Best answer: ESPN+ is a standalone streaming video service from the sports media company of the same name. It offers a variety of live sports, original shows, and documentaries without requiring a subscription to cable or a live TV streaming service. However, it doesn't include the traditional ESPN content that you'll find through a cable or satellite subscription.
- ESPN: ESPN+ (opens in new tab) ($5/mo)
What is ESPN+
ESPN+ is a sports-centric streaming video service, available on ESPN's website or through the ESPN app. It costs $4.99 a month, or $49.99 a year if you pay up front, to anyone who wants it, without requiring you to have a cable, satellite, or live TV streaming service subscription. It's completely separate.
ESPN+ provides customers with a variety of live sports, new original shows, sports documentaries, and films. The live sports features daily MLB games every summer and daily NHL games every winter. It also has nearly the entire MLS season as well as a bonanza of international sports. The service even has a full course load of college sports from Division I football to fencing.
If you need to get caught up on the action you missed, it has new original shows including a daily FC soccer show and a weekly UFC show. ESPN+ also has originals that take seasonal looks inside the locker room, focusing on topics like Duke Basketball, Alabama Football, and Peyton Manning. When you're ready for a break in the action, its documentaries and films include the entire 30 for 30 catalog, the best of the E:60 news magazine and the Academy Awards winner for 2018 Best Documentary O.J.: Made in America.
ESPN+ Premium Add-ons
Similar to Amazon Channels or premium cable add-ons like Showtime, ESPN+ is also a place to manage sports add-on services. You can subscribe to additional sports packages — like MLB.tv, NHL.tv or UFC FIGHT PASS & Pay Per View — through ESPN+ and watch all the content in one app. ESPN+ would also manage the subscriptions so you'd have one login, and get one bill.
ESPN+ is not ESPN channels
ESPN+ can be a little confusing at first, in part because its greatest advantage is also its biggest challenge. The service's namesake, ESPN, is known as the Worldwide Leader in Sports, representing a set of over a dozen cable sports networks. This gives ESPN+ immediate credibility and brand recognition as a place to watch sports. Those ESPN cable networks broadcast many of the biggest sporting events and leagues, and come with the highest costs per channel in the business. However, a drawback for the new service is that the ESPN cable networks aren't a part of ESPN+, but new customers may expect them. So you might be disappointed that you won't find Monday Night Football or PTI on ESPN+. At least not for now.
ESPN+ and the ESPN cable networks do live side by side in the ESPN app. In this way, they work almost like companion services. If ESPN is part of your cable or live TV streaming service, you can login and watch the network content seamlessly along with ESPN+ content. ESPN would be happy for you to have both, and have them blend together.
Making sense of ESPN+
Cable channels have created streaming services before to extend their brands, but they have gone in different directions. HBO created HBO NOW and it's easy to understand, since HBO NOW has the same original series, movies, and live premieres as traditional HBO, but without needing a cable subscription. It is a replacement service for Cord Cutters who want HBO outside the bundle.
Other services like FX+ or AMC Premiere require a cable subscription and a subscription fee. These services offer the same series as the existing channel that you pay for as part of your bundle. The extra subscription fee provides commercial-free viewing, full seasons, and a full back catalog of their shows. These are upgrade services for bundle subscribers who are super-fans of a channel, and are willing to pay more to enhance their experience. I may question the wisdom of this upgrade strategy, but it's still also easy to understand.
ESPN+ isn't as easy to understand, because it's not a replacement service like HBO Now, nor is it an upgrade service like FX+. It doesn't require you to be a cable bundle subscriber, and it doesn't have the same sports as the cable channels. If you need to have SportsCenter, college sports playoffs, and Monday Night Football, your cheapest option is currently $25 for Sling Orange, which gives you ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, and more.
ESPN+ is an independent service for Cord Cutters who want sports and are willing to try something new. For just $5 a month, ESPN+ offers its own wide range of live sports and unique programming for sports fans without needing a cable provider as a middleman. It's different enough from the valuable ESPN cable networks to avoid undercutting the appeal and big subscriber fees (for now). As more people move away from cable bundles and ESPN keeps iterating this independent service, you may also be getting an early look at the future of the company.
From Bristol, with sports
ESPN+ is the direct sports streaming service from the biggest sports channel company around. It streams live sports from the pros and college, from around the world into your home. With premium add-ons and new sports arriving regularly, it's worth taking a swing to see if its a hit for you.
ESPN channels option
The cheapest way to stream traditional ESPN channels
If what you are looking for is the same ESPN channels you had on cable through streaming, Sling TV is the best and most affordable way to get it. The Sling Orange plan will give you ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3 and a nice collection of 30 other channels with no contract.
Roy Delgado is a freelance writer for WhatToWatch. His focus is streaming, specializing on sports. He binge-streams 32 games over the first two days of NCAA March Madness annually. He built his own DVR 15 years ago, and still tinkers to make his media setup its best.
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