If you’re a sports fan, there’s nothing quite like kicking back on the couch, cracking open a cold one and watching your favorite team rise triumphant over the other guys. For the longest time, it was thought that the only way to have such an experience was via a TV coupled with a cable or satellite subscription. That’s because, for the most part, sports are best enjoyed live, and watching live TV hasn’t always been the province of cord cutters.
Things have changed in the past few years, however. Not only can you now stream most live sports on your computer or your smartphone, but you don’t even need a cable or satellite provider to do so, which can potentially save you plenty of money. Yet the process is less easy than you’d think — it depends a lot on what sport you’re into and which teams you support — and there are occasionally local blackouts to contend with as well. But with the cord-cutting movement gaining momentum recently, it’s now a lot easier to watch live sports online than it’s ever been, as long as you know what to look for.
For the purposes of this guide, we decided to focus on the five major sports that are most often watched live — American football, baseball, basketball, ice hockey, and domestic and international soccer — though we also offer information about other sports like tennis and golf where relevant.
By far the easiest way to watch live sports over the internet is to essentially replicate the cable or satellite TV experience with an online equivalent. These stand-alone streaming TV services, also known as “skinny bundles,” look and feel almost identical to a basic cable package, which means they also often have the same standard sports channels, like ESPN, Fox Sports and your regional sports network. Unfortunately, however, not all skinny bundles offer the same channels, so it’s worth knowing which carry the ones you care about.
For the most part, you’ll want services that offer local broadcast channels (that’s Fox, NBC, CBS and ABC) as well as cable mainstays like ESPN, Fox Sports, TBS and TNT to get nationally broadcast games (TBS and TNT are especially important during the NBA postseason). If you want to watch local games, you’ll also want a service that carries a regional sports network, in order to avoid blackouts. So if you live in San Francisco, for example, you’ll want it to carry NBC Sports Bay Area to watch the San Francisco Giants or the Oakland A’s. If you’re a New York Yankees or Brooklyn Nets fan and you live in New York, you’ll want it to carry the YES Network.