Don’t miss a matchup: Catch all the games with the best sports streaming services

It’s not a great time to be a cable company.

Around 80 million houses in the U.S. still have cable or satellite — down from 100 million a decade ago, according to LightShed Partners, a technology, media and telecommunications research firm.

The one thing that’s keeping those customers attached to their TV bills? Sports.


In the era of streaming services, sports are one of the only types of TV that still must be viewed live. And for most people, that’s always meant paying for cable.

Not anymore. There are now six major live TV streaming services that broadcast live sports. And in many cases, you’ll get more games than you would through a traditional cable or satellite provider.

You also have a little more flexibility in what you pay for. Only care about college sports and nothing else? Hulu + Live TV has almost every one of the 17 channels that air college games in the U.S. for $55/mo.

Unfortunately, streaming services are generally a little weaker on sports than their cable and satellite counterparts. And with PlayStation Vue shutting its virtual doors in January 2020 — formerly the best streaming service for sports by a mile — there are no longer any options that are both cheap and comprehensive. In other words, most sports fans will have to sacrifice a bit, but that sacrifice usually just amounts to a few games each year on NFL Network or NBA TV.

How we found the best sports streaming services

For sports fans, it’s all about the games. While highlight shows like Sportscenter are certainly nice to have, many of these can be had through free sports streaming sites like Pluto TV. Live games from the major American sports always cost a premium (at least when they’re streamed legally.)

With that in mind, we looked at how each service stacks up for America’s most popular sports. Each score was determined by the number of channels you’ll get that air national and local games from each sport. And the more games a channel carries, the more weight we gave it. (If you want to watch NFL games, for example, FOX is more valuable than the NFL Network.) Here’s how each of the six major services fared for each sport.

AT&T TV ($70.66 average)AT&T TV NOW ($55/mo.)fuboTV ($55/mo.)Hulu + Live TV ($55/mo.)Sling TV ($45/mo.)YouTube TV ($50/mo.)
NFL9.59.57.69.57.69.5
MLB7.17.15.78.66.49.3
NBA6.06.05.08.05.09.0
NHL6.76.77.58.35.87.5
College football6.16.15.09.43.98.9
College basketball5.65.66.19.54.48.9
Soccer4.04.06.55.03.54.5
Overall score7.87.76.49.06.29.0

With PlayStation Vue out of the mix, there’s no sports streaming service that is clearly the best. Which one is right for you comes down to two factors: the leagues you follow and where you live. The market you’re in will determine which regional sports networks (RSNs) you get. These are the channels that air your local MLB, NBA and NHL team’s games, and they’re incredibly important for most sports fans. Here’s how each streaming service compares:

AT&T TVAT&T TV NOWfuboTVHulu + Live TVSling TVYouTube TV
Lowest plan with RSNs$82.50/mo.*$80/mo.$55/mo.$55/mo.$30/mo.$50/mo.
FOX Sports
MSG Network
NBC Sports✔**✔**✔**
NESN
SNY
Spectrum SportsNet
YES Network

Hulu + Live TV: Great for NFL, NHL and college sports

LeagueWhat it hasWhat it’s missing
NFLESPN, FOX, NBC, CBSNFL Network
MLBESPN, ESPN2, FOX, FS1, TBSMLB Network
NBAABC, ESPN, TNTNBA TV
NHLNBC, NBC Sports, USA, CNBCNHL Network
NCAA sportsESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, FOX, ABC, CBS, ACC Network, Big Ten Network, SEC NetworkPac-12 Network
  • Our review
  • Recommended plan: Hulu + Live TV
  • Compatible devices: Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Xbox One and 360, Nintendo Switch, Samsung smart TVs, LG smart TVs, Android TVs
  • Simultaneous streams: Two
  • Cloud DVR storage: 50 hours

If you don’t need to catch absolutely every game from every sport, Hulu + Live TV is probably a cord cutter’s best option for streaming live sports. What you’ll sacrifice is the league networks from the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL.

But these channels are generally reserved for diehards. Even the NFL Network, which respondents in a recent survey listed as their 36th most desired channel, only carries five exclusive Thursday Night Football games per year. The rest are simulcast on FOX and Prime Video.

Hulu + Live TV has the most robust collection of channels devoted to college sports of any streaming service, including the ACC Network, Big Ten Network, SEC Network, ESPNU and ESPN College Extra. In fact, the only major college sports channel it’s missing is the Pac-12 Network.


The only fans for whom Hulu + Live TV might not be the best choice? International football diehards. In the U.S., the Premier League airs some matches on NBC, NBC Sports Network, CNBC and USA — all of which Hulu carries.

But if you really want to follow football globally, you’ll need beIN Sports, which covers most of the major leagues and tournaments around the world, including La Liga, Ligue 1, Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana. FuboTV is currently the only streaming service that carries this channel.

We ultimately gave Hulu the edge over YouTube TV because it carries every affiliate station from FOX Sports and NBC Sports, which covers about 75% of local MLB, NBA, NHL and MLS teams — something only AT&T’s streaming services can match, and they both cost upward of $80/mo. on average. The major markets Hulu is missing are New York, Los Angeles and Boston.

New YorkLos AngelesBoston
Hulu covers:
  • New York Yankees
  • New York Mets
  • Brooklyn Nets
  • Anaheim Ducks
  • L.A. Angels
  • L.A. Clippers
  • L.A. Kings
  • Boston Celtics
  • Hulu is missing:
  • New York Knicks
  • New York Rangers
  • New York Islanders
  • New Jersey Devils
  • L.A. Lakers
  • L.A. Dodgers
  • Boston Red Sox
  • Boston Bruins

  • We’d still recommend running your ZIP code through Hulu’s channel lookup tool, but chances are good that your local teams will be covered.

    Starting price: $55/mo.

    • Live TV packages available

    • Great for live sports

    YouTube TV: Great for NFL, MLB and NBA

    YouTube TV review scoring
    LeagueWhat it hasWhat it’s missing
    NFLESPN, FOX, NBC, CBSNFL Network
    MLBESPN, ESPN2, FOX, FS1, TBS, MLB Network
    NBAABC, ESPN, TNT, NBA TV
    NHLNBC, NBC Sports, USA, CNBCNHL Network
    NCAA FootballESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, FOX, ABC, CBS, ACC Network, Big Ten Network, SEC NetworkPac-12 Network, ESPN College Extra
    • Our review
    • Recommended plan: YouTube TV
    • Compatible devices: Roku, Google Chromecast, Apple TV, Xbox One, Android TVs, Samsung smart TVs (2016 and newer), LG smart TVs (2016 and newer), Vizio smart TVs (select models), Hisense smart TVs (select models), Sharp smart TVs (select models)
    • Simultaneous streams: Three
    • Cloud DVR storage: Unlimited (stores for nine months)

    YouTube TV is a fantastic option for the three most popular professional leagues in the U.S. Along with AT&T TV’s most expensive plans, it’s the only streaming service to carry every channel that airs national MLB and NBA games, and the only NFL games you’ll miss are the five exclusive Thursday Night Football games on NFL Network. 


    It’s also nearly as strong as Hulu when it comes to college sports. The only national channels it doesn’t have that air college basketball and football games are the Pac-12 Network and ESPN College Extra.

    YouTube TV also has an excellent selection of RSNs, with all FOX Sports and NBC Sports affiliates, plus NESN, SNY and YES Network. If your local MLB, NBA or NHL team plays on one of these affiliates, you’ll be able to watch all of their games if you live within the market.

    FuboTV: Best for international soccer 

    LeagueWhat it hasWhat it’s missing
    NFLFOX, NBC, CBS, NFL NetworkESPN
    MLBFOX, FS1, TBSESPN, ESPN2, MLB Network
    NBATNT, NBA TVABC, ESPN
    NHLNBC, NBC Sports, USA, CNBCNHL Network
    NCAA sportsFOX, CBS, Big Ten Network, Pac-12 NetworkABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ACC Network, SEC Network
    SoccerbeIN Sports, FS1, NBC, NBC Sports Network, CNBC, USAABC, ESPN, ESPN2
    • Our review
    • Recommended plan: Standard
    • Compatible devices: Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Samsung smart TVs, Android TVs
    • Simultaneous streams: Two
    • Cloud DVR storage: 30 hours

    FuboTV calls itself the “world’s only sports-focused live TV streaming service,” but that’s simply not true. In fact, it’s one of the worst live TV streaming services for American sports fans. The only service it beats out in this regard is Sling TV, which is also $10/mo. cheaper.

    But it does excel in one area: international football. Its name is literally a sped-up twist on the word, and it’s designed specifically for American fans to get their international soccer fix.

    It includes every channel that airs Premier League matches in the U.S. — NBC, NBC Sports Network, CNBC and USA — plus eight different versions of beIN Sports. These channels cover every other major football league, including La Liga, Ligue 1, Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana.

    That said, if you’re a fan of American soccer, fuboTV will disappoint. It doesn’t have ABC, ESPN or ESPN2, so you’ll miss most nationally televised MLS games, including the playoffs.

    As for the rest of American sports, it’s easier to list the channels fuboTV does have than the ones it’s missing. It does have decent coverage of RSNs, but for the most part, American sports fans will be disappointed.

    Starting price: $54.99/mo.

    • Live TV packages available

    • 100+ channels with 30+ hours of DVR storage

    AT&T TV: The most sports channels, but it will cost you

    LeagueENTERTAINMENT planCHOICE planXTRA planNot available
    NFLESPN, FOX, NBC, CBSNFL Network
    MLBESPN, ESPN2, FOX, FS1, TBSMLB Network
    NBAABC, ESPN, TNTNBA TV
    NHLNBC, NBC Sports, USA, CNBC, NHL NetworkNHL Network
    NCAA FootballESPN, ESPN2, FOX, ABC, CBSESPNU, ACC Network, Big Ten Network, SEC NetworkPac-12 Network
    • Our review
    • Recommended plan: Xtra ($64.99/mo. in year one, $124/mo. in year two)
    • Compatible devices: Comes with its own 4K streaming device, but also works with Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Samsung smart TVs
    • Simultaneous streams: Three
    • Cloud DVR storage: 500 hours

    If you’re set on getting every sports channel you possibly can, regardless of price, AT&T TV is your best bet. It’s the only streaming service that has packages which are actually better for sports fans than YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV — you’ll just have to pay a premium for it. 

    AT&T TV is the only streaming service that carries MLB Network, NBA TV and NHL Network. In fact, the only league-specific channel it’s missing is NFL Network. 

    It also an extensive collection of RSNs. It carries FOX Sports — the largest carrier by far — but also MSG Network, NESN and SNY. It’s also the only streaming service that carries Los Angeles’s Spectrum SportsNet, which broadcasts Lakers games.

    That said, if your team plays on an NBC Sports affiliate, you might not get it with AT&T TV. The only NBC RSNs it carries are Bay Area, California, Chicago and Washington. That leaves out markets like Boston, Philadelphia and the Pacific Northwest.

    Other ways to stream live sports

    Locast

    Price: Free
    Sports covered: NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, NCAA sports

    The most important channels for sports fans are the locals: ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC. They’re the ones that cover almost all of the major sporting events of the year, including the Super Bowl, World Series and the NBA Finals, plus most NFL regular season and playoff games.

    Locast.org is a non-profit, free live TV streaming service that only carries these local channels. Think of it as a TV antenna through the internet. Unfortunately, Locast is currently only available in 13 U.S. cities, but that list is growing every month. If it’s in your area, it’s worth taking advantage of.

    ESPN+

    Our review
    Price
    : $5/mo.
    Sports covered: MLB, NHL, MLS, UFC, boxing, golf, tennis, cricket, rugby, volleyball

    Despite what the name implies, ESPN+ is not a streaming version of ESPN. Instead, the service supplements the content on ESPN with additional games, archived ESPN content and original documentaries. But you won’t get the marquee live sporting events like Monday Night Football and the College Football Playoff National Championship that ESPN is known for.

    What it does have is a boatload of extra NHL and MLB, combat sports like boxing and UFC, cricket, rugby, out-of-market MLS matches, golf and tennis. Keep in mind, the biggest events will still air elsewhere, but if you’re a diehard of one of these sports, ESPN+ will probably have plenty on the schedule to interest you.

    Starting price: $4.99/mo.

    • On-demand and live TV package available

    • Exclusive live sports and original content

    DAZN

    Our review
    Price
    : $20/mo. or $100/year ($8.33/mo.); plus pay-per-view events
    Sports covered: Boxing, MMA, Serie A football, rugby

    A relative newcomer to the sports streaming world, DAZN (pronounced “Da Zone”) is a London-based service that launched in the U.S. in 2018. Because the most popular American sports all have exclusive rights deals with established TV networks, DAZN is mostly limited to more niche sports in the U.S.

    DAZN is best known for its boxing coverage. While you typically have to pay a hefty pay-per-view fee to get marquee fights, DAZN includes many of them in its monthly subscription fee. It has a handful of other sports in its arsenal — most notably mixed martial arts and Serie A European football — but DAZN is primarily a boxing streaming service right now.

    FOX Sports app

    Our review
    Price
    : Included with a TV subscription
    Sports covered: NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS

    Another way to stream live sports is through various standalone network apps. FOX has one of the best. It’s been the first network to experiment with streaming sports in 4K, broadcasting Thursday Night Football, the World Cup and regular MLB and college sports games in 4K.

    You can’t subscribe to FOX Sports on its own; you’ll need a participating TV provider to access it. (The good news is just about every TV provider participates, including every live TV streaming service but Sling.)

    Amazon Prime Video

    Our review
    Price
    : $9/mo.
    Sports covered: NFL

    Amazon is slowly dipping its toes into the sports world with its Prime Video streaming service. Right now, the only live sports you can watch on it are 11 Thursday Night Football games. It also streams Premier League matches in the U.K., but for now, Prime Video is limited to a handful of football games in the U.S.

    Starting price: $8.99/mo.

    • On-demand packages available

    • Exclusives include The Man in the High Castle

    CBS All Access

    Our review
    Price
    : $6/mo.
    Sports covered: NFL, college sports

    We’ll be frank: CBS All Access is not a great deal, particularly if you’re subscribing to watch sports. You’ll get at least one NFL game every week and a smattering of college sports. Of the four major networks, CBS is the one that’s least invested in live sports. Besides, you can get it for free through Locast or a TV antenna, so it’s not worth the monthly fee just for that handful of games.

    Starting price: $6/mo.

    • Great for CBS originals

    • Exclusive NFL broadcasting for AFC games

    Sports streaming FAQs

    Can I stream sports in 4K?

    Right now, streaming sports in 4K is relatively limited. A handful of satellite, cable and streaming providers air some live games in 4K, but it’s still more of a novelty than the norm. So far, FOX has been leading the charge in 4K sports, airing Thursday Night Football, the World Cup and select MLB and college sports games in 4K HDR. You can find these games through a participating TV provider or through the FOX Sports and FOX apps.

    SportsHDR supportDolby Atmos audio
    DIRECTVNFL
    NCAA football
    HLG
    DISH NetworkOlympics
    FIFA
    HLG
    OptimumNFL
    MLB
    NCAA football
    XfinityNFL
    NCAA football
    Premier League
    fuboTVNFL
    MLB
    NCAA football
    HDR10
    FOX appsNFL
    MLB
    NCAA football
    HLG


    For more information on finding something to watch on your 4K TV, sports or otherwise, check out our guide to 4K content.

    Can I stream out-of-market games through a live TV streaming service?

    With the exception of AT&T TV NOW and Sling TV, every major streaming service allows you to stream the RSNs from your home ZIP code while you’re traveling. Unfortunately, this doesn’t carry over to the local networks; you’ll pick up the locals of whichever area you’re in.

    As for streaming out-of-market games from your home area, you’ll have to add on league packages like NFL SUNDAY TICKET, MLB Extra Innings and NBA League Pass.

    What internet speed do I need to stream live sports?

    As a rule, we recommend at least 10 Mbps of download speeds for streaming live sports. That said, you’ll need higher speeds if more than one device is using your internet connection at a time. Not sure what kind of speed you’re getting? Use our speed test below to evaluate your current connection.

    The bottom line

    Live sports are the only thing keeping a lot of people tethered to their cable bill. (If you don’t care about sports, you probably shouldn’t be paying for cable.) Fortunately, there are now a number of streaming services that offer all the same sports channels as cable — and oftentimes many more.

    You’ll still pay a premium for these services — most start around $50/mo. — but you’ll likely be a lot happier with your experience. According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, streaming services as an industry received a solid 76 score, while TV providers ranked dead last with 62.

    To stay up-to-date about your options for streaming live sports, check back on our Resource Center for the latest news or follow along on Facebook and Twitter.