ESPN+ is an extensive, and affordable, solution for watching sports live without cable. The sports programming is robust enough that ESPN+ can be a standalone option for some sports fans. Read on to learn if the service is right for you.
Table of Contents
- ESPN Plus is the home of out-of-market NHL games
- ESPN Plus signup process
- The ESPN Plus Mobile Experience
- What sports can I watch on ESPN Plus?
- ESPN+ airs a full slate of college football games
- ESPN Plus is the best option for out-of-market NHL fans
- ESPN Plus is the exclusive home of the UFC
- The ESPN Plus Soccer Lineup
- Golf on ESPN Plus
- The bottom line
Monthly cost: $9.99 per month
Missing sports: NBA
Compatible devices: iOS, Android, Android TV, Web Browsers, Samsung Smart TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, Apple TV, Oculus, PlayStation 4, X Box One
$9.99 / month
- No NBA games
- UFC PPV events require an additional fee
- Managing passwords and usernames from a Hulu + Live TV subscription can be clunky
- ESPN losing Big Ten TV rights means no Big Ten sports soon
In the last year, I’ve been using ESPN Plus, ESPN’s streaming service, with greater regularity. My favorite ESPN Plus content is the extensive college football lineup (albeit smaller games), The Ultimate Fighter Series, and UFC Fight Nights.
I’ve read other reviews say that ESPN Plus, as a standalone service, isn’t robust enough to replace cable TV for sports fans, but it depends on the fan. Yes, ESPN Plus doesn’t offer NBA or many NFL games, so if pro football or basketball is your top priority, the app won’t be a standalone option.
However, for almost everything type of sporting event, ESPN+ is an extensive, and affordable, solution for watching sports without cable.
ESPN+ has assembled a diverse lineup of sports programming, that is a fantastic option for households tired of ever increasing streaming and cable costs. Many sports fans, especially out-of-market NHL fans, will find that this singular subscription meets all their sports viewing needs, and at a bargain price.
ESPN Plus is the home of out-of-market NHL games
ESPN+ is the new home of the old NHL.TV, the NHL’s premium out-of-market TV product. By signing up for ESPN+, NHL fans get access to over 1,000 out-of-market hockey games, plus 75 exclusive games each season. If you love the NHL team you grew up with, but moved to a new market, ESPN+ offers a lot of value.
ESPN Plus signup process
On your smartphone, or your smart TV, the ESPN Plus content library is nested inside the ESPN app. To find ESPN Plus, look for the + icon at the bottom navigation bar inside the ESPN app.
This can throw off some smart TV users in particular, as for many of us, our first instinct is to search for ESPN Plus as a standalone app. The integration of ESPN Plus with the ESPN app actually makes the service easier to use once you learn to search within the ESPN app.
ESPN Plus is a subscription only model, so if you’ve yet to sign up, you will be prompted to pay a monthly fee before you can access the content library.
ESPN Plus Hulu Integration
ESPN and Hulu are both owned by Disney, so it makes sense that Hulu + Live TV offers an ESPN+ bundle.
The Disney+ account, even if it’s purchased as part of the Hulu bundle, requires creating, and signing in, via a separate account. However, ESPN Plus has been integrated directly into the Hulu interface, and users can access both ESPN Plus, and Hulu + Live TV programming all from the Hulu app.
We also tested logging into ESPN Plus from the ESPN app with our Hulu credentials and are happy to report that the process was seamless.
The ESPN Plus Mobile Experience
Some online reviews of ESPN Plus have been critical of the mobile experience. For me, as a long time user, the ESPN Plus app is easy to navigate and is very comparable to the simplified mobile experience of Sling TV.
The app won’t blow you away with features as the YouTube TV app does, but it gets you where you need to go.
The ESPN Plus app does a great job of inviting users to explore content deep into the app with sports and league specific categories. When you arrive at the ESPN Plus app, there is a horizontally scrollable area that highlights featured events and programming, and as you scroll further, it is possible to select the exact sport you want to watch and ESPN Plus returns the results.
As you can see from the screenshots above, the ESPN Plus app allows users to search by sport, league, or even conference. For a sports only app, the mobile experience on ESPN Plus is straightforward and delivers what sports fans need – a quick guide to everything on at the moment.
I have even used the ESPN Plus app to watch a UFC event at the grocery store when on a diaper run.
What sports can I watch on ESPN Plus?
As I noted at the top of this review, the big drawback of the ESPN Plus service is a lack of NFL and NBA games.
What sports are available? We documented the following options as we used the app:
- College football
- College basketball
- Hockey (college and NHL)
- Select Monday Night Football broadcasts
- Swimming & Diving
- Track & Field
- Auto racing
Disney also maintains this page, which documents in greater detail the sports programming available on ESPN Plus.
ESPN+ airs a full slate of college football games
In the 2022-23 season, ESPN Plus aired more than 500 college football games from Power 5 Conferences like the Big Ten, SEC, ACC, Big 12, and PAC 12, and also from smaller conferences like Big Sky, MAC, and AAC.
ESPN Plus is especially important for Big 12 football fans because the conference doesn’t have a network dedicated to athletics, like the ACC, Big 10, and SEC. As such, games that would air on SEC Network if an SEC team was playing, will air on ESPN+ when a Big 12 team is appearing.
ESPN+ is especially important for early season Big 12 football, and for games later in the season that don’t pique the interest of the major networks.
ESPN Plus is the best option for out-of-market NHL fans
The bottom line: ESPN+ airs 75 exclusive games and 1000+ out of market NHL games throughout the season subject to local blackout rules.
Sports like hockey, baseball, and basketball, that feature a lot of regular season games, usually fit a similar mould when it comes to TV contracts.
A regional sports network (“RSN”) owns the rights to broadcast most games to local fans exclusively. The YES Network, with its exclusive rights to show Yankee’s games in the New York area is a good example. However, RSN’s only own the rights to broadcast games locally. The rest of the season is on either national TV or a league specific premium channel like NBA League Pass, MLB.TV or NHL.TV.
NHL.TV was folded into the ESPN Plus as part of a seven year contract between the NHL and ESPN. This means that, for out-of-market NHL fans, they can get virtually every NHL game for the subscription price.
Note: in-market NHL fans, because of the RSN contracts I mentioned above, will be blacked out. For these fans, DirecTV Stream, with its robust lineup of RSNs will usually be the best option if your goal is maximum NHL action.
ESPN Plus is the exclusive home of the UFC
As part of your basic ESPN Plus subscription, you get access to all of the UFC Fight Night Events. The Fight Night events usually feature up and coming fighters, and fighters looking to break into championship contention, so they’re often fun to watch, and come at no extra charge.
ESPN PPV events, otherwise known as numbered events, are an extra $79.99 per event, even for ESPN Plus subscribers.
Cord cutters also have the option of paying for a UFC PPV event and an annual ESPN Plus membership, but that still runs $99.98, all paid at one time.
If you want to avoid paying $79.99 per UFC event, even UFC numbered events re-air after 2 days on ESPN Plus and Hulu + Live TV (if you have purchased the ESPN Plus bundle).
The ESPN Plus Soccer Lineup
The bottom line: ESPN Plus boasts tons of soccer games, but the Premier League is notably absent.
According to Disney Media, ESPN Plus is home to thousands of soccer games each year, with the following leagues included in regular programming:
- Belgian Pro League
- Bundesliga / Bundesliga 2
- CAF World Cup Qualifiers
- Copa del Rey
- Dutch Eredivisie
- English Football League (EFL Championship, Carabao Cup, League 1 and League 2)
- FA Cup
- FA Community Shield
- FFA Cup
- Gulf Cup
- International Champions Cup
- LaLiga / LaLiga 2
- NCAA College Soccer
- Swedish Allsvenskan
- UEFA (Nations League+ European Qualifiers)
- US Open Cup
- Women’s FA Cup
- Women’s FA Community Shield
Golf on ESPN Plus
The golf lineup at ESPN Plus could be better, but live coverage of the Master’s and PGA Championship are two significant feather’s in Disney’s streaming cap.
The bottom line
The bottom line for me after having used ESPN Plus for several years now is there is tons of value for sports fans. Yes, most NFL games and the NBA are missing, but at $6.99 per month, this app is a must have for me, and for most sports lovers.
The mobile experience is far better than many reviews say, which makes me wonder whether reviewers are actually using the service, and ESPN Plus is basically the only game in town for high level MMA.
Two thumbs up for ESPN Plus from the Streaming Stadium team.