How-to Watch Live Sports Without Cable

Often the big kicker for people considering getting rid of cable is the perceived lack of sports. I’ll admit, I was one of the non-believers before we cut the cord last year. I’m a big sports fan and the thought of giving up ESPN had me tossing and turning at night.  Constantly searching for solutions to  the question, how to watch sports without cable, this list should server as a jump start for newbie cord cutters.

You’ve got to do your homework and there is no perfect or ideal setup, but it is very possible to watch live sports without cable. Let me share with you what I know.

I recommend that you read the entire piece, but if you’re short on time, here’s the skinny on watching sports online.

Football (NFL and NCAA) Baseball (MLB) Basketball (NBA and NCAA) Hockey (NHL) Other (NASCAR, Golf, Soccer)
Service NFL Sunday Ticket To-Go MLB.tv NBA League Pass Broadband NHL Game Center Live ESPN 3, mobile apps. iTunes
Device(s) Mac, PC, iPad and smart phones, PS3 Mac, PC, iPad, smart phones, Playstation 3, Roku, Boxee, Samsung and LG internet connected TV’s and blu-ray players Mac, PC, smartphones Roku, Boxee, PS3, iPad Mac, PC
Price $350/season $100/season or $120/season for premium $120/season to follow 7 teams all season, $190 to follow all 30. Price drops mid-season. Also offers a mobile only option to stream games only to smartphone $170/season. Price drops mid-season. $0 – 10
Notes Regional and national games available via over-the-air antenna, ESPN 3 and NFL.com Blackouts apply similar to cable or satellite ESPN 3 and CBS Sports stream games online. During NCAA tourney, purchase mobile app. Blackouts apply similar to cable or satellite Blackouts apply similar to cable or satellite ESPN 3 often streams women’s sports, golf and other small sports. Find past NASCAR races on iTunes.

First off, get yourself a good antenna

A cheap $20 indoor antenna is often more than enough to pick up over-the-air HD channels.  Choosing the right HDTV Antenna is step one, so take the time and make sure you know what antenna is right for your area and the channels you want to view watch. Picture quality delivered from Over The Air, also known as OTA, antenna is brilliant due to the high bandwidth of off-air, and the pure uncompressed video stream. Reliability seems to be very good and I’ve had no problem picking up regional college and pro sports. NFL and college football games all day on Saturday and Sunday? Got ‘em. National broadcasts of NBA games? Piece of cake. Professional baseball? Of course.

Are you ready for some football?

Watch football online with NFL Sunday Ticket To-Go

Antonio Dixon from Ed Yourdon via Flickr

Ok, so you’ve got the antenna for local and nationally televised games, but what about out-of-market games or Monday Night Football? In the past you were pretty much destined to slop off to your local sports bar and plead with the waitress to turn on your game, but last season DirecTV changed that. Anyone can now purchase an entire season of NFL Sunday Ticket To-Go (previously you had to be a DirecTV subscriber). You’ll get HD-quality streaming to your computer, iPad or smartphone plus they throw in the Red Zone Channel, live stats and the ability to switch to any game live.

The price is steep at $350 for a complete season, especially if you cut the cord to save money. Here’s hoping that the NFL and DirecTV will feel the pressure of cord cutters and lower the price in upcoming seasons.

Update: You can now purchase NFL Sunday Ticket and view it on your Playstation 3 without a DirecTV subscription.

If you don’t want to pony up for a complete season, often times you can find someone rebroadcasting a game deep in the under-belly of the internet.  We are constantly asked how to watch espn without cable or satellite.   Check out Justin.tv or do a quick Google search. This is typically frowned upon by the networks and often shut down fairly fast. I’ll elaborate more on the dark side of cord cutting in future articles.   For they time being, the best way to watch the NFL on Roku is still to install an HD antenna on your tv.  This is the best quality image you can get as well.

If you can’t wait until fall for the NFL season to start, watch the combine live on NFL.com.

Baseball is headed for home

MLB.tv on iPhone

MLB.tv on the iPhone from artifishall via Flickr

Major League Baseball is what every major sport should strive to be like. This cord cutters paradise offers live, on-demand HD quality games for $100 to $120/season. MLB.tv has an app for just about everything imaginable including Roku, Boxee, iPad, Playstation 3, smartphones and a few internet connected TV’s and blu-ray players.

The premium package adds a few special features like home and away broadcasts and the ability to view multiple games. If you’d rather not spring for an entire season you can purchase a monthly pass with the ability to cancel at anytime. Keep in mind that blackouts apply to MLB.tv just as they would with cable.

Basketball with an assist

The NBA has an online offering called NBA League Pass Broadband. Just as Major League Baseball, their apps run the gammit of Roku, iPad, iPhone, computer. NBA League Pass gives you the option to watch up to 3 games at once, live DVR functionality and a full season of archived games. The NBA has 2 packages for cord cutters. Follow 7 teams of your choice for an entire season for $120 or get all 30 teams for $190*. As with baseball, local and national blackout rules apply based on your location.

TNT adds to the party with free online broadcasts of week night NBA games. Features include a cool mosaic view where you can watch the game at 4 different camera angles and the option to follow an iso-cam of one player (which is determined by fan vote).

For college basketball fanatics, strap on the antenna, dial into ESPN3 and CBS Sports Online or stream live tournament games to your iPhone. If you have an XBox 360, you can stream ESPN3 to your TV.

*Note: since this post was written mid-season, the NBA has dropped its price to $65 and $100 respectively.

***Check out our updated story on watching March Madness online.

He shoots and scores with hockey

Watch NHL Online with GameCenter Live

NHL Hockey by Chase N. via Flickr

Hockey fans won’t be left out in the cold because the NHL has come strong with NHL GameCenter Live. You’ll get 40 games a week streaming through your Roku, Boxee Box, PS3 or iPad for only $170/season (Note: now $79 for the remainder of this season). NHL GameCenter holds its own with DVR functionality, live home and away, picture-in-picture and live chat.

Hey, what about ____?

If you’re looking for golf, women’s sports or soccer, ESPN3 has a great selection. NASCAR fans will be happy to know that TNT will at times stream smaller races online. Classic NASCAR races can be purchased through iTunes.

Like I mentioned above, there is no perfect solution and watching live sports online is going to cost you in some instances. So, how have you dealt with watching your favorite sports without cable? Is there something I missed? Tell me in the comments below.

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About Bob Hazlett

Bob cut the cord and canceled cable in 2010. He got tired of having a lack of TV options and paying higher prices for lower quality shows. Many of his friends were interested in doing the same so that's how KickOutCable.com came to be. He's here to share the secrets of cord cutting that the cable companies don't want you to know. He also blogs at www.onehalfamazing.com

38 Responses to “How-to Watch Live Sports Without Cable”

  1. Anonymous March 8, 2011 at 6:43 AM #

    Excellent info! We cut cable on Feb. 26, and many of my buddies have asked me what I’m doing about March Madness. Turns out, the entire tourney is online for free at http://www.ncaa.com/news/basketball-men/2010-12-19/ncaa-march-madness-demand.

    We’ve linked to your site on our blog, http://cablecutter.tumblr.com/. We’ve already saved $150 and haven’t missed any shows!

  2. Amnewcomb March 17, 2011 at 8:51 PM #

    Bob,

    The problem with MLB.tv is that, if you live in the city that your team is in, you are subject to a total blackout of both home and away games for your team.

    Can you help me with that issue? That totally screws the MLB fan who wants to dump cable. Am I missing something?

    Thanks,

    Andrew Newcomb

    • Bob Hazlett March 17, 2011 at 3:25 PM #

      Yes, just like cable or satellite MLB.tv is subject to blackouts. Local broadcast and cable stations contract with a team to show their games in the local market have priority to televise those games over national broadcasters. So, for example, if ESPN or MLB.tv want to televise a game which was scheduled to be telecast by the local rights holder, the game will be blacked out on ESPN or MLB Network in that market.

      In my opinion, MLB.tv is best for fans who live outside of their favorite teams viewing area. Again, not ideal, but it’s the system we live with these days.

    • Bob Hazlett March 17, 2011 at 9:31 PM #

      Yes, just like cable or satellite MLB.tv is subject to blackouts. Local broadcast and cable stations contract with a team to show their games in the local market have priority to televise those games over national broadcasters. So, for example, if ESPN or MLB.tv want to televise a game which was scheduled to be telecast by the local rights holder, the game will be blacked out on ESPN or MLB Network in that market.

      In my opinion, MLB.tv is best for fans who live outside of their favorite teams viewing area. Again, not ideal, but it’s the system we live with these days.

      • Todd July 25, 2012 at 11:32 AM #

        All local Red Sox games are broadcast on NESN…cable only! If someone knows how to get NESN and Red Sox coverage without cable, LET ME KNOW!!! Otherwise it will be hard to cut the cord (ESPN is a big loss as well). Any ideas???

        • Jessebrea03 December 29, 2012 at 11:26 AM #

          Did you ever find the answer to the NESN question? My husband and I live in Virginia and watch all the games on NESN. We would love to cut the cord!!! HOwevre, we only get NESN through premium satellite at 114.00/month :( …Help

          • Brian February 28, 2013 at 8:19 AM #

            You can subscribe to mlb.tv if you live in Virginia and wish to watch Red Sox Games.. They would not be blocked out in your area..

    • Rob November 28, 2011 at 12:53 AM #

      Just realized this also, essentially no way to watch local MLB games without a cable subscription. What a crock.

      • Anja August 17, 2012 at 1:47 PM #

        Get a VPN service, which will allow you to switch your IP address and make you appear outside of your local area. It costs about $30 per year.

    • Matty Ice February 28, 2013 at 12:57 PM #

      I’ve been complaining about this for years, MLB.tv is in cahoots with the cable companies on this.  I would kill cable without hesitation if I could watch my hometown 9 another way.

  3. George Stone May 22, 2011 at 8:25 PM #

    All I really want is Science, Discovery, NatGeo and Tennis Channel. This only way to get the first three is torrents. Tennis CH live coverage just isn’t available online. Am I wrong?

    • Bob Hazlett May 23, 2011 at 2:23 PM #

      ESPN3 is available through quite a few internet providers. They often stream tennis and I think will have all rounds of the French Open on their site http://espn.go.com/espn3/index/_/sport/tennis

  4. Darren Mason October 27, 2011 at 5:08 PM #

    Been wavering on cutting the cord for a while. My problem is that watching stuff online means I still have to put out $40/month for internet. Then another $10-$40 a month for MLB, NBA, and other premium services I want. Before you know it I’m right back up at $100/month. Depending on what you watch, the savings might not be that much.

    • guest November 14, 2011 at 3:18 PM #

      Do you not already pay $40/month for internet?  I think worst case scenario you’re paying the same and getting more of what you want specifically and cutting out the garbage.  That’s been my experience with cutting the cord at least…it’s been a great decision.

  5. Anonymous December 27, 2011 at 5:02 AM #

    For the NHL GameCenter doesn’t provide local team games….and it’s not true that’s similar to cable/satellite.  Cable/Satellite provide live local coverage under all but extreme situations.  GameCenter doesn’t provide local coverage EVER.

    So if you’re a hockey fan, you’re stuck with cable.

  6. Anonymous February 19, 2012 at 8:29 PM #

    I have NHL game center and can watch most local games. I have it to watch other teams not just the local games. I’m sold and cut the cord around 6 months ago. I noticed the NBA is on roku now too. Just the NFL appears to be the hold out. I predict in a few years; tv sports will be in the minority

  7. Jack August 1, 2012 at 11:23 AM #

    move to Columbia,C

  8. jay August 18, 2012 at 2:56 PM #

    Wrong

  9. Mrsnoteworthytch August 18, 2012 at 8:16 PM #

    My husband just wants SNY and the Golf Channel. How can we solve this?

  10. Thomas August 29, 2012 at 2:53 PM #

    What about GOLF.  Any way one can see this spot without cable?   Thomas

  11. CFB Fan August 30, 2012 at 7:56 PM #

    I want to cut pay tv, but my issue is college football on ESPN.  For instance, I tried to see what was available on ESPN3 tonight.  Essentially, it’s games that are not available on the Espn tv networks tonight (lower tier games).  The main game that is on ESPN Thursday night football, Vandy vs. USC, is blacked out on ESPN3 for the entire eastern half of the US.  If you try to watch it on ESPN3, you have to tell them your cable provider.  Is there a way to overcome this obstacle or is the only hope to watch bad college games or the college games on OTA.

    • Mslice03 September 8, 2012 at 9:15 AM #

      Yes, we are having the same issue.  College football is not really addressed in this article, and that is what my husband loves the most.  We actually already “cut the cord” last year, but now that most of the Aggie games are only available on cable, we are considering going back.  If there are any other options, please let us know!

  12. Tentgod September 22, 2012 at 8:28 PM #

    Why did college football just get lumped in with the NFL for purposes of this article? Is there any solution for college football? Like a gameday package?

    • vworley November 19, 2012 at 12:15 PM #

      We do need to address college football separately.  Do you have some specifics we need to address?  Email me directly if you do please.  Thanks!

  13. Lynn Dunn November 3, 2012 at 7:33 AM #

    What about MLS soccer and European soccer?

    • vworley November 19, 2012 at 12:16 PM #

      Similar to College Football, I think we need to address soccer in it’s own article.  Any tips  you’ve gathered that you could share?  Thanks!

  14. Katelyn December 8, 2012 at 10:29 PM #

    Directv ticket to go service says you are only eligible if you are unable to get Directv due to line of sight issues. Has anyone been successful getting the ticket to go service but cutting their previous regular directv programming?

  15. Hanif Abang December 23, 2012 at 8:47 AM #

    Tennis??

    • Victor March 11, 2013 at 10:58 AM #

      definitely need to do some investigation on tennis.  What tourney’s are you following now?

  16. Venusnv13 December 30, 2012 at 4:35 PM #

    I heard Hulu plus includes espn3.

  17. NowYouKnow DoYourHomework January 23, 2013 at 12:28 PM #

    NHL Center Ice does not air games that are on network or cable TV.  That means if you purchase NHL Center Ice in hopes of following your team, it blocks all of your home team’s games (based on the IP address you’re trying to watch it from) and you’re left with every game except the ones you want to watch.  Convenient…

    • vw March 11, 2013 at 12:05 PM #

      I think icetv will help you with this as well as the question from the poster above.

  18. lp March 9, 2013 at 6:05 PM #

    Is there any way to bypass the cable subscription for ESPN online streaming?  I used to be able to stream ESPN 3 programming until I switched my internet provider from Verizon DSL to Time Warner Road Runner.  I switched for the speed and didn’t know I would lose the ability to watch ESPN 3.  Now when I try to access ESPN 3 I receive an error message that my subscription does not currently include access to this content.  It’s very frustrating.  Any suggestions?

    • Victor March 11, 2013 at 10:59 AM #

      check out icetv

  19. Lloyd May 20, 2014 at 4:13 PM #

    One word XBMC. Project free TV for all! Not HD yet but is coming!

  20. Gianna May 27, 2014 at 12:50 PM #

    I’m trying like hell to cut the cord but it’s just not possible. I live in Rhode Island, I’m not going to be ok with not watching the Sox at home. It’s ridiculous. MLBtv sucks.

  21. Linda June 5, 2014 at 1:23 PM #

    All too confusing. We just moved from ohio and miss MLB games & Big Ten football. Our cable company does not provide either. cannot get satellite due to tall trees. Don’t know how to enhance cable to include these.

  22. Diana June 9, 2014 at 6:30 PM #

    What about the FIFA World Cup? Any chance or idea of where I can watch it? I have a blu ray, internet.

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