The best streaming services for sports in 2021

Written by:
October 1, 2021
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The best streaming services for sports in 2021

Cord cutters no longer have to miss out on live sports, but streaming your favorite teams and games is not always smooth sailing. The right combination of channels and the right blend of live games, on-demand content, and sports-themed TV shows can be elusive. Without a plan, it can quickly add up to more than the cost of cable TV. Here’s what you need to know about streaming sports in 2021. 
 

National networks and ESPN vs. local sports channels 

So, what’s the best live TV streaming service for sports? That depends on which sports you want to stream. All sports find their way onto your TV screen through a maze of different channels, networks, and local affiliates. Some subscribers have to cobble together a more complicated jigsaw puzzle of streaming services than others. 

Compared to the other three major sports in North America, NFL fans are on easy street. Football is the only major sport where every game airs on ESPN or a local broadcast affiliate of a national network like Fox, NBC, or CBS, although Amazon Prime now has a contract for Thursday Night Football. 

That means that football fans can watch every single one of their team’s weekly games without dealing with regional sports networks (RSNs)—as long as their team is the home team, that is. Local network affiliates air local games, so NFL fans with out-of-market allegiances might be better off with a league package like NFL Game Pass. Access to national networks becomes especially important during the playoffs, not just for football, but for all sports. 

Other sports, like NASCAR and PGA Tour golf, also broadcast on national channels, as do some NHL, MLB, and NBA games. Fans of all three of those major sports, however, will have to catch many of their games on regional sports networks. Different streaming services offer different RSNs, and the ones you'll need vary by location. If your seemingly flawless sports-streaming strategy runs into roadblocks, it will likely be at the RSN level. Run your zip code through any streaming service you're considering to see if it delivers the local channels you need before you buy. 

Live sports streaming for specific teams and leagues

Before you go shopping for a streaming service to catch all your favorite sports, consider first that you might not have to. If you're only concerned with a single league—or even better just a single team —your best best might be one of the dedicated streaming services that the major sports leagues all offer, including NHL.TV, NBA League Pass, MLB.TV, and NFL Sunday Ticket.

If you only care about your favorite team, you can save money by signing up only for that franchise’s games. Be warned that most of these services come with frustrating blackouts and other restrictions that can make it tough to watch live games. In a lot of cases, you'll only be able to watch certain games after the live broadcast has ended.

Ditching cable TV? Stream live sports and live TV together

Anyone looking for a viable all-around alternative to cable TV in general, but with a focus on sports, should keep in mind the importance of the major national networks. Fox, ABC, NBC, and CBS are critical both to recurring major sports like football and baseball, as well as to special events like the Olympics and the Kentucky Derby. 

If you are cutting the cord, the networks have value beyond sports, even if you don't watch a lot of network TV. Without them, you’re cut off from special annual events like the Oscars, the Thanksgiving Day Parade, and New Year’s Eve coverage in Times Square. 

Options like Hulu and YouTube TV can replace both cable TV and non-live streaming services like Netflix at the same time—all while covering your sports needs. That’s because they offer many of the most popular live TV and live sports channels, as well as deep on-demand libraries and highly rated original programming. They also come at a price that’s low enough to help you look past the drawbacks that are inherent to all streaming services—and there are plenty. 

Inexpensive options like ESPN+ offer good value, but they're not comprehensive enough to stand alone.

Stacker took a look at the top streaming services for sports. See how they compare, what they cost, what they offer, what they don't, where they shine, and what to watch out for. 

You may also like: The best streaming services for football in 2021

1 / 6
FuboTV

FuboTV

  • Cost: $33-$79.99 per month
  • Packages available: 3
  • Fees: No
  • Cancel anytime: Yes
  • Free Cloud DVR: 250 or 1,000 hours, depending on plan
  • Simultaneous streams: 3 or 10, depending on plan
  • Free trial: 7 days
  • Apps and streaming devices: Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, iOS, Android, select Samsung smart TVs, XBox and Chromecast.

FuboTV is a great all-around sports option

FuboTV delivers an industry-leading selection of channels, leagues, and events. Hundreds of channels are available, including dozens dedicated solely or mostly to sports. It stands out as the top choice for international sports like soccer, including LaLiga, Premier League, UEFA Champions League, MLS, Ligue 1, and Liga MX. There are also a lot of options for niche sports like MMA, and all kinds of specialty offerings like fishing and outdoors, as well as a big variety of Spanish-language sports and 4K options.

Specials and bundles

FuboTV is not currently offering any bundles or discounts. 

How is the fan experience? 

No matter the streaming service, fans are going to face some tough choices about which sports content they absolutely can't live without. A subscription to FuboTV opens doors to live sports all over the country and the world, but the tradeoff is that you lose the Turner family of channels—most importantly TBS and TNT

That's a gaping hole for fans of college basketball, golf, the NBA, the MLB, and wrestling. On the flip side, when FuboTV announced its break with Turner, it also announced that it was adding ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPN3. The omission of the ESPN suite of channels had long been a dealbreaker for many. 

In the end, there are cheaper services out there, but none with so many channels—and FuboTV is generous with cloud DVR storage, too.

Like every streaming service except for AT&T TV, Fubo recently dropped the Fox RSN family of regional channels, which is a tough pill to swallow for sports fans of all stripes across the country.

What sports channels do I get? 

FuboTV's impressive list of sports channels includes: ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, ACCN, Bein Sports, Bein Sports Extra, Big Ten Network, CBS Sports Network, ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPN HD Deportes, ESPN News, ESPN SEC Channel, ESPN U, Fight Network, Fox Deprtes, Fox Soccer Plus, FS1, FS2, Fubo Sports Network, Game, Ginx Sports, Golf TV English, Golf TV Spanish, Insight TV, LAFC, MAVTV, MLB Network, MLB Strike Zone, NBA TV, NBC Golf, NBC Sports, NBCSN, NFL Network, NFL Red Zone, NHL Network, NXT LVL Sports, Outdoor Channel, Outdoor TV, Olympics Channel, Universo, Pac 12 Networks, SEC ESPN Network, Sports Washington, SNY, Sportsman Channel, Stadium, Tennis Channel, TUDN, TV5Monde, TVG, TVG2, TyC Sports, UniMas, World Fishing Network, Zona Futbol.

2 / 6
Hulu

Hulu + Live TV

  • Cost: $64.99 per month
  • Packages available: 1
  • Fees: None
  • Cancel anytime: Yes
  • Cloud DVR: 50 hours or 200 for $10/mo
  • Simultaneous streams: 2
  • Free trial: 7 days
  • Apps and streaming devices: iOS, Android, Fire TV and Fire Stick, Roku, Gen-4 Apple TV, Chromecast, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Xbox 360, LG, Samsung, and Nintendo Switch

Hulu can replace cable TV and Netflix

Hulu does not have as many live channels as FuboTV that are dedicated solely to sports. Few streaming services do. But for anyone who is looking to replace cable and Netflix with one single, reasonably priced live TV subscription, Hulu might just be the best all-in-one package on the market. For sports fans who are considering becoming cord cutters, Hulu delivers top-shelf original programming that can compete with HBO and Netflix, a full channel lineup for live TV, a massive and high-quality on-demand library, and, of course, plenty of sports.  

Specials and bundles

You can bundle Hulu+ Live TV, Disney+, and ESPN+ for $72.99 per month. You can also bundle standard Hulu with Disney+ and ESPN+ for $13.99 a month. 

How is the fan experience? 

Hulu lets you customize your profile based on your favorite sports, leagues, and teams. Hulu will automatically record games and other content involving your teams while making recommendations based on your preferred leagues and sports. It also offers handy features like game-time reminders.

Hulu recently followed the non-AT&T crowd by dropping the Fox RSNs. That makes it harder to stream live sports for fans in markets all over the country across all major domestic pro sports and some college sports, too.

What sports channels do I get? 

Regional sports are available through local channels in many cities, and users also get all major networks—CBS, NBC, ABC, and Fox—as well as TNT, TBS, ACCN, BTN, CBS Sports Network, ESPN, ESPN 2, College Extra, ESPN U, FS1, Golf, and NBCS.

3 / 6
Sling TV

Sling TV

  • Cost: $35-$65
  • Packages available: 3: Sling Orange ($35), Sling Blue ($35), Sling Orange+ Sling Blue ($50); Sling Orange + Sling Blue + Sports Extra ($65)
  • Fees: No
  • Cancel anytime: Yes
  • Cloud DVR: 50 hours, or 200 for $5/mo
  • Simultaneous streams: 1 for Sling Orange, 3 for Sling Blue
  • Free trial: N/A
  • Apps and streaming devices: AirTV, Amazon Fire TV, Android, Android TV, Chromecast, iOS, LG, Oculus, Roku, Samsung, Tivo Stream, Windows, Xbox One, and Apple TV 

Sling TV trades high prices for tough choices

SlingTV is the most affordable choice by far with packages topping out at just $65. Sports fans can get by with just Sling Orange, which Sling TV promotes as being geared more toward sports. But the truth is, it's a tough call. With Orange alone, you lose NBC, NBCSN, and the NFL Network. If you go with Blue and ditch Orange, on the other hand, you'll lose all the ESPN channels.  

Specials and bundles

Get your first month for just $10—that's $25 off—plus free 200-hour DVR. You can also get a free AirTV Mini—a $79.99 value—when you prepay for two months of Sling TV

How is the fan experience? 

Sling TV is a master at spreading out its best channels between the Orange and Blue packages so that neither feels complete on its own. It does this with both traditional programming and with sports. The result is an impossible choice that forces virtually all subscribers to long for the $50 Orange + Blue package. 

For $15 more per month, you can tack on Sports Extra, which adds 20 more sports channels for an impressive menu of options. By the time you get there, however, the price creeps up from $35 to $65. That's the same price as Hulu + Live TV and YouTube TV, both of which deliver big on-demand libraries and well-received original programming. Sling TV does not. 

Also, Sling was the first to ditch the Fox RSNs, so that regional headache doesn't get any better, and you lose both ABC and CBS. Fox is available only in select markets, which leaves NBC as the only fully intact network in the lineup.

What sports channels do I get? 

NFL Network, NFL Red Zone, MLB Network, NHL Network, NBA TV, Big Ten Network, FS2, ESPNews, the Golf Channel, the Tennis Channel, SEC Network Pac 12 Network, ACCN, Longhorn Network, ESPN U, Olympic Channel, TNT, TBS.

4 / 6
YouTube TV

YouTube TV

  • Cost: $64.99
  • Packages available: 1
  • Fees: None
  • Cancel anytime: Yes
  • Cloud DVR: Unlimited
  • Simultaneous streams: 3
  • Free trial: 14 days
  • Apps and streaming devices: Roku, Chromecast with Google TV, Apple TV, LG, Samsung, PlayStation, Vizio, Sharp, XBox One, Android, iOS, Amazon Fire TV

YouTube TV is a powerful all-in-one streaming platform

Just like Hulu, YouTube TV is $64.99 per month. Also like Hulu, YouTube TV makes a strong argument for the best all-around package for anyone looking to replace cable, cut Netflix, and consolidate all streaming media in one place. It has full network coverage and more than 85 live channels, as well as tons of original and on-demand content. Its sports offerings hold some advantages over Hulu and certainly over cheaper, more bare-bones services like Sling TV.

Specials and bundles

$54.99/month for the first three months with up to six accounts per household. 

How is the fan experience? 

YouTube TV includes the NFL, NBA, and MLB networks, unlike Hulu, which includes no league networks at all. The real differentiator, however, is YouTube TV's industry-leading unlimited cloud DVR storage with fast-forward, rewind, and pause. You can stream your DVR anywhere and it never runs out, a huge advantage for sports fans, considering how much cloud storage HD sporting events gobble up. No other mainstream service's free DVR offering can compete.

What sports channels do I get? 

Complete nationwide local network coverage for ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox, as well as ACCN, BTN, CBS Sports, ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPN U, ESPN News, FS1, FS2, Golf Channel, LAFC, MLB Game of the Week, NBA TV, NBC Sports, NBCSN, NFL Network, Olympics Channel, SEC ESPN Network, SNY, TBS, and TNT. Included with the Sports Plus Add-On are: NFL Red Zone, Fox Soccer Plus, TV, Stadium, Fox College Sports, TVG, GOLTV.

5 / 6
AT&T TV

AT&T TV

  • Cost: $69.99 - $139.99 
  • Packages available: 4, but the Choice package ($84.99) and up are best for sports
  • Fees: None
  • Cancel anytime: Yes
  • Cloud DVR: 20 hours or unlimited for $10/mo
  • Simultaneous streams: 3
  • Free trial: 14 days
  • Apps and streaming devices: Fire TV, Android, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, select Samsung smart TVs, and AT&T's exclusive streaming device

AT&T TV is the only game in town for Fox RSNs

AT&T TV stands out as the last remaining streaming service to offer Fox Regional Sports Networks (Fox RSNs), a sprawling suite of national RSNs that delivers live sports action to nearly 20 markets across the country. In 2019, Sling TV dropped Sinclair-owned Fox Sports, and FuboTV, YouTube TV, and Hulu+ Live TV followed suit by the end of 2020.  Then, AT&T TV Now—which had been DirecTV Now—diverted all new customers to its alternative streaming service, AT&T TV

Specials and bundles

One year of HBO Max is included with Choice packages and above. 

How is the fan experience? 

Even the entry-level package has more than 65 channels, and that number climbs to 140 channels when you get to the top package. That means AT&T TV joins Hulu + Live TV and YouTube TV as a legitimate all-in-one replacement for cable, not just for streaming sports. The tradeoff is that it's expensive and its cloud DVR storage is a paltry 20 hours unless you're willing to pay for an upgrade.

What sports channels do I get? 

Local and regional sports coverage, as well as TBS, TNT, ACCN, Big Ten Network, CBS Sports Network, ESPN ESPN2, ESPN News, ESPN U, FS1, FS2, the Golf Channel, MLB HD, NBA League Pass, NBA TV, NBCSN, NHL Network, Olympic Channel, SEC Network, Sportsman Channel, the Tennis Channel, TUDN, TVG.

6 / 6
ESPN+

ESPN+

  • Cost: $5.99 per month
  • Packages available: 1
  • Fees: None
  • Cancel anytime: Yes, for monthly plan
  • Cloud DVR: No
  • Simultaneous streams: 3
  • Free trial: No
  • Apps and streaming devices: iOS, Apple TV, Android, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Samsung, Google Chromecast, PlayStation, XBox, Oculus, Xfinity

ESPN+ is a good supplementary streaming service

ESPN+ offers cheap, bare-bones streaming for sports fans who don't need a full-service live streaming platform. Serving as home base for the UFC, ESPN+ is especially good for MMA fans. ESPN+ can also function as an unofficial add-on to a more comprehensive streaming service that's lacking in the combat sports department. It costs more to watch live UFC events. 

ESPN+ boasts an impressive library of prestige programming like "30 for 30" and gives you access to ESPN's deep archive of content. That includes ESPN Films, game replays, and sports analysis programs. 

Specials and bundles

Bundle Hulu+ Live TV, Disney+, and ESPN+ for $72.99 per month. You can also bundle standard Hulu, with Disney+ and ESPN+ for $13.99 a month. You can save 15% by paying for a year in advance for $59.99.

How is the fan experience? 

You can't stream live NFL or NBA games on ESPN+, but you can catch some live MLB and NHL action, as well as a lot of live college sports and live soccer. The lack of a DVR is disappointing, and you don't get premier ESPN programming like "Sports Center" and "NFL Live."

What sports channels do I get? 

N/A

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