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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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