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ESPN+ Review: The Best Cable TV Alternative for Sports-Loving Cord-Cutters?

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ESPN+ is increasing its price from $6.99/mo to $9.99/mo on August 23rd. Lock in the old price for a year by signing up now!

Many of us want to cut the cord to save money, but hesitate because we’re worried about losing access to live sports. Thankfully, it’s easier than ever to watch sports without cable. One of the easiest and cheapest ways is to sign up for ESPN+. Read on to find out all you need.

In a hurry? ESPN+ is a great service for sports fan — especially if you care about sports outside of the NFL. There’s an enormous number of live events that it provides. There are three main ways to get it:

  • Hulu + Live TV: Comes with 85+ live TV channels, its outstanding on-demand library, and both Disney+ and ESPN+ for $69.99/mo.
  • Hulu Bundle: Get the on-demand Hulu, ESPN+, and Disney+ all in one place for $13.99/mo. Use the 30-day free trial.
  • ESPN+: Get the standlone service for just $6.99/mo.

One of the best deals that you can take advantage of as a cord cutter is subscribing to ESPN+, a direct-to-consumer streaming service. For $6.99/mo, you can watch a tremendous variety of sports events.

No, you will not receive most live games shown on ESPN-related channels, but you will get numerous NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, MLS, NCAA, La Liga, Bundesliga, and other sports events of domestic and worldwide interest.

What Is ESPN Plus?

ESPN+ is a live sports streaming service. It ended 2021 with 17 million subscribers, after starting in 2018. It is designed to replace much of what had been available through WatchESPN and ESPN3.

For most prospective subscribers, it should be thought of as a service to accompany access to ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNews, and related channels that have been garnered through other means.

What Is ESPN Plus Not?

It is important to note that ESPN+ is not the same as SEC Network+. The latter is similar in that it offers streaming-only access to SEC sports events that are not available on the SEC Network television channel or a different channel. However, it is different in that you cannot subscribe to SEC Network+.

You must have already subscribed to a streaming service or cable or satellite provider that offers you SEC Network in order to get SECN+. With that said, some sports events are available through both ESPN+ and SECN+.

ESPN+ is also not ESPN3, which offers streaming access to sports events as well. The difference is that ESPN3 comes with a cable, satellite, or streaming provider that offers access to it.

What is available on ESPN3 varies but includes some live games that are also being broadcast on ABC and ESPN. It also offers exclusive access to other contests, college sports events in particular. But what is exclusively available through ESPN3 is a small fraction of what is exclusively offered by ESPN+.

Another thing that ESPN+ is not is WatchESPN, which was eliminated in 2019. It had been a way for cable and satellite subscribers to stream games shown on ESPN-related channels and offered by ESPN3.

ESPN+ Content

Most content that ESPN+ offers is exclusive, meaning that it will not also be available on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, or related channels. However, there are some exceptions. The most noteworthy one is ESPN+ subscribers being able to watch Monday Night Football games through it.

Of course, ESPN+’s live sports coverage is what attracts most to its service, but it also features access to a number of ESPN-related non-live-event offerings, such as the 30 for 30 documentaries.

NFL

As mentioned above, NFL games are prominent sports events offered by ESPN+. As of 2021, Monday Night Football was streamed on ESPN+. Starting in 2022, this will include exclusive broadcasting of one NFL game a season, an early-morning international matchup from London.

CFL

ESPN+ is also a destination for US-based fans of the three-downs CFL version of the sport as it streams every CFL game that is not broadcast on ESPN, ESPN2, or ESPNews. However, note that this selection does not include any playoff games, which are all shown on those channels.

MLB

ESPN+ provides access to numerous MLB games, generally five or six a week, subject to blackout restrictions. Note that this has not included the Wild Card Game or Sunday Night Baseball contests, but that may change in 2022, when a new rights deal between MLB and ESPN starts.

NBA G League

Although ESPN+ does not feature NBA games, it does offer extensive coverage of G League match-ups, including more than 200 contests a season.

NHL

Where ESPN+ really shines for many is its offering of all out-of-market NHL broadcasts as well as exclusive access to a select number of contests. In the former sense, it has replaced NHL.TV, which is now only available in select countries, a list that no longer includes the US or Canada.

MLS

ESPN+ is also a destination for MLS fans as it offers access to all out-of-market broadcasts from that league as well. As a result, ESPN+ has replaced MLS Live.

International Soccer

Many soccer fans, however, are more interested in watching matches played by clubs based abroad than MLS contests. They tend to be pleased with ESPN+’s streaming of, for example, La Liga, Copa del Rey, Bundesliga, Eredivisie, Belgian Pro League, EFL Championship, FA Cup, EFL Cup, and A-League matches.

Note that coverage is much more extensive in some of its covered competitions and more limited in others.

College Sports

If you are a big fan of college sports, particularly if you are a fan of a school that plays in the below conferences, you will most likely want to get ESPN+ to ensure that you can watch extensive coverage of your university’s teams.

This is because this streaming service’s college offerings are extensive. And it includes major sports, such as football and basketball, as well as those that have lower numbers of dedicated fans, such as soccer and softball.

As far as Power Five conferences go, its offerings of Big 12 Conference sporting events are significant while a much small number of Southeastern Conference sports events are shown as well.

The other conferences carried by ESPN+ include the American Athletic, Big Sky, Big South, Mid-American, Missouri Valley Football, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Sun Belt, Southern, Southland, Southwestern Athletic, Western Athletic Conferences, Conference USA, Ivy League, and Patriot League.

PGA Tour Live

Golf fans who had subscribed to PGA Tour Live under NBC Sports Gold will want to head to ESPN+ as those rights have been moved under its umbrella. That coverage has more than tripled with over 4,000 hours a year. Included is the annual streaming of 35 tournaments with at least 28 of them featuring four live feeds on four days of coverage. The Masters and PGA Championship are major events that you can watch here.

Tennis

Tennis fans will also get to enjoy plenty of offerings through an ESPN+ subscription. These include live exclusive coverage of hundreds of hours of matches at Wimbledon and the US Open. Tennis fans will often subscribe to ESPN+ for just two months a year to watch those two events.

UFC — PPV

Some of the most on-demand sporting events that are streamable through ESPN+ are UFC matches. However, the premier ones are not included in the base rate; they are instead pay-per-view events. For example, getting access to the UFC 269 main card, which took place on Dec 11, 2021, in Las Vegas, cost an extra $69.99. However, that evening’s preliminary fights were included with the base ESPN+ subscription.

Others

More niche sports that are covered with an ESPN+ subscription include boxing, cricket, handball, lacrosse, pickleball, swimming and diving, track and field, and wrestling.

Shows

ESPN+ also features numerous shows and documentaries for when you want to watch or listen to ESPN personalities, coaches, players, and others in the sporting world discuss events that are coming up or historic ones that had taken place in the recent or distant past.

An especially popular one is the ESPN+ original 30 for 30, and the complete library of 150+ episodes is available. Other shows of interest include NFL PrimeTime, Bettor Days with Mike Greenberg, UNINTERRUPTED’s More Than An Athlete, Eli’s Places, Claressa Shields, and Dana White’s Contender Series.

Exclusive ESPN.com Articles

Another consideration for getting ESPN+ is the subscription allowing you to read exclusive content on ESPN.com that is only available to its subscribers. This selection includes articles that provide analysis of match-ups, betting suggestions, and fantasy sports recommendations.

What Is Not Available?

The most significant sports events that are not available through ESPN+ are the vast majority of ones broadcast on ESPN’s television channels, such as ESPN and ESPN2. You also cannot watch SportsCenter or related shows with just an ESPN+ subscription.

As for sports events, the most glaring exceptions not included in ESPN+’s offerings are NBA games. But, if basketball is a focus for you, note that you will receive a tremendous selection of college basketball and G League contests.

Hulu + Live TV

Those who are subscribing to or considering subscribing to Hulu + Live TV ($69.99/mo) should note that ESPN+. As of Dec 21, 2021, the base Hulu + Live TV subscription increased $5 from its previous $64.99/mo rate. But in exchange, subscribers get both ESPN+ and Disney+.

This service comes with 80+ live TV channels. This includes all the main ESPN Channels: ESPN itself, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNews, ACC Network, and SEC Network. It also includes CBS Sports Network, FS1, and FS2.

Another option is getting the Hulu bundle. This gives you the Hulu on-demand service (no live television access), ESPN Plus, and Disney Plus for $13.99/mo. Or get it for $19.99/mo for ad-free streaming of on-demand content.

ESPN+ Interface

How do you go about enjoying all of this action and these shows that are available on ESPN+? You can either navigate to plus.espn.com and log in or pull the ESPN app up on your device and log in there prior to navigating to the sports event or show that you would like to watch.

If you subscribe indirectly, such as through Hulu + Live TV, you can also watch through Hulu’s website or the Hulu app. Or just watch with the ESPN app using your Hulu credentials with TV Everywhere.

Once you go into your ESPN account, you can select your favorite teams, leagues, players, and so on. But it does not appear that doing so will change your ESPN+ viewing experience. In other words, contests played by those squads or by those players are not lit up or otherwise made to stand out visually.

When looking at the schedule of past, present, and future sports events to watch, you can narrow and expand this list in a number of ways. One is to narrow it by sport. Another consideration is to expand it to show everything broadcast on any ESPN outlet. This can come in handy if you want to see if a sports event that intrigued you is available on a non-ESPN+ ESPN-related outlet.

Live Streaming Devices for ESPN+

ESPN+ supports most major streaming devices in use today:

  • Amazon Fire TV
  • Android mobile
  • Android TV
  • Apple TV
  • Chromecast
  • iOS (iPhone, iPad)
  • Oculus
  • PlayStation 4
  • Roku
  • Samsung smart TVs
  • Xbox One
  • Xfinity
  • Web browsers.

Chromecast allows you to cast from your mobile device (and some browsers) to your smart TV. This is an increasingly popular and easy-to-use method.

Summary

For the vast majority of sports fans, getting ESPN+ is more than worth the $6.99/mo that it costs. In some cases, ESPN+ will be an essential addition to your list of streaming services. In others, you will be satisfied with just subscribing to this one. Of course, that scenario is unlikely for most as the majority of teams and athletes that ESPN+ covers will play their biggest games elsewhere.

Golf, tennis, and UFC fans are most apt to be in the content-with-just-ESPN+ group although keep in mind that major UFC events are PPV.

FAQs

What happened to ESPN Insider?

In August 2018, four months after ESPN+ launched, ESPN Insider, a different subscription service, was closed down, and the services that it offered were incorporated into ESPN+. These had included access to exclusive reports and statistics and a subscription to the now-defunct ESPN the Magazine.

Does ESPN+ include live ESPN?

Generally, no. ESPN+ does not offer access to what is on ESPN. It is a standalone streaming service, and those wanting to watch games and other programming shown on ESPN should, in most cases, head elsewhere to receive that access. However, there are rare exceptions. One is ESPN+ streaming of Monday Night Football games.

Can ESPN+ streams be recorded?

No, ESPN+ has no cloud DVR and streams cannot be otherwise recorded. But there is usually no need to record as its games and shows are archived and can be easily accessed after the fact with on-demand replays. However, keep in mind that some events, including NFL games, are not available for archived viewing.

Is all ESPN+ content available for $6.99/mo?

Nearly all ESPN+ content is available for the monthly price of $6.99. The only exceptions are PPV events for UFC and potentially other sports. The cost for UFC 269, which was contested on Dec 11, 2021, was $69.99, and an ESPN+ subscription was necessary in order to pay for and watch that event.

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