cable subscriptions.
About two thirds of RSNs are operated by Fox or NBC, with the rest run independently by the local teams themselves. We put in zip codes for every major league market to find the streaming packages that had the largest collection of RSNs out there.
*Not available in all markets
In addition to evaluating each streaming service’s offering of live games, we also took into account extra perks like cloud DVR storage and simultaneous streams. Cloud DVR storage allows you to record programs and watch them later on-demand — nice when you’re running late and don’t want to miss the beginning of the game. Simultaneous streams let you use the service on multiple devices at the same time, essential for anyone in a house with frequent remote wars.
The 3 Best Sports Streaming Services
Why we chose it
All the national games
PlayStation Vue’s "Core" package ($50) was the only streaming site we found that carried every national game from America’s top three leagues — the NFL, NBA, and MLB. (It also has the most games for car racing, and college football and basketball.) The package includes the big four networks — ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC — along with cable channels like ESPN, TNT, and TBS. PlayStation Vue especially stands out for its inclusion of each league’s independent network. The Core package comes with the NFL Network, MLB Network, and NBA TV, a combination that no other streaming site offers. This ensures you’ll never miss out on a national TV game from any of the big three leagues.
Strong offering of regional sports networks
We know that catching local team games is a necessity for sports fans, and the PlayStation Vue Core package has the largest collection of regional sports networks around. It includes every channel under the Fox Sports and NBC Sports umbrella, as well as independents like the YES Network. That means you’ll always have a way to access your favorite MLB, NBA, and NHL teams' local games.
PlayStation Vue is also unique in that it lets you stream regional sports networks out of market. If you’re on a business trip or visiting family out of state, you’ll still be able to keep up with your favorite team. No other provider offered this perk. Services like YouTube TV and DIRECTV NOW only allow you to stream those networks if you’re within your billing zip code.
Unlimited cloud DVR storage
One of the greatest perks PlayStation Vue offers is its unlimited cloud storage. If you’re running late and don’t want to miss the beginning of a game, for instance, this feature can be a lifesaver. And while most providers place a limit on how much you can store, PlayStation is completely unlimited. The only downside? You’ll only be able to store it for 28 days.
Five simultaneous streams
Most streaming sites only allow two or three devices to stream from the same account at the same time. PlayStation Vue lets you stream five. This feature is especially useful for households where everyone wants to watch something different. Between five streams and unlimited cloud DVR storage, you’ll never have to miss a big game again.
Points to consider
No NHL Network
If you're mostly interested in hockey, PlayStation Vue has one drawback: It doesn’t carry the NHL Network. You’ll still get all the national hockey games on NBC, NBC Sports, USA, and NBC — and the local games on your regional sports network. But if you're a huge fan, this point is worth taking into consideration.
No European soccer
PlayStation Vue also isn't the best option for fans of European soccer. While it does carry every channel that airs MLS games, PlayStation Vue doesn’t have anything that show games from conferences like the English Premier League or La Liga. If soccer is what you watch the most, fuboTV is a much better option, with 11 different channels devoted to the sport.
Why we chose it
10 soccer channels
fubo blows the competition out of the water in one very specific area: European soccer leagues. It has 10 different channels devoted almost entirely to the sport, with eight versions of beIN Sports, the exclusive broadcaster of La Liga, Ligue 1, Copa del Rey, Copa Libertadores, Football League Championship matches, and Real Madrid TV. In addition, fubo carries NBC Sports, the U.S. provider of English Premier League games, generally regarded as the top league in the world. If all that isn't enough for soccer junkies, fubo also carries a number of channels that broadcast MLS games like Fox, FS1, Fox Soccer Plus, and Univision.
Strong offering of regional sports networks
If you follow the MLS more than the European leagues, fubo’s extensive collection of regional sports networks make it a strong option. It has all of the Fox Sports and NBC Sports stations, as well as independents like the MSG Network and NESN. You can check to see if your local NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL teams are covered in fubo’s local networks guide.
If you want a service primarily to follow your local MLS team, just be sure to check your zip code before purchasing: Teams like Los Angeles FC and Chicago Fire have exclusive deals with streaming services like YouTube TV and ESPN+, so you won’t be able to find them in any other cable or streaming package.
30 hours of free cloud DVR storage
fubo offers 30 hours of storage for free. There's no option for upgrading, but unlike PlayStation Vue and Philo, you can keep the content for as long as you want, so you won’t have to worry about a show deleting itself before you can watch it.
Sports in 4K
If you’ve recently purchased a 4K TV, fubo might be worth a look for this perk alone. No type of TV benefits more from 4K’s increased resolution and frame rates than sports, and fubo is currently the only live streaming service to offer this. It regularly shows college football, MLB, and Premier League games on the Big Ten Network, FS1, and NBC Sports. That said, fubo admits this feature is still in BETA, so there may still be some issues. To see what games are coming up in 4K, check out fubo’s calendar here.
Points to consider
Not a good option for other sports
If you’re not completely sport-monogamous, you may find fubo inadequate. It’s missing a lot of channels that are essential for fans of other sports — namely ABC and ESPN. Football lovers might find that they can get by with fubo; the only channel it’s missing is ESPN, which means no Monday Night Football. But fubo only carries three of the seven channels that show MLB games, and only three out of five for the NBA, the worst coverage we saw for these sports.
Only two simultaneous streams
If you live in a small household, two devices streaming from one account might be plenty. But if you have a bigger family with diverse TV tastes, this might not be enough. fubo does let you up that number to three for an extra $5.99 a month. Still, most providers offer between three and five streams right off the bat, without requiring you to pay extra.
Why we chose it
Compared to PlayStation Vue ($50) and fubo ($55), Sling’s Orange + Blue ($40) gets you a lot of the same sports channels for less money. Of the 23 channels that broadcast live games from the top four sports in America, Sling carries 17 of them, fewer than PlayStation Vue’s 22 but more than DIRECTV NOW ($50) and fubo. You won’t be able to catch every national game, but you will get most of them. Plus, Sling is currently running a promotion discounting Orange + Blue to $25 per month for the first three months.
Cheap sports add-on
If you do want to pay a little extra for more sports channels, Sling gives you that option at a reasonable price. For $5 more a month, you can add league-specific channels like NBA TV, MLB Network, and NHL Network, plus college sports hubs like SEC Network, Pac-12 Network, and ESPN U. That brings its total for the top four sports up to 20 — one less than YouTube TV and two less than PlayStation Vue for $5 less a month.
Plenty of regional sports networks
If you want to watch your local MLB, NBA, or NHL teams, Sling has as good of coverage as almost any streaming site. It carries both Fox Sports and NBC Sports, which cover about 75% of local teams in the U.S. The teams it is missing are concentrated in three markets: Los Angeles, New York, and Boston. You won’t be able to catch local games from the Boston Red Sox, Boston Bruins, New York Knicks, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, or Los Angeles Lakers with Sling.
Points to consider
Missing ABC and CBS
This is the biggest black mark on Sling’s otherwise stellar sports offering. Without ABC and CBS, you’ll miss some of the biggest games of the year, including the AFC Championship, the NBA Finals, and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. As CBS is one of the main broadcasters of the NFL, there’s a good chance you’ll miss some of your local team’s games without it.
One way around this is to install a TV antenna. These run for about $50, can be set up inside or outside, and give you access to all of your local channels in HD for free. Another option is to use Locast.org, a not-for-profit service that lets you stream local stations in nine U.S. markets for free.
No free DVR storage
Sling is the only one of the six main live TV streaming sites that doesn’t include any DVR storage for free. If you want that feature, you’ll have to pay $5 extra a month for 50 hours of storage.
Guide to Live Sports Streaming
How to watch live sports without a cable subscription
Explore current promotions
It’s a good time to sign up for a streaming service. Companies are in an arms race to obtain channels and customers, and just about every service is offering deals to entice you. Sling, for example, is currently running a promotion where you can get the first three months of service for $25 a month for Orange + Blue, and $15 for each separately — down from $40 and $25 respectively. DIRECTV NOW is also offering a free Apple TV 4K, a $179 value, when you prepay for four months of service.
Connect to your TV
To watch live sports, you'll need a strong internet connection (see below for recommended speeds) along with a way to access the internet through your TV. Most TVs sold in the past several years have the technology necessary to connect directly to the internet. You can also use a gaming console like Xbox or PlayStation. However, these options may not allow you to download the specific streaming service app that you’ve settled on. If you don’t have a TV or console (or it’s just not compatible), you’ll need to purchase a streaming device like a Roku or Amazon Fire TV separately.
Sports Streaming FAQ
What is a regional sports network (RSN)?
Regional sports networks are the cable channels that broadcast your local teams’ live games. Because these channels represent the only way to see most MLB, NBA, and NHL games live, they’re extremely important for sports fans. Most of them are operated by Fox Sports and NBC Sports. Almost all streaming services have deals with these two companies, but it's important to check availability in your zip code, as some areas have more access than others (and deals are constantly being renegotiated, as evinced by Disney’s recent sale of Fox Sports RSNs to Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc.).
Where can I watch sports in 4K?
Unfortunately, finding sports in 4K is still pretty difficult. Right now, only fubo, DIRECTV, and Dish Network offer any live games in 4K, and their offerings are still pretty limited. DIRECTV is currently the best option, as it shows regular season NBA and MLB games almost every day, Premier League matches once or twice a week, and marquee PGA events like the Masters. fubo is currently the only streaming service with 4K sports, and it carries regular college football, MLB, and Premier League games on the Big Ten Network, FS1, and NBC Sports. For a full schedule of fubo’s 4K games, check out its calendar here.