How To Watch ESPN Without Cable (3 Different Ways)

Though ESPN is readying for the eventual launch of a standalone streaming product that will offer its traditional linear cable/satellite channels, there's been no official announcement and no indication exactly when it's coming. In the meantime, there are three legal ways to get traditional ESPN (as opposed to ESPN+, which has separate live programming): A cable subscription, satellite subscription, or cable replacement subscription.

Any of those can come with an asterisk, though, as these providers can get into disputes with networks about what carriage fees each side thinks is fair, with the networks vanishing from the provider if there's an impasse when their contract expires. That's what's going on as of this writing with Disney, ESPN's parent company, and Spectrum, locking the cable company's customers out of the ESPN channels among other Disney networks like Freeform.

If you need your ESPN fix, what can you do? The quickest and easiest way is to subscribe to a cable replacement streaming service. (And if you're a Spectrum customer who wants to lessen the wallet damage while adding a new service without canceling your cable plan, the company is reportedly offering $15 credits to those who complain.) But which cable replacement is the best for someone specifically seeking out ESPN? 

Lowest point of entry: Sling Orange

If you're the kind of person who has cable mostly for ESPN or are looking specifically for the lowest cost option to add ESPN to a cord-cutter's suite of streaming services, then there's only one answer: Sling's $40 per month "Sling Orange" plan. As an added bonus, if you're looking at this as a short-term solution, the first month is 50% off.

That $40 gets you 32 channels, including ESPN and ESPN 2, as well as a number of basic cable standbys like TBS, TNT, CNN, Comedy Central, A&E, and more. The plan also includes 50 hours of DVR storage, though only one person can stream at a time. An extra $20 per month will net you Sling Blue, which is normally $45 on its own. That adds local ABC, Fox, and NBC affiliates, as well as USA Network, NFL Network, Bravo, Fox Sports 1, FX, and a few other networks. (On its own, Sling Blue also has overlap with Orange when it comes to 24 of he core cable networks.)

As a longtime player in the TV streaming space, going back to its time as a company selling device-shifting hardware and services, Sling has apps for more or less every notable streaming device platform. So no matter what device you want to watch with, Sling should have an app for you.

Vidgo for the best value and/or ESPN Deportes fans

Another option that stands out as unique is Vidgo. Its English-language plans start at $69.99 per month for Vidgo Plus, which boasts a lineup of more than 110 live channels.

That lineup includes not just ESPN and ESPN 2, but also ESPNews, ESPN Deportes, ESPN U, and ESPN's SEC Network, giving it more of a cable-oriented ESPN experience. Specifically for sports enthusiasts, Vidgo Plus also includes the Big 10 Network, Fox Sports 1 and 2, Fox Deportes, MLB Network, NFL Network, and NHL Network.

That tier is missing a number of basic cable stalwarts, though, so if you're looking for the likes of Comcast's USA Network and Syfy, or Warner Brothers Discovery's TBS, TNT, and the Discovery Channel family, it's not the right package. (The more expensive tiers don't add those, either.) It does, however, include the full suite of Disney and Paramount's networks.

Alternatively, there's also Vidgo Mas for $39.99 per month, which has more than 45 Spanish networks, including ESPN Deportes.

Vidgo's device support isn't as overarching as Sling's, but it does cover enough major players to work just fine for most customers. If you have a Vizio smart TV, an Apple TV box, a Roku device, an Android TV/Google TV device, a Fire TV device, or anything that accepts Chromecast or Airplay, then you'll be fine with Vidgo. Vidgo doesn't include DVR service with Plus beyond the first 90 days, but it does have on-demand playback for shows on "many of the most popular channels on Vidgo" for 24 hours after a program airs.

Fubo for the best local experience and a few twists

There are a few reasons that Fubo is a particularly interesting choice for someone wanting to stream ESPN.

The first is specific to ESPN: Both the base-level English tier, Pro (180 channels for $74.99 per month), and the lone Spanish package, Latino ($32.99 for 59 channels) include what's clearly distinguished as the HD version of ESPN Deportes. Vidgo's ESPN Deportes branding does not use the ESPN Deportes HD branding, so that's an important distinction.

Another is what you get in addition to ESPN. Compared to the other choices listed here, Fubo has by far the best selection of local channels. Not only does it include local affiliates of all the "big four" broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC), it also features other local channels with overlapping ownership as well as market-dependent regional sports networks. In New York, for example, that includes both SNY and the MSG suite, bringing you games that would cost $30 per month on their own through an MSG+ streaming service.

Finally, there's a twist specific to the Spectrum/Disney carriage dispute. Spectrum is offering a 20% discount for the first two months of a Fubo Pro subscription (or 30% off the $99.99 per month Ultimate tier that includes Showtime and NFL Red Zone among 299 channels). Here's the kicker: According to a TV Answer Man report, you can cancel Spectrum TV service once you've started the Fubo plan and you won't lose the two months of discounted service.

As far as device support, Fubo is available for key players including Chromecast, Fire TV, Android TV/Google TV, Apple TV, Roku, Xbox One, and the smart TV app stores of Hisense, Vizio, and LG. All plans include multiple simultaneous streams and significant DVR storage.