A Year Without Cable, Week 4: Getting Your Sports Fix
When you cut the cord and leave your cable company, you put yourself in a bit of danger as far as spoilers go. Social networks are full of people talking about shows, and there’s a chance you could accidentally read something that ruins a significant plot point.
But nowhere is this “spoiler” danger more prevalent than in sports. Sports aren’t fiction: they’re real and they’re live. Worse yet, major sports like football, basketball, baseball and hockey are often covered by news networks, which makes it REALLY hard to avoid hearing about the outcome of a game. Truth is, you’re either going to watch the game live, or some source is going to fill you in on it. There’s no escape.
Fortunately, several major sports leagues offer online streaming services so that you can catch games without cable, whether you’re at home on the couch or out camping in the wilderness. One major sports league does NOT offer such a service — we’ll get to that later. For now, let’s cover those willing to “play ball” with their fans.
Twelve years in, Major League Baseball’s MLB.tv is the epitome of what a streaming sports service should be. The service streams every out-of-market baseball game in the season (meaning, games that aren’t being broadcast in your region), and, this year, will also include the playoffs and World Series. There are two tiers of service: regular MLB.tv ($94.99/year), which limits the devices you can use and the feeds you can watch; and MLB.tv Premium ($114.99/year), which supports over 400 devices and lets you choose between the home and away streams when watching a game.
NBA League Pass
The NBA’s streaming service, League Pass, charges $199 per year for up to 40 out-of-market NBA games every week. It works with quite a number of connected devices, including Xbox 360, Apple TV, and a number of tablets and smartphones. League Pass puts quite a few exclusions on which games it will allow access to; for instance, games on NBA TV, or games shown on TNT, ESPN and ABC aren’t available for streaming). For that reason, the service is a bit of a letdown. But if you love NBA basketball and you don’t have cable, you can at least watch some of it by becoming a subscriber.
NHL Gamecenter Live
Hockey fans willing to plunk down $169 per year can stream out-of-market NHL games with NHL Gamecenter Live. Like the two services above, you can watch Gamecenter on most of the devices you’d expect, and if you want to go back and watch a replay of a game that already happened, you can do that, too. And, like the MLB app, Gamecenter Live will let you switch between home and away broadcasts so you can listen to your favorite crew (which, let’s face it, is a little biased toward your team). If you want to read latest NHL news or want to check out hockey gear reviews, Hockey Pursuits is the place to go.
You didn’t think I’d leave Major League Soccer out, did you? For a mere $64.99 per season, you can subscribe to MLS Live and stream games to your Apple TV, Roku, iOS, Android and Panasonic devices. It isn’t all that easy finding MLS games on cable TV (unless you’re paying extra for the really obscure sports channels), so MLS Live has appeal beyond those who have cut the cord.
The above sports aren’t as big as the National Football League, but I’ll give them credit for at least trying to stay current in the digital age (and kudos to the MLB, which really blazed the trail for everyone else). The NFL refuses to do so, but here’s the kicker: the only fans being held back are the ones in the United States and Mexico. International fans have access to NFL Game Pass, a service that streams live games in high definition. Those here in the states aren’t so lucky. Aside from Sunday night games broadcast on NBC, you’ll need to be a DirecTV subscriber (who pays for NFL Sunday Ticket) to stream other games over the Web.
DirecTV is in the process of being acquired by AT&T, though, so we’ll be keeping an eye on how this might affect NFL Sunday Ticket. DirecTV has actually made it possible the past two or three years to subscribe to the Ticket without DirecTV service, and now that AT&T is calling the shots, we might get something similar.
Are there any sports I missed, or other (legal) ways to stream games from the sports I mentioned above? Leave a comment below and help everyone out.