Traditional cable packages are becoming less and less common. The act of cord-cutting has been ongoing for years due in large part to the rise in popularity of streaming services. Streaming platforms’ combined revenues increased by 340 percent from 2015 to 2020 and an estimated 5.2 million households canceled their cable packages in 2021.
One of the main reasons people continue to maintain their cable subscriptions is because of sports. Major networks still hold the broadcast rights in the US for most professional sports leagues and streaming platforms are still in the infancy of broadcasting live events. However, there are several sports-specific streaming platforms that you can use to follow your NHL, NFL, NBA, or MLB picks today.
Below is a look at the best streaming platform for each of those leagues.
At present, ESPN+ is the best streaming platform for the NHL. It allows you to stream more than 1,000 out-of-market NHL games per year and also offers commentary and highlights on a nightly basis through its In the Crease review program. Subscribers also receive access to live NCAA hockey games and replays.
You can watch almost any game you want during the regular season, but ESPN+ does not stream the Stanley Cup Finals. So, hardcore hockey fans may still need a cable subscription package for that or they could simply watch it at a bar or elsewhere. ESPN+ is one of the few sports streaming apps that doesn’t have built-in DVR capabilities, but it’s incredibly affordable at just $9.99 per month.
MLB, perhaps more than the other three major North American professional sports league, is regional. Most fans follow their hometown team or the team closest to where they live. MLB broadcasts, then, are carried by a variety of regional networks. However, you can access these through the AT&T TV NOW platform.
AT&T TV NOW carries FS1, ESPN, TBS, and FOX, all of which show regional games. It can also be accessed on all devices. The major drawback is its price at $80 per month, but it’s worth noting this also includes access to a variety of other networks – it’s essentially a cable package disguised as a streaming service. So, it’s most suitable for hardcore MLB fans.
Amazon Prime is a great alternative if you want to watch out-of-market games, as it allows users to access its MLB.TV app. It’s also much cheaper. If you want to watch the team in your own market, however, you’ll have to wait 90 minutes after the game finishes.
The NFL is almost single-handedly keeping cable TV alive. The league signed a $100 billion media agreement with CBS, ESPN/ABC, Fox, NBC, and Amazon that begins in 2023 and runs until 2033. Most games will still be shown on traditional cable networks, although Amazon Prime and Peacock will show live and sometimes exclusive games.
Amazon Prime, for instance, began showing exclusive Thursday Night Football games this season. That means that unless you had a Prime subscription, you couldn’t watch the NFL on Thursdays. Amazon is paying the NFL $1 billion per year for the exclusive rights to Thursday Night Football. Peacock streams Sunday Night Football.
The NBA has its own streaming service called NBA League Pass. Through this platform, subscribers can watch hundreds of out-of-market games and additional programming from around the league, including 24/7 recaps and highlights of games from the night before. There are also NBA TV studio shows and classic games available in the NBA League Pass library.
NBA League Pass has flexible subscription options. League Pass Premium, offered at $179.99 for the entire season, allows subscribers to watch live games on two devices, whereas the League Pass, offered at $119.99, grants access to all games on just one device. These plans can also be purchased monthly at $25.99 and $19.99, respectively. If that’s not enticing enough, consider signing up for a free seven-day trial.