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How to Watch Live Sports on Apple TV Without Cable

Written by John O'Connor

Last updated on

A simple guide to watching sports on an Apple TV, including in 4K.

Table of Contents
  1. There are two options for watching sports on Apple TV
  2. Why does it look like I can watch sports on Apple TV when I can’t?
  3. Watching Sports on Apple TV FAQ

The Apple TV isn’t really a TV at all, it’s a box like piece of hardware that connects to your TV via an HDMI cable. An Apple TV can enhance the experience of using popular streaming services like Hulu + Live TV and fuboTV. For example, fuboTV’s Multiview feature, which allows multiple shows or games to viewed at once, is only accesible via Apple TV.

In this post, I will teach you how to get the most out of your Apple TV as a sports fan.

Time needed: 20 minutes.

How to watch live sports on an Apple TV

  1. Think of your Apple TV as an iPhone

    If you’re having trouble watching your favorite team on an Apple TV, start by thinking of your Apple TV as if it’s an iPhone. With an iPhone, you can get most features you want, sports, social media, weather, dating, but you will need to run a third party app to get there. Similarly, to watch most sports on Apple TV, you will need to add apps.

  2. Write down your live TV streaming password

    As a next step, find your streaming service password and write it down on a piece of paper.

  3. If you don’t have a live TV streaming account, sign up

    If you don’t have a live TV streaming service account, DIRECTV STREAM, fuboTV, Hulu + Live TV, or YouTube TV are all good options. You will need an account from one of these services to get access to the bulk of Apple TV’s sports features.

  4. Leave the Apple TV app

    Now, when you open Apple TV from your smart TV, leave the Apple TV app, which runs on Apple TV like any other app. The only reason to stay in the Apple TV app is if you want to watch MLS soccer or Friday Night Baseball on Apple TV+.

  5. Download the live TV streaming app of your choice

    Using familiar App Store icon from your iPhone, add the live TV streaming service app that you chose to sign up for.

  6. Open and sign in to the app

    Open the app, and sign in using the password you wrote down on the piece of paper. You’re now able to watch most major sporting events live online using your Apple TV.

There are two options for watching sports on Apple TV

  1. Watch the Apple TV+ sports lineup. Although you don’t need an Apple TV to watch Apple’s small, but growing lineup of sports programming on Apple TV+, Apple TV is one way to access Friday Night Baseball and MLS soccer (available through the Apple TV app).
  2. Connect a sports streaming app to watch most major sports. All of the major live TV streaming services, like DIRECTV STREAM, fuboTV, Hulu + Live TV, and YouTube TV, are compatible with Apple TV, and you will need a third party account to gain access to most major sporting events with an Apple TV.

What about 4K?

Apple TV 4K will auto-detect the ability of your smart TV to stream in 4K. Assuming your device supports 4K, fuboTV and YouTube TV have the most 4K programming for sports fans.

Why does it look like I can watch sports on Apple TV when I can’t?

At first glance, it appears you can watch marquee college football games just by setting up your Apple TV. Unfortunately, connecting a third party app, like fuboTV, is necessary to start streaming the games.

The picture above was taken on a college football Saturday in November. Scrolling to the Sports section of the Watch Now tab on Apple TV, it appears I can watch several college football games on Apple TV.

Many a sports fan, new to streaming and Apple TV, reaches that screen and has a moment of glee.

You mean to tell me I can watch my favorite sports teams just by hooking up an Apple TV, no strings attached?!

Not so fast my friend.

Apple doesn’t have the rights to air college football games (yet) so the thumbnail game previews are just teasers. Same story with baseball, most soccer matches, basketball, etc.

Apple TV offers “sports teasers” which make it look like you can watch a game, when in actuality, the game isn’t available without logging in to a third party app, as I laid out above.

The sports teasers you see on Apple TV are invitations to connect a third party app to watch the game, not an actual window into the game.

As you try to watch one of the previewed games on the Apple TV app, it quickly becomes apparent that connecting a third party app, like fuboTV, is required.

Watching Sports on Apple TV FAQ

Can I watch the NFL with an Apple TV?

Yes, you can stream NFL games on Apple TV by installing DIRECTV STREAM, fuboTV, Hulu + Live TV, Sling TV, or YouTube TV’s apps. For a guide to the games that will be available with each app, visit our NFL streaming guide.

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