Best Streaming Services for Sports – 2021
Sports networks are usually included with cable TV and satellite TV premium packages. The quality of sports fixtures offered by basic cable or free TV channels usually isn’t too good. Live TV broadcasts of sporting events are now almost exclusive to high-cost sports channels and many headline live games are now even being excluded from those high-priced sports channels, only available to view live as pay-per-view ticketed events.
Live TV and on-demand streaming services offer some of the best opportunities to get access to live sports fixtures and watch the experts give insights into how games can be strategized.
When considering streaming services for sports, there are two topics to consider:
- What are the best streaming services for sports?
- What are the best streaming TV packages for sports?
In this guide, I will cover the best sports streaming services and then which TV streaming service packages are the best options to get those specialist sports channels online.
What are the best sports streaming services?
Even within the category of sports streaming services, there are two divisions: sports channels run by specific sports organizations and sports networks that cover a range of sports.
First, here are the best streaming services for specific sports that gives access to live games streaming and sporting event virtual tickets:
- MLB Network
- NHL Network
- NFL Network (including NFL RedZone)
- NBA TV (including NBA League Pass)
- UFC (including UFC Fight Pass)
Here are the best TV sports networks that offer streaming services:
- ESPN (including ESPNU)
- NBC Sports Network (NBC SN)
- Fox Sports
- CBS Sports Network
- BEIN sports
- SEC network
Getting access to live games is a complicated pursuit. Many leagues sell off the rights to certain fixtures to one network, other rights to other channels, and retain rights to some games for live streaming on their own streaming services. Live TV coverage of sporting events is the most sought-after service for sports fans. Possessing the exclusive right to show live games can make or break a broadcaster and bidding is fierce for headline sporting events.
The winners of the rights to the big sporting events have to bid high and they pass that cost on to their customers. That applies to live streaming services, cable TV channels, and over-the-air channels, such as NBC, ABC, CBS, and Fox. In the case of streaming services and satellite and cable TV channels, that cost is passed on in higher prices for those premium sports channels. ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox recover their costs by increasing the price of advertising slots during the broadcasting of live sports events.
Which are the best TV streaming services for sports?
The best sports streaming services are those that have the most licenses to top sporting events and they are more expensive to subscribe to. Each individual subscriber needs to examine the channel lineup in each package and decide on a budget. If you are prepared to opt for second-chance recorded coverage of sporting events rather than watch live games, the cost of the TV service becomes much cheaper. While the specialist league sports streaming services can be subscribed to directly, general sports channels usually don’t sell to the public directly. Even when they have live streaming or on demand libraries on their sites, they require visitors to log in with their TV package details before allowing them to watch any content.
The best TV streaming services for sports fans are:
- AT&T TV Now (DirecTV Now)
- Hulu + Live TV
- Sling TV (Sling Orange or Sling Blue)
- YouTube TV
In all of these cases, you get the option of different TV channel lineups at different subscription prices per month. These TV services also include general entertainment channels, such as ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, TNT, and the Disney Channel.
Look into the add-on options that some of these TV services offer. Some special interest sports channels, such as the Golf Channel or the Olympic Channel might be part of a higher channel lineup package or could be available as add-ons. Premium entertainment channels such as HBO, Showtime, or Starz are also available as add-ons to these TV services.
These TV services also often include local channels that have local sports features and regional sports networks. They fully substitute for satellite or cable TV packages. These live TV streaming services are becoming increasingly attractive to people looking for an alternative to traditional TV service. This movement is called “cord cutting” and involves getting a TV service over the internet with a live TV streaming service.
No doubt, you will have noticed that the big-name streaming services Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and HBO Max are not on our list. That is because these three streaming services don't include live TV and they have almost no sports extras to offer sports fans.
You can read more about our seven recommended TV services for sports fans in the following sections.
FuboTV is probably the best cord-cutting TV service for sports fans and their families. It originally started out as a streaming service for soccer fans. It then expanded to cover more sports and then added on TV shows and a channel lineup to please all of the family. So, unless you live alone, you are going to need a full live TV service like fuboTV in order to get approval for the subscription from other family members.
This is a great streaming service for sports fans.
What makes it different
The channel lineup of the top package available from fuboTV includes 173 channels and addon packages can bump that number up even further.
The standard package includes NBC SN, PAC and BEIN Sports channels, Fox Sports, the NFL Network, MSG, MSG+, and CBS Sports Network. Sports extras include a Latino sports networks package and international sports channels. Entertainment TV channels on the service include live TV from ABC, NBC, Fox, CBS, and TNT.
- Showtime is available as an add on.
- All plans include a cloud DVR with 500 hours of cloud DVR storage space.
- Each account is allowed simultaneous streams to two or three screens, depending on the package chosen.
- FuboTV is available on any computer through a browser and there are fuboTV mobile apps for Android and iOS devices. It is possible to send the TV stream from those devices to a TV with Google Chromecast.
- Smart TVs can receive fuboTV and streaming devices including Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, and Android TV boxes can all channel the streaming service to a TV.
- The menu of addons is quite complicated because some plans include some of the addons.
2. AT&T TV Now (DirecTV Now)
AT&T TV Now is what used to be called DirecTV Now. This is a cord cutting service that competes directly with cable TV plans. The channel lineup of this TV service is organized into two plan options: Plus, which has 45 channels and Max which has 60 channels.
What makes it different
General entertainment channels in both plans include ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, CNN, TNT, the Disney Channel, MTV, and local channels. Sports channels include NBC Sports Network, ESPN, MSG, MSG+, and regional sports networks. The Max package includes HBO, Cinemax, and NBC Golf.
- HBO is available as an add on
- Other add ons include a Spanish TV package, Starz, and Showtime
- AT&T TV Now also includes catch up TV
- AT&T TV Now has an on-demand video library
- Can be watched on a computer through a browser or with a mobile app on Android and iOS devices – these can also send the TV stream to TV sets with Google Chromecast
- Smart TVs can connect to AT&T Now TV over the internet and streaming devices that are compatible with AT&T TV Now include Roku, Apple TV, Android TV boxes, and Amazon Fire TV devices
- A free cloud DVR service that can store 500 hours of TV for up to 90 days
- Each account is allowed three simultaneous streams
- Quite expensive
3. Hulu + Live TV
Hulu + Live TV is the higher plan of the Hulu streaming service. While Hulu is an on-demand streaming service Hulu + Live TV adds on a cord cutting cable TV replace live TV streaming service. The Live TV plan is one standard package with 65 TV channels. This can be enhanced by addons.
What makes it different
The entertainment channels in the Live TV plan include ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, TNT, TBS, The CW, Discovery Channel, Investigation Discovery, MSNBC, Disney Channel, CNN, and Telemundo. The sports channels in the plan include NBC Sports Network, Fox Sports, CBS Sports Network, the Olympic Channel, Golf Channel, Marquee Sports Network, and ESPN. The Fox and NBC services give access to regional sports network.
- College sports are available in Hulu + Live TV through ESPNU, ACC Network, ACC Network Extra, CBS Sports Network, Big Ten Network, and SEC Network.
- Addons available with Hulu + Live TV include Showtime, Starz, HBO, and Cinemax. There is also a Spanish language channel package add on, which includes ESPN Deportes.
- Hulu + Live TV will play directly on internet-connected smart TVs.
- Hulu + Live TV has a mobile app for iOS and Android devices and can be watched through any browser. Those devices can channel the streaming service onto TV sets with Google Chromecast.
- Roku, Android TV boxes, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV devices, the Echo Show, Xfinity Flex and Xfinity X1, Xbox 360, the Xbox One, Nintendo PlayStation 3, and Nintendo PlayStation 4 can all be used as streaming devices for Hulu + Live TV.
- All subscribers get access to a free cloud DVR with 50 hours of storage, upgradable to 200 hours.
- The standard package includes two simultaneous streams, but that can be upgraded to three.
- Add ons an really bump up the monthly price
4. Sling TV (Sling Orange or Sling Blue)
Sling TV is one of the leading TV services that caters to cord cutters. Its channel lineups are offered in two plans: Sling Blue and Sling Orange. Both include sports networks, but the sports channels in Sling Orange have higher value. Consequently, though both packages have the same price, Sling Oranges has fewer channels.
What makes it different
Sling Blue offers 50 channels, which include NBC, Fox, AMC, TNT, TBS, Bravo, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Discovery Channel, Cartoon Network, and Nick Jr, Sports channels in the package include NFL Network, NBC Sports Network, and Fox Sports. Sling Blue subscribers get access to regional sports networks.
Sling Orange has 32 TV channels, which include AMC, TNT, TBS, Bravo, CNN, MSNBC, Disney Channel, and Disney Junior. The sports channels in Sling Orange include ESPN and ESPN2.
- Sling Blue and Sling Orange cost $30 each and you can get both for $45
- Addons to Sling TV include MLB Network, NBA TV, NFL Network, NFL RedZone, and NHL Network. BEIN Sports, Tennis Channel Golf Channel, Olympic Channel, and ESPNEWS are other addon options
- Both packages offer college sports through PAC-12 Network as an addon. Sling Orange has the edge in this category because it also offers addons for ESPNU, ACC Network, ACC Network Extra, SEC Network, and Longhorn Network
- Sling TV streams straight onto smart TVs
- Sling TV can be accessed through browsers and mobile apps which will forward the stream to a TV with a Google Chromecast streaming device
- Subscribers get access to a large on demand video library and a free cloud DVR system
- Sling Blue has an allowance of three simultaneous streams
- Each Sling Orange account holder can only stream to one device at a time
5. YouTube TV
YouTube is a cable TV replacement service for cord cutters and is owned by Google. YouTube has been running since 2005 and is a very successful free on demand streaming service. Although it shares the same name, YouTube TV is a completely different concept to the original YouTube. This is a TV streaming service that competes with Hulu + Live TV and Sling TV and it is the third largest TV streaming service in the United States.
The TV service has one base package and then a number of addon options. This streaming service is a good option for sports fans because it includes some high-quality sports channels.
What makes it different
YouTube TV is particularly rich in college sports networks. These include ESPNU, ACC Network, ACC Network Extra, SEC Network Big Ten Network, and CBS Sports Network, which includes college sports programming along with its professional sports service.
Other sports channels are ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS, MLB Network, NBA TV, Golf Channel, the Olympic Channel, Tennis Channel, Fox Sports 1 and 2, and NBC Sports Network, which gives access to the regional sports networks. Fox Soccer Plus is available as an add on.
Entertainment TV channels in the YouTube TV package include ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, TNT, TBS, AMC, Bravo, Discovery, Investigation Discovery, FX, FXX, CNN, MSNBC, The CW, Telemundo, the Disney Channel, and Disney Junior.
- In total, the base package of YouTube TV includes 70 TV channels.
- Addon channels available with YouTube TV are Starz, Showtime, EPIX, Sundance Now, and Shudder.
- YouTube TV can be accessed from a computer through any browser. There are also YouTube TV mobile apps available for Android and iOS devices. Web browsers and mobile devices can stream YouTube TV onto a TV screen with Google Chromecast.
- Smart TVs that are connected to the internet can access YouTube TV and a number of streaming devices are compatible with the TV streaming service. These include Roku, AirPlay, Apple TV, Android TV boxes, Amazon Fire TV devices, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.
- Each account gets access to a cloud DVR player that has unlimited storage space and will retain TV shows for up to nine months.
- Doesn’t work on the internet when you leave the USA.
Other sports streaming services
This guide doesn’t attempt to review all of the sports streaming services out there. We have concentrated on presenting the best TV packages for those who want to switch from a cable TV service to a more sports-rich TV streaming service. If you are happy to keep your cable TV deal and you are just looking for extra sports channels, then you could consider the professional sports league networks, most of which have plans that give access from the streaming services website through a direct subscription.
Be aware though, that most of the sports leagues have sold of the rights to their biggest games to the major sports networks. So, surprisingly, you won’t be able to watch the big NFL games on the NFL Network.
Another issue to watch out for is blackouts. No doubt, you want to sign up to a sports channel so that you can watch your favorite team from the comfort of your own home. If, like most people, your favorite team is the one closest to you, there won’t be much joy to be had from subscribing to the professional sports network for that team. This is because they won’t show you live streams of the team closest to your home.
The local blackouts imposed by professional sports league streaming services are due to the initial objections that franchise holders raised when the creation of these streaming services was proposed. They argued that live streams would damage ticket sales. As a compromise, they don’t allow subscribers to watch their local team play live on the streaming services.
The MLB is particularly bad in this respect. You can’t watch your local team play at home or away. If you are traveling, you can’t watch any game involving the team that is closest to where you are located at the time of trying to access the streaming service. In short, it is better to watch sports on live streaming services through the major sports networks.