One reason many people don’t cut the cable TV cord is the easy availability of live sports broadcasts on cable. But there are noncable alternatives that come into play.
It’s football season, and baseball playoffs have started. Don’t have cable? You can still watch.
With a digital antenna, you get games for free on broadcast networks like Fox, NBC and Univision. Antennas start at $20. For cable channels, you can always go to a bar.
Online subscriptions are primarily for games that don’t involve local teams. Otherwise, games are shown after they are over. Subscriptions aren’t cheap, but most cost less than a traditional cable package.
Plenty of sites also show sports free without legal rights to do so. And many people ask friends or relatives who have a cable subscription for a password to log in to, say, ESPN’s app.
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To stay above board, here are options for watching in the U.S. Access outside the U.S. varies.
Some websites offer a few free games: One NFL game each for Yahoo and NBC; the Super Bowl and six others for CBS; Verizon customers also get some games on phones. For others, subscriptions are required.
Verizon’s NFL Mobile
The deal: Live streaming of regular-season games televised nationally on Sunday, Monday and Thursday nights; Sunday afternoon game for the local team; and playoff games and the Super Bowl. You can also watch the NFL Network channel.
Limitations: Only on Verizon phones.
Price: Free for Verizon subscribers.
The deal: Live regular-season games on Sunday afternoons, about a dozen total. You can switch between games that are playing at the same time.
Limitations: Available only if you can’t get DirecTV satellite service where you live, typically apartment buildings, or homes that have signal issues. No local teams. You can stream on only one device at a time.
Price: $200 on a tablet, phone or computer, or $260 on a TV using Roku, a game console or Chromecast. $360 for access on both. College and graduate students get both options for $100.
The deal: Live audio only.
Limitations: Video of regular season and playoffs only after games are over (after all games are done for Sunday afternoons).
Price: $100 for the full season, though prices come down as the season goes on. On mobile devices and computers, Apple TV and Xbox One.
Playoffs will be shown on Fox, which is a free channel, and TBS, Fox Sports 1 and MLB Network, which are not. You can also access the playoffs online.
The deal: Live regular-season games. Audio only for postseason, unless you have a cable-subscription password for MLB Network, TBS and Fox.
Limitations: Hometown team isn’t shown live, whether at home or away. Nationally televised games, including the playoffs, are also unavailable live unless you have a password. Otherwise, wait 90 minutes after games end for video.
Price: For a full season, $110 on computers only, $130 on mobile devices and streaming gadgets as well. The price goes down throughout the season.
A streaming subscription is available, but few options for local teams.
NBA League Pass
The deal: Live video during the regular season.
Limitations: Hometown team not available until three days after the game. Games televised on ABC, ESPN, TNT or NBA TV won’t be live, but available three hours after they end.
Price: $200 for all games. $120 for one out-of-market team’s games. $7 per game. On phones, tablets, computers and streaming devices.
The deal: Usually Thursday night regular-season games and more playoff games.
Limitations: You can see the court from four different camera angles, but it’s not the same view of the action that you’d get on TV.
Price: Free. On phones, tablets and computers.
It’s like getting cable delivered over the Internet.
Dish Network’s Sling TV
The deal: The online service carries ESPN and ESPN2. Other channels for extra fee.
Limitations: If you’re on a phone, you can’t watch live NFL games, given Verizon’s deal with the league. There are also local-market blackouts for baseball and basketball games. Sling works on only one device at a time.
Price: $20 a month for the main package, $5 extra for soccer-focused channels and $5 for a “sports extra” package with SEC Network and other channels. On computers, mobile devices and streaming devices.
Sony’s PlayStation Vue
The deal: The TV service lets customers watch a variety of channels, including Fox Sports 1, TNT, most broadcast networks and some local sports channels. Disney-owned ABC and ESPN aren’t included.
Limitations: Available only in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, Philadelphia, and the San Francisco Bay Area. Requires a PlayStation game console.
Price: $50 a month gets you broadcast networks and sports-cable channels like Fox Sports 1 and NBCSN, while $60 gets you the basic package plus Big Ten Network, beIN Sports and local sports channels. Extra $15 for soccer-focused service, Fox Soccer Plus.
There are sites and services for almost any sport you’d want to watch. Subscriptions are typically required.
College sports are tricky. The CBS Sports site and app streams basketball games — last season, there were 27 free ones; this year’s streaming schedule hasn’t been announced — and Southeastern Conference football games. The company also offers College Sports Live, but most football games only get an audio feed, not video. Fox has some Big East college sports online.