Football isn’t quite over and college basketball games are already popping up all over the TV schedule starting this weekend.
And with cord-cutting gaining in popularity, it’s always a good time to review all the ways you can get the best stuff on TV without cable or satellite – including live sports events.
The options are always changing, and it can get a little confusing, but we’re here to help guide you through (and we’re keeping it legal).
Get an antenna
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First, get an antenna. A lot of college games will air on CBS – and a lot of ACC games will air on the local NBC affiliate, WRAL. So you need to be able to get the local streams of those broadcast channels. And even with the most comprehensive streaming services available, there are times a broadcast network game will be blacked out in your market. (For instance, if a game is playing here on WRAL/NBC, it’ll be blacked out on streaming services and most apps. And if the game is playing on WRAL and ESPN, ESPN will black it out here as well.)
A good indoor HD antenna, such as Mohu Leaf, starts at around $40. But if you live around a lot of trees or in a hilly or remote area, you may need something stronger. Some folks require an attic or rooftop version.
You’ll need a robust internet connection for these. If you’ve got that, the next step is finding the one that best fits your needs.
The good news is nearly all offer a free introductory period, which you should definitely use to verify that the channels they claim to carry are actually available in this area. Sometimes when a service touts a network like NBC or CBS, they really mean On Demand, not live.
Most of these services are available to stream through Roku, Apple TV, Google Chromecast and Amazon Fire devices (meaning you can watch them on your TV), as well as Android and iOS apps, so you can watch on your phone or tablet.
And remember, these services offer a lot more than just sports channels, so you can access other cable favorites, too.
Here’s a look at what’s out there right now.
There are two packages available plus a way to combine them, depending on your needs. There’s a lot of stuff here, including: ABC, NBC and Fox, plus ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNews, ESPN Buzzer Beater, ESPN Goal Line, Fox, Fox Sports, FS1, FS2, NBCSN, PAC-12, SEC Network, CSN, NFL Network and RedZone. For when it’s NCAA basketball tournament time, you can also get TNT, TBS and truTV here. You also get log-in credentials for the WatchESPN app. The bummer: You can’t watch CBS games on Sling, and there’s no Big Ten.
Find it: sling.com
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Cost: $20-$45 per month
This is a streaming service, so you don’t need DirecTV’s satellite subscription. For sports, DirecTV Now has ABC, NBC, Fox, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN News, FS1, FS2, NBCSN, Big Ten Network, SEC Network, NBA and some regional sports networks. Plus, TNT, TBS and truTV for March Madness. You also get log-in credentials for CSN, ESPN, Fox, Fox Sports, NBC, NBC Universo, NBC Sports and Telemundo. CBS isn’t available in this market yet, but it should be coming soon. DirecTV Now is also adding live local channels in some markets, but it’s not in Raleigh yet.
Find it: directvnow.com
Cost: $35-$70 per month
All Playstation Vue packages include ABC, NBC and Fox, plus all ESPN channels. You also get the Big Ten Network, SEC Network, Fox College Sports, FS1, FS2 and more (including TNT, TBS and truTV). VUE will also get you NBA TV. Log-in credentials include ESPN, Fox, NBC, NBC Sports, WatchESPN, Fox Sports Go, NFL Network and Telemundo. (Note: You don’t have to have a Playstation game system to use this. You can watch through Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Google Chromecast.)
Find it: playstation.com/en-us/network/vue
Cost: $40-$75 per month
This new streaming service has about 40 channels, including (it claims) all the major broadcast networks – ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC – plus the ESPN networks, Fox Sports, FS1, FS2, CBS Sports Network, NBC Sports, Comcast Sports Networks and Big Ten. NBA TV isn’t listed but Golf, Tennis and Olympic channels are. It has tons of regional sports network options, depending on where you live. As with other services, the availability of live local channels will vary by market, so use the free trial to test it. Note that the Turner channels used during March Madness – TNT, TBS and truTV – are not listed.
Find it: tv.youtube.com
Cost: $35 per month
Hulu with Live TV
Hulu with Live TV (not the same as regular Hulu) offers a lot of channels, but like many streaming services, plugging in a local ZIP code makes some – like CBS and Fox – disappear. It does list CBS Sports Network, Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2, Fox Regional Sports, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN News, Big Ten Network, SEC Network and NBCSN. Plus TNT, TBS and truTV. It includes log-in credentials for CBS All Access, ESPN, Fox and other channels.
Find it: hulu.com/live-tv
Cost: Starts at $39.99 per month
For sports, FuboTV has Fox Sports Southeast and Fox Sports Carolinas, as well as FS1 and FS2. Also, CBS Sports Network, NBC Sports Network, Big Ten Network, PAC12, Bein Sports channels, Eleven Sports, NBA TV and NFL Network. They also carry the Golf Channel, Fox Soccer Plus and the Olympic Channel. A Sports Plus package gets you a few more Fox College Sports and PAC12 channels. I don’t see Turner channels, so you probably can’t get all NCAA tournament games, unless they’re added by March.
Find it: fubo.tv
Cost: $19.99 per month for the first two months, then $39.99 per month
This one is easy. If you don’t mind watching on your computer, many of the games can be streamed at theacc.com. Many of the games will also air on local affiliate stations (use your antenna), and they’ll list all that on their website within 10 days of each game. (Those with a cable or satellite log-in can also watch via ACC Network Extra, a collaborative effort of the ACC and ESPN).
CBS All Access
CBS All Access will stream NCAA games, but it looks like you’ll only get the games carried by your local affiliate.
Find it: cbs.com/all-access
Cost: Starting at $5.99-$9.99 per month or $59.99-$99.99 per year
College Sports Live
College Sports Live, a product of CBS, has partnered with more than 60 schools, including East Carolina and Western Carolina. In addition to streaming live games, they also have on-demand videos.
Find it: collegesportslive.com
Cost: Starts at $9.99 per month
Borrow a password/Go to a bar
There’s always the old “Hey, can I borrow your password?” plan – not strictly ethical, but a popular method that streaming services and some providers have so far neglected to really crack down on. We are not endorsing this practice.
Or you could just find a sports bar that’s playing the game and make it a party.