Let’s break down the pros and cons of the major streaming services for watching live sports based on our first-hand experience using every one of them.
Table of Contents
The sports media landscape is changing rapidly, with live sports by far the most watched television events each year. In the not so distant past, you needed a cable TV subscription to watch your favorite teams, but that is no longer a requirement in 2023. The “cord cutting” movement is alive and well in the sports industry, with some of the most powerful corporate players vying for the rights to games from MLB, to NCAAF, to NFL. Let’s break down the pros and cons of the major live TV streaming services for sports fans so you can find the platform that best suits your needs.
The cost of sports streaming is on the rise
One issue of concern for our editorial team at Streaming Stadium is the rising cost of a typical live TV streaming package, a phenomenon that will soon price out many families from the cord cutting movement.
For example, Hulu + Live TV, fuboTV, and DIRECTV STREAM have all risen prices recently, with the base packages of each platform now sitting at a minimum of $75 per month. Fans who want to watch their local MLB, NHL, or NBA teams will have to shell out over $1,000 per year to do so.
The good news for sports fans is the corresponding rise of more à la carte streaming service, like Bally Sports+, ESPN+, and Paramount+, which offer good value for money, despite some holes in coverage due to their more limited channel lineups.
Who owns the major live streaming services?
Although an estimated 77 million households still subscribe to a cable TV package as of early 2023, the cable TV industry is losing almost 5 million subscribers every year, and this despite the cost of live TV streaming rivaling cable packages.
With the writing on the wall for how consumers choose to consume content, including live sports, major media companies all want a piece of the growing streaming pie. As you can see from the list below, the fight for the consumer streaming dollar is truly a clash of the Titans.
- Apple TV+ – Owned by Apple
- Bally Sports+ – Owned by Sinclair Broadcasting
- DIRECTV STREAM – Owned by AT&T
- ESPN+ – Owned by Disney
- Hulu + Live TV – Owned by Disney
- fuboTV – Publicly traded company
- Peacock – Owned by NBC Universal
- Paramount+ – Owned by CBS / Viacom
- Sling TV – Owned by Dish Network
- YouTube TV – Owned by Google / Alphabet
Live TV streaming provider sports channel comparison
In the table below, we’ve outlined which sports channels are available in the base package of the major live TV streaming providers. When you factor in upgrades, and sports packages, things get more complicated. For a complete breakdown of available channels, including regional sports networks, see our channels page.
|Hulu + Live TV
|Sling Orange & Blue
|Big 10 Network
|CBS Sports Network
$74.99 / month
$74.99 / month
$69.99 / month
$50 / month
$72.99 / month
Live TV Streaming pros and cons for sports fans
DIRECTV STREAM – MLB, NBA, NHL in-market
As the sole live TV streaming provider (besides Bally Sports+) that has been able to reach terms with Sinclair Broadcasting, DIRECTV STREAM’s “Choice” package is currently the only way to live stream the Bally Sports regional sports networks.
For the 21 markets that rely on local Bally Sports RSNs, for example Detroit, Cleveland, and Minneapolis, DIRECTV STREAM “Choice” is the only game in town for full coverage. DIRECTV STREAM “Choice” is currently also the only live TV streaming provider that carries the YES Network, home of the NY Yankees.
Read our full DirecTV Stream review for sports fans.
- Largest selection of regional sports networks, including YES Network, NESN, MASN, Marquee Sports Network, and more
- Only option for full coverage of MLB, NBA, and NHL teams that play on a Bally Sports RSN
- Excellent NFL and NCAAF channel lineup
- Unlimited DVR
- Many sought after channels require the “Choice” upgrade
- Boring interface and user experience
fuboTV – NCAAF, NFL, Easy to Use
Fubo TV is a great option for cord cutting sports fans. The platform carries the channels you will need to watch most NFL games, including ESPN, FOX, NBC, CBS, and an upgrade option for NFL Red Zone and NFL Network.
In addition to the channel lineup, we recommend fuboTV for watching the NFL for a few reasons.
First, the fuboTV app’s “follow my team” feature allows users to get push notifications when their team is scheduled to be on TV. Subscribers can also curate their user dashboard around a sports team, or league. The setup process is intuitive and easy to use, and is one we would recommend for family members who might not be as tech savvy.
Next, rather than having to record specific games, sports fans can choose to record all the games from a given team for the entire season. Because fuboTV carries the full slate of NFL channels, in-market fans can “set it and forget it,” and record an entire team’s season to the fuboTV DVR.
Last, fuboTV has empathy for its customers. With the cost of streaming services on the rise, we love that fuboTV makes it easy to pause a subscription when the NFL is in the off-season and turn it back on when the gridiron is back in action. This level of transparency allows more families to afford the platform in a time when money is tight for many Americans.
Outside of the NFL, fuboTV carries a number of regional sports networks and includes them in their base package. When a fan can get their local RSN on fuboTV, it offers a major savings over DirecTV Stream “Choice.”
The only major drawback to Fubo TV is the lack of Turner Sports channels, TBS and TNT.
Read our full Fubo TV review for sports fans.
- Easy to setup and intuitive to use
- 4K upgrade available
- Excellent college and pro football coverage
- NBC Sports regional sports networks for watching in-market NBA, MLB, and NHL games in Boston, DC, Chicago, Philly, and the Bay Area
- The lack of TNT and TBS creates major holes in coverage for big games, including March Madness, NBA playoffs, NBA on TNT, NHL playoffs, and MLB playoffs
Hulu + Live TV – NFL, NCAAF, NCAAB, UFC
Hulu + Live TV features an impressive amount of sports programming. Through its ESPN+ bundle, Hulu + Live TV added some of ESPN’s streaming lineup direct to the service from one interface. This gives Hulu + Live TV an impressive lineup of out-of-market MLB and NHL games, as well as soccer and college football. In addition, ESPN+ is the exclusive home of the UFC, so fight fans can watch MMA events on Hulu as well.
Even without ESPN+, Hulu still covers all the important bases for most sports fans with ESPN, ABC, CBS, FOX, FS1, TNT, TBS, and more.
Read our full Hulu + Live TV review for sports fans.
- Excellent college sports coverage, including for NCAAF and NCAAB
- UFC Fight Nights included with signup
- Clunky setup process
- Requirement to manage multiple logins with the ESPN+ and Disney+ bundle
Sling TV – Budget pick
Sling TV is a good budget option for cord cutting sports fans. The lack of local channels will be frustrating for some fans, but there is a workaround with am air antenna and Sling TV does offer FOX and NBC in some major markets.
Read our Sling TV review for sports fans.
Sling TV Pros
- NFL fans in NFC markets and Premier League fans in markets where Sling carries FOX and NBC
- Minimalists who want à la carte TV
- Value seekers
- Families who want robust parental controls
Sling TV Cons
- Missing ABC and CBS without adding an air antenna
- Major gaps in nationally televised sports coverage, including NFL, NCAAF, and March Madness games
- Sling Orange only allows to stream to one device at a time
- Limited library of content compared to some competitors
- Paired down mobile experience
- Inability to create multiple profiles
YouTube TV – NCAAF, NFL, NCAAB, 4K, Innovation
YouTube TV is the streaming service that is innovating the most in the sports world. The drawback is users are required to setup a Google account to get started.
Read our full YouTube TV review for sports fans.
YouTube TV Pros
- Excellent 4K add-on which includes ESPN, FOX, and NBC programming in ultra HD
- Watch in-market NBA, MLB, and NHL games in Boston, DC, Philly, Bay Area, and Chicago
- Google users can easily setup an account
- Full NFL coverage and excellent NCAAF coverage
- Unlimited DVR through the library feature
- International and multi-lingual families
YouTube TV Cons
- Experience can be buggy when streaming on a web browser
- Limited number of regional sports networks
- Very rigid location settings make it hard to travel with a subscription
Paramount+ – Budget AFC football
Paramount+ carries some golf, college basketball, and college football, but the star of the show if their NFL on CBS programming, which is a must have for in-market fans in AFC markets.
Read our full Paramount+ review.
- Great value for money for AFC football fans who live in market
- Access to final rounds of the Masters
- Some NCAA basketball and football
- Not a full sports streaming solution for most sports fans
- Contract with the SEC expiring in 2024