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Watch ESPN Online (Free, Too!) Legally without Cable

We’re just going to come out and say it: ESPN is probably our favorite channel in the entire world of channels.

There’s nothing quite like watching live sports, and ESPN delivers that in spades. Sure, SportsCenter and talking head shows have largely been replaced by Twitter and podcasts, but you can’t beat live NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB, and more.

There are a lot of providers out there that can hook you up with ESPN, but we’re narrowing down your search to our top three recommendations for watching ESPN live.

Best ways to get ESPN live

Best Budget Pick



Sling TV doesn’t offer many channels, but it gets you ESPN for super cheap.
Free Trial
Best Value Choice


Limited Commercials

Hulu gets you ESPN, lots of other sports channels, and a massive on-demand library.
Free Trial
Best Traditional TV


America's Top 120

DISH gets you lots of channels for a decent price, no internet required.
See Plans
**After $5 autopay/paperless bill discount.
All pricing valid as of August 16, 2018.

We’ve gathered all the need-to-know information about each streaming service and now we’re passing that knowledge to you. Aren’t you lucky?

#1 Sling TV: The cheapest way to stream ESPN live

Budget Pick


31+ Channels

This service is available on these devices

Free Trial

What we like: Can’t beat $25 a month

Drawbacks: A bit glitchy and not many channels total

Who it’s perfect for: Fans looking for the best price

Looking for the cheapest way to stream ESPN online? We thought so. Look no further—Sling TV is the best option for the budget streamer. You can watch ESPN for free (at least for a few days) with a 7-day Sling TV trial.

ESPN but not many other channels

Sling TV divides its channel list into two different packages, both of which are on the small side. To watch ESPN, you want to choose the Sling Orange package, which costs $25 a month.

Sling Orange gets you access to ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPN3. On top of those ESPNs, you get over 30 other channels, like Comedy Central, TNT, and HGTV (in case you’re in the mood for Flip or Flop).

Sling Orange is missing some important sports channels like ESPN News and ESPN U. Good news—you can pick up all those channels with the Sports Extra add-on for an additional $5 a month.

If you ask us (and why else would you read this?), if you want more channels, you’d be better off choosing another streaming service like Hulu with Live TV. Less is more with Sling TV, and getting ESPN for $25 a month ain’t bad at all—if that’s all you’re looking for.

50 hours of cloud DVR, but it costs an extra $5 a month

Most streaming services come with a cloud DVR, but apparently, Sling TV didn’t get the memo.

Sling TV charges extra if you want cloud DVR storage. We would complain about this more, but even when you factor in the cloud DVR charge ($5 more per month), Sling TV still ends up much cheaper than other options for watching ESPN.

Once you do pay up for DVR access, you get a grand total of 50 hours of storage. That isn’t a ton, so make sure to clean up your DVR every once in a while. We know that sounds annoying, but we believe in you—you can delete stuff!

Want to learn more about Sling TV? Check our Sling TV review that lays everything out for you.

Sling TV device compatibility

You can watch ESPN with Sling TV on any of the big streaming devices out there, like Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, and more.

#2 Hulu with Live TV: ESPN fans and binge-watchers’ paradise

Value Pick

Limited Commercials

57+ Channels

This service is available on these devices

Free Trial

What we like: ESPN and lots of on-demand shows and movies

Drawbacks: More expensive than Sling TV

Who it’s perfect for: Fans looking for a complete streaming package

If you want a streaming package that includes ESPN but also comes with more to enjoy, Hulu Live has a lot to offer. You can watch ESPN for free with a 7-day Hulu Live trial.

$39.99 a month for live ESPN and much more

Hulu Live has only one channel package to choose from, so that makes things easier for you. Don’t sweat it—that option comes with the entire suite of ESPNs (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPN News, and ESPN U), along with over 50 other channels.

You can see that Hulu Live has pretty much all your bases covered when it comes to sports. You even get access to ESPN Goal Line and ESPN Bases Loaded, which usually cost extra with other streaming services.

50 hours of cloud DVR without any extra charge

Automatically included in your subscription comes 50 hours of cloud DVR storage at your disposal. As opposed to Sling TV, it won’t cost you any extra, so you can record games on ESPN without any extra financial surprises.

If 50 hours doesn’t sound like much (it really isn’t—you’ll burn through it quicker than you think), you can upgrade to 200 hours of cloud DVR storage. It will cost you an extra $14.99 a month, but it might be worth the peace of mind.

On the other hand, if you stay on top of your DVR storage, you can probably get away with the included 50 hours. Just remember that every NBA, NFL, and MLB game pushes nearly three hours.

Want to learn more about streaming ESPN on Hulu Live? Check out our Hulu Live TV review and get all the service’s nitty-gritty details.

Hulu Live TV device compatibility

You can stream ESPN with Hulu Live on any of the major streaming devices out there. That means you’ll be fine using Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, your smartphone, and other devices.

#3 DISH: Watch ESPN with a more traditional TV option

Best Traditional TV

America's Top 120

190 channels
**After $5 autopay/paperless bill discount.
See Plans

What we like: No internet speed requirements

Drawbacks: Expensive two-year contract

Who it’s perfect for: Fans living in rural areas

Between the two satellite provider juggernauts, we’re giving DISH the edge over DIRECTV for watching ESPN. Sadly, you can’t test out DISH before signing up, so we’ll do our best to cover everything here.

$59.99 a month for two years

Choosing a satellite provider over a streaming service means paying a few extra bucks, but it also means better reliability. After all, few things are worse than watching a game on ESPN and your stream cutting out due to poor internet connection. DISH lets you live without that stress.

The basic DISH channel package, America’s Top 120, carries all of the main ESPN networks for a cheaper price than DIRECTV’s base package. Check out all the DISH channels you’ll get here.

Before you sign up for DISH, make sure that’s how you want to watch ESPN because you’ll lock in to a two-year contract that’s pricey to get out of. But if you’re a Kentucky basketball fan living in a rural area, for example, DISH would be worth the commitment.


Your subscription comes with the Hopper Duo DVR, allowing for 125 hours of HD storage and two simultaneous recordings at a time.

You can upgrade to the Hopper 3, which just so happens to be the best DVR available with 500 hours of HD storage and up to 16 (!) simultaneous recordings. Just keep in mind that getting it adds another $5 to your monthly bill.

Don’t feel like adding another $5 to your monthly bill? We don’t blame you. Here are three simple steps to making the free DVR work:

  1. Watch what you recorded.
  2. Delete what you recorded.
  3. Rinse and repeat.

The average sporting event on ESPN takes upward of three hours, so you need to act even more responsibly, sports fans. But doing so saves you some money every month, and that’s pretty helpful.

Want to learn more about all the nuance of watching ESPN on DISH? Check out our full review here.

What is ESPN+?

ESPN+ is a stand-alone streaming service that costs $4.99 a month and lets you watch sports like boxing, golf, MLB, MLS, the NHL, and some college sports. Before you get too excited, be forewarned that ESPN+ won’t feature the most popular games from ESPN. For access to the the NBA, NFL, and big-time MLB games, you’ll need to get ESPN with a streaming service or cable subscription.

You also get access to the entire 30 for 30 documentary archive (our favorite is Celtics/Lakers: Best of Enemies), along with original episodic programming. Basically, you get everything ESPN has to offer except the marquee live events.

Starting in January 2019, ESPN+ will air up to 15 live UFC matches every year. Along with live fights, you’ll also get 30-minute specials before big pay-per-view matches. With additions like UFC fights, it feels likely that ESPN+ will keep getting better and better.

Is ESPN+ worth it?

We can’t bear to miss out on all of ESPN’s big games, so we wouldn’t recommend ESPN+ for watching live sports. But if you’re a big fan of mid-major college conferences, MLS, or international sports like rugby or cricket, it’s definitely worth the $4.99 a month. It just depends on what sports you’re a fan of.


With Netflix and Hulu providing so much quality on-demand content, live sports is what makes paying for live TV worth it. And ESPN offers more live sports than any other channel, so you know it’s probably the best channel.

Any other questions about watching ESPN? Send us an email and we’ll do our best to get an answer back to you. Now go out and enjoy all the sports—for us.

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