ESPN+ is essential for the cord-cutting sports fan

ESPN+ is essential for the cord-cutting sports fan

There are a lot of options for people looking to cut the cord these days, but live sports remains a big hurdle to getting rid of cable. Sure, the likes of Sling TV and others offer streaming access to sports on a range of networks. Those services can cost $30 or more a month, and don’t allow you to reap one of the major benefits of not having cable: saving money. A month ago, ESPN extended sports fans an olive branch in the form of ESPN+. While the standalone service doesn’t have it all, it’s well worth the $5 monthly fee.

First, let’s chat a bit about what ESPN’s WatchESPN streaming option offers cable subscribers. It’s basically an all-access pass to live streams across ESPN’s networks, including archived replays and events from ACC Network, SEC Network and a lot of streaming-only (ESPN3) live action. Like the new ESPN+, WatchESPN stuff is tucked into the main ESPN app for easy access, but there’s really no overlap between the two services.

With ESPN+, you basically get live and archived streams from a group of regional networks that ESPN has locked in deals with. Well, so long as the event isn’t blacked out in your area. This time of year, that means a lot of baseball — both MLB and NCAA (softball, too) — with a side of soccer tossed in. For me, the best part about ESPN+ is the availability of MLS matches that used to be inaccessible without adding another pricey subscription.

Before ESPN+, the options for streaming MLS matches were pretty much limited to whatever the match of the week was on ESPN or Fox — unless you were willing to pay for an additional service. And to watch those, you needed a cable plan (or someone’s log-in) to get them on WatchESPN or Fox Sports Go. Thankfully, I live close enough to Atlanta that a lot of Atlanta United’s matches were picked up by Fox Sports South and thus streamable. Other than that though, I was lucky to be able to watch two, maybe three MLS games a week. And almost never any mid-week games carried by local/regional stations. Over the last month though, I could’ve streamed every MLS match that wasn’t televised on an ESPN or Fox network with ESPN+.

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This is partially due to the fact that the annual MLS streaming plan, MLS Live, is now wrapped into ESPN+. What soccer fans used to pay $80 a year for now costs them just under $60 annually — and there’s access to a lot more than just footy. The old price was too much for this closet MLS fan, but the lower cost and the fact that there’s more on the table besides soccer makes ESPN+ a much better deal. If you prefer European soccer, ESPN+ also offers access to England’s second tier, the EFL Championship. That will come in handy in a few months if you follow the recently relegated West Brom, Stoke City or Swansea.

 For me, that’s not really a deal breaker since only one, maybe two, of those hour-plus chunks of "analysis" are worth my time. What can I say, I’m not a fan of Mike Golic or Stephen A. Smi

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