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Missing your live sports? Here are some streaming options to fill the void

Joe Supan

Mar 24, 2020 — 5 min read

Many services charge a premium for sports channels. Since sports are on hold indefinitely, you might want to reconsider your options.

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One of the major trump cards live TV streaming services have over cable is that you can modify them any time you want. With coronavirus sidelining all sporting events indefinitely, now is the time to take advantage of that perk. 

We’ve written before about how sports are one of the few types of TV that still require live viewing. And that’s what you’re paying for. As of 2017, ESPN alone charged distributors $7.21/mo. per subscriber — a number that has surely gone up in the three years since. 

That’s why live streaming services like AT&T WatchTV ($15/mo.) and Philo ($20/mo.) that don’t include any sports channels are so drastically cheaper than their counterparts that do air live games. 

As sad as it is for sports fans, live games aren’t going to be in our lives for a while. And while networks like ESPN have done an exemplary job covering COVID-19’s impact on the sports world — Will Leitch wrote for the Washington Post, “I’m not sure a network could have covered an unfolding crisis any better” — slimming down your streaming subscriptions could be one way to save some money.  

These are tough times, and they’ll undoubtedly only get tougher in the months ahead. If you’re looking for ways to decrease expenses, tweaking your live TV streaming service might be a reasonable choice. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean you’ll have to go without live TV or sports altogether. We’ve pulled together some of our favorite options to help sports fans get through the months ahead.

Revisit some classic games of the past

With games on hold for the foreseeable future, many networks are turning to the past. CBS aired six classic March Madness games over the weekend to help fill the void, and many others are following suit. Here’s how you can watch some of the most legendary moments from your favorite sports: 

  • The NFL is currently offering complimentary access to NFL Game Pass until May 31. That gives you access to replays of any game over the past 10 seasons, including condensed 45-minute versions and “All-22” coaches film. You’ll also be able to watch NFL Originals like Hard Knocks, Mic’d Up and A Football Life.
  • NBA League Pass is also offering free access to its service until April 22. You can watch full-length and condensed replays of any game from the 2019-2020 season, as well as an archive of classic games and documentaries.
  • MLB.TV has also opened up their vaults. Fans can watch any game from the 2018 and 2019 seasons, including playoffs. There’s no word on how long this offer will last; the MLB simply says that it’s for a “limited time.”
  • Hockey fans don’t need to worry: NHL.TV is also providing free access to its service through April 30. You can watch replays of every game from the 2019-2020 season, as well as a collection of NHL Original Productions content.

You can also stream live TV without sports

Switch to a cheap live TV streaming service

If you still want to channel-surf while sports are on hiatus, we recommend switching to a cheaper live TV streaming service. AT&T WatchTV costs just $15/mo., while Philo is $20/mo. and Sling’s Blue package is $30/mo. Here’s how all three “skinny bundles” compare when it comes to some of the most popular non-sports channels:

Purchase a TV antenna

Digital TV antennas generally cost around $50, can be installed indoors or outside and get you dozens of local channels in HD. That means you can watch local and national news on networks like ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and PBS all without paying any subscription fees. 

Use Locast.org

Locast is essentially a TV antenna for the streaming age. The free streaming service gets you all the same local networks that an antenna does, but it streams them through your internet connection. You can use Locast in a web browser, through streaming devices like Roku, Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV and through some TV providers. It is currently available in 17 U.S. cities: 

  • Atlanta
  • Baltimore
  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Dallas
  • Denver
  • Houston
  • Los Angeles
  • New York
  • Philadelphia
  • Phoenix
  • Rapid City
  • San Francisco
  • Seattle
  • Sioux City
  • Sioux Falls
  • Washington, D.C

Try a free live TV streaming service

If you want to cut out live streaming expenses from your budget completely, there are a number of free live TV streaming services that are worthy substitutes. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Pluto TV: If you’re looking to keep up with the news, Pluto TV is your best free option. It has live news channels from stalwarts like CBS, NBC, CNN and Bloomberg, plus hundreds of other live TV channels to choose from.
  • Xumo: This free service has almost the exact same lineup of news channels as Pluto TV, but you’ll also get a collection of channels from digital and print publications like The New Yorker, Bon Appetit, Refinery 29 and The Hollywood Reporter.
  • STIRR: While Pluto TV and STIRR have great national news channels, STIRR specializes in local news. The service was created by Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns about 40% of local TV stations in the U.S. If you live in one of these markets, you can watch your local news broadcasts on STIRR. 

Many streaming services are also offering coronavirus discounts

We rounded up every discount and promotion being offered by streaming and TV providers earlier this week; for a complete rundown, check out our full article here. Here are some of the highlights:

  • DIRECTV is offering one year of free HBO, three months of Cinemax, Showtime and Starz, and three months of EPIX for new customers who commit to a two-year contract. 
  • Niche streaming services like Shudder, Acorn TV, Sundance Now and Urban Movie Channel are extending their free trial periods to 30 days.
  • PBS has made the 1994 Ken Burns series Baseball available to stream for free on its website and app.
  • Sling TV added news channels like FOX News and ABC News Live to its free “Stay In & Sling!” lineup.

We’ll continue to cover the COVID-19 crisis and its impact on internet and TV service. You can find the latest articles in our Resource Center and stay connected with or experts on Facebook and Twitter.