While nothing replaces a day at the ballpark, dropping digital TV and switching to streaming services exclusively is not the best strategy for sports fans. Anyone considering cutting cable in favor of streaming might be trading a monthly bill for multiple individual subscription fees and log-ins just to stay connected to their favorite teams.
Not only does switching to streaming affect how much internet speed is needed, but these alternatives to cable charge extra for features digital cable provides automatically. Recording capabilities and mobile viewing are just the start of the upgrades plus many streaming services lack regional sports networks. Comparing which cable channels and streaming services air major sports and learning ways to watch for free can help sports fans decide on the best plan.
Where To Watch the NFL
Stations/networks like NFL TV, CBS and FOX keep NFL fans connected to their favorite teams from pregame to kickoff and through post-game interviews. Relying on streaming services to keep up is more challenging because the viewer will need access to many separate apps or a robust streaming package. Rather than flipping on the TV, an NFL fan needs first to figure out which affiliate station carries the game and then must subscribe to the streaming service for the channel:
- Paramount+ streams all CBS contests.
- Peacock’s streaming service airs all NBC NFL games.
- ESPN+ streams Monday Night Football broadcasts that air on ESPN.
- Live streaming games on FOX requires basic cable or a subscription to a cable alternative.
- Thursday Night Football can be viewed only by streaming Amazon Prime Video.
- NFL Sunday Ticket shows all out-of-market football games on a premium subscription offered by DirecTV and YouTube TV only.
The Best Streaming Services for NFL Football Games
The TV and streaming options for NFL games depend on which matchups fans want to see, but there is not a single source for every game; note that all in-market games are available on local cable channels. NFL Sunday Ticket does not fit the bill because this network does not air local games, so fans would still need access to FOX and CBS to see them all. NFL RedZone’s specialty channel is available through most cable providers or streaming apps; it changes to game coverage when all teams enter the “red zone.” The best, and only, way to stream or watch Thursday Night Football is through Amazon Prime. Sunday’s matchups are easiest to watch through basic cable channels, but viewers can stream NFL games through individual streaming services, including Peacock, Paramount+, NFL+ and Amazon Prime Video; fans who subscribe to these channels on YouTube TV, Fubo, Sling TV or other cable alternatives may also tune in.
How To Watch NFL Football for Free
Households can stream NFL football free of charge as long as their home’s cable package includes the network channel; for example, a family who has an FTC TV package with FOX or NBC may log into the corresponding streaming platform or website to watch live broadcasts on a tablet or phone without paying any additional subscription fees.
The cheapest way to watch NFL games without cable is through an over-the-air (OTA) antenna, which is completely free to use, but hooking up the antenna is a cumbersome process, reception can be spotty and a viewer can see only the local game.
Where To Stream NFL Playoffs and The Super Bowl
NFL playoffs are broadcast by most major networks, including ABC, CBS, ESPN, FOX, NBC and Peacock. The 2024 Super Bowl is set to air on CBS, stream on Paramount+ and NFL TV and a kid-friendly broadcast will be provided by Nickelodeon.
Where To Watch Pro Basketball
NBA and WNBA contests are shown on regional sports networks, like Bally Sports as well as national channels, including NBA TV, TNT, ESPN and ABC; capturing all of these watch options would require several streaming apps. Basketball fans can also watch NBA or WNBA League Pass through Amazon Prime, on a streaming app, or through a cable provider’s premium subscription. This service, however, is costly and will not include all local games.
Best Streaming Service for NBA and WNBA Basketball
Bally Sports is one of the best ways to stream local NBA and WNBA games because this platform is included with mid-level cable packages and the regional streaming service is fairly inexpensive (and free for cable customers). But fans who want to stream national and out-of-market NBA games must have access to ABC, TNT, NBA TV and ESPN.
How To Watch NBA and WNBA for Free
There is no service that allows fans to watch their favorite pro basketball teams for free, but if a household’s cable package offers the typical channel lineup, including NBA TV, ESPN, TNT and the local Bally Sports, there is no extra fee or subscription needed to watch NBA or WNBA. ABC broadcasts usually occur only during the NBA Finals and may be streamed for free using an OTA antenna.
Where To Stream NBA Playoffs and Finals
Though pro basketball playoffs require a variety of channels to catch all of the games, these stations are relatively easy to come by with a good cable package or a cable alternative. These channel lineups can change from season to season but this year, fans can tune in here:
- WNBA Playoffs: ESPN, NBA TV and ABC
- WNBA Finals: ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC
- NBA Playoffs: TNT and ESPN
- NBA Finals: ABC
Where To Watch Major League Baseball
Locally televised and national MLB games air on a combination of channels, including ESPN, ABC and Bally Sports. Cable TV includes these channels for live broadcasts, but Hulu + Live TV and YouTube TV also include channels to stream baseball.
Best Streaming Service for MLB Baseball
Major League Baseball can be streamed from many cable stations and affiliate streaming services, including FOX, FOX Sports 1, TBS, ESPN and the MLB Network. MLB contracts with regional sports networks are limited, but if Bally Sports is available, it is the best way for viewers to watch or stream the home team. Amazon Prime members may add an MLB package to watch nationally televised baseball games, but this premium subscription can be costly.
How To Watch MLB Baseball for Free
Households without cable can connect to local channels like FOX via an OTA antenna to watch for free and most mid-level cable packages include MLB channels and regional sports networks for no additional fees. Bally Sports offers an inexpensive streaming package and access is free for cable customers who have the channel in their lineup.
Where To Stream MLB Playoffs and World Series
MLB fans can catch their favorite contenders for the World Series on a variety of channels this postseason. Each network will air divisional and championship matchups on these cable channels and any affiliate streaming apps:
- Wild Card Series: ESPN
- American League Division and Championship Series: FOX and FOX Sports 1
- National League Division and Championship Series: TBS
- MLB World Series: FOX
How To Watch Professional Soccer Games
Basic cable is all a household needs to watch MLS (American Major League Soccer) because a majority of the games are aired on FOX or FOX Sports 1. For out-of-market games, ESPN+ is a cable-free standalone subscription service that streams hundreds of soccer matches, from USA Women’s games to European leagues.
The Best Streaming Service for Soccer
Choosing a streaming service for soccer depends on which league, teams or confederations a viewer wants to watch, but with a combination of ESPN+ streaming service and FOX channels, either from an OTA connection or cable, soccer fans will enjoy the most comprehensive access.
How To Watch Soccer for Free
Watching MLS games for free requires an OTA antenna tuned to FOX, but there is no way to access the ESPN+ content without paying for a subscription.
Where To Stream MLS Championships and The World Cup
The World Cup matches are widely televised and these games plus the MLS Championships air on FOX channels and FOXSports.com, but a cable subscription is required for online viewing.
Where To Watch College Football
College football games air across a slew of channels, depending on the team’s conference. ABC, ACC Network, Big Ten Network, CBS, ESPN, FOX, NBC, NFL Network, SEC Network and The CW, plus affiliates, like ESPN2 and NBCSN all carry college football games throughout the year.
Best Streaming Service for College Football
The streaming service people choose for college football depends on how many games they want to see and how much they are willing to pay. While it might seem like a cable replacement streaming service is an obvious solution, most mid-level cable packages include all these channels plus Bally Sports for a reasonable price.
How To Watch College Football for Free
Because college football airs across many local channels, nearly everyone can watch their NCAA alma mater play on ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC for free through an OTA antenna. These channels are also included in basic cable packages without added fees.
Where To Stream College Football Championships
The FCS Championship for college football airs on ABC, so anyone with a standard cable service or an OTA antenna can watch these games.
Where To Watch NHL Hockey
Professional hockey games are aired across many networks, from TNT to ESPN and ABC, plus regional sports networks and Hulu + Live TV. The games that are broadcast depend on the region, blackout dates and other variables.
Best Streaming Service for NHL Hockey
The best way for fans to watch the home hockey team is through cable because it provides Bally Sports, which airs regional games, plus it gives viewers access to the standard channels that air national contests. Cable replacement streaming services lack regional sports networks like Bally Sports.
How To Watch NHL for Free
Games televised on local affiliate networks can be viewed for free using an OTA antenna, but the coverage and clarity could be spotty compared to cable; FTC customers with a mid- or top-tier (Plus or Xtra) cable channel lineup can watch games on Bally Sports, TNT, ESPN and ABC at no extra cost.
Where To Stream Stanley Cup Playoffs and Finals
The Stanley Cup Playoff games are set to alternate on TNT and ABC. The Stanley Cup Final for 2024 will be broadcast on ESPN, ESPN+, ABC and Hulu.
Where South Carolinians Can Watch Regional Sports
Residents of the Palmetto State who want to watch the home teams can do so on regional sports networks, local network stations and through premium subscriptions.
The Best Streaming Services for South Carolina Sports
Bally Sports South and Southeast are the best streaming services for South Carolina sports because these channels cover all the local and regional sports and offer complimentary streaming. With live games, pre-game and recap shows and rebroadcasts, no South Carolina sports fan will lose track of how the home team is doing.
Teams featured on South and Southeast Bally channels include the Charlotte Hornets, Carolina Hurricanes, Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Hawks, Memphis Grizzlies and Nashville Predators. Viewers without Bally in their cable package or who do not have cable at all can purchase the streaming service for a monthly fee.
How To Watch South Carolina Sports for Free
While sports fans without cable can watch South Carolina sports for free by hooking up an OTA antenna, a clearer, more reliable solution is to subscribe to a cable package and enjoy regional sports broadcasts and local channels for no extra charge.
Watching sports with FTC TV is as easy as powering on the TV and getting comfortable. Sports fans who opt for cable can forgo managing subscriptions and memorizing streaming accounts without missing a goal or home run. Sports fanatics looking to find the right TV plan and pricing can do so by contacting FTC at 888-218-5050, by going to ftc.net or by stopping by one of FTC’s seven stores.