ESPN3 was ESPN’s cord-cutting option that allowed users to watch college and international sports that don’t appear on ESPN’s cable channels. The service is now unavailable, but its content is fully available through ESPN+, as well as a few other cord-cutting options. Check out these seven ways to watch ESPN3 without cable.

What was ESPN3?

IMG 0020ESPN3 was an online-only network that delivered live and on-demand video of sports events you won’t find on ESPN’s cable channels.

As hard to believe as it is, ESPN’s eight national channels and four regional channels did not carry all of the sports content ESPN produces.

ESPN and ESPN2 focus on the highest-profile games in major league sports. ESPN Goal Line, ESPN Buzzer Beater and ESPN Bases Loaded let dedicated fans of football, basketball and baseball get their daily fix of coverage and news. ESPNU covers the college sports scene as do channels focused on the Atlantic Coast Conference, Southeast Conference and the Texas Longhorns. ESPN Deportes provides Spanish-language broadcasts of big games.

In some respects, ESPN3 harked back to the original days of ESPN. Before the network landed deals with the NFL and other big league sports it was the home to then-esoteric sports like freestyle skiing and the X Games.

Use ESPN+ to get ESPN3 content

Source: ESPN

ESPN3 is now expired as a service, but its content is still available through ESPN+. ESPN+ costs just $5.99 per month and offers everything you could find on ESPN3, alongside a load of other content that you won’t find on any of the regular ESPN channels.

ESPN+ is still fairly limited, however. You’ll likely find more value out of any of the following streaming TV services that incldue a much larger selection of content.

Streaming TV Services

Cord-cutters who cancel their cable subscriptions but don’t want to give up traditional television, turn to streaming TV services. Also called OTT services or skinny bundle services, streaming TV services provide dozens of mainstream channels over the internet.

Many streaming TV services offer the same kinds of features you’re used to seeing on a cable box. They come equipped with program guides and cloud DVRs, which let you record TV series or sports events. Most of the services provide apps for many different platforms.

You get all these features for a fraction of the price of a cable subscription.

Sling TV

Sling TV
Source: Sling TV

Sling TV was the first live TV streaming service. With more than two million subscribers, it is also the largest streaming TV service in the United States.

 Sling OrangeSling BlueSling Orange + Blue
Simultaneous Streams134*
Fire TV SupportYesYesYes
Roku SupportYesYesYes
* You get one stream with Sling Orange and up to 3 simultaneous streams with Sling Blue.

Sling TV promotes itself as an “a la carte” TV company. That does not mean, however, that you can pick and choose the channels you want. What Sling TV really means is you can choose from a wide range of bundles. You start by picking one of three base subscription plans:

  • Orange: 30 channels for $25.
  • Blue: 40+ channels for $25.
  • Orange+Blue: 50+ channels for $40.

ESPN and ESPN2 are only available with the Orange plan or the Orange+Blue combo plan. A $5-per-month expansion pack adds ESPN Bases Loaded, ESPN Goal Line, ESPNews, ESPNU and ten other sports channels. That “Sports Extra” is only available with the Orange or Orange+Blue base subscriptions.

You have to pay Sling TV an extra $5 per month to get fifty hours of cloud DVR service.


While the Blue subscription plan lets you stream to as many as three devices at a time, the Orange plan caps you at a single video stream. Even if you get the Orange+Blue combination, you can only stream the channels that are part of the Orange lineup to a single device.

  • Living room devices: Air TV Player, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast and Roku.
  • Smart TVs and Blu-ray players: Certain models from LeEco, LG, Samsung and ZTE.
  • Mobile devices and tablets: Amazon Fire tablets, Android and iOS.
  • Game consoles: Xbox One.
  • Desktop browsers: Chrome.

Hulu with Live TV

Hulu is the Best Cable Alternative in America
Source: Hulu

Hulu’s live TV service is one of the youngest. Hulu still considers Hulu with Live TV a “beta” project, but anybody can join. It offers a solid channel lineup and a full set of features.

Hulu with Live TV carries between 50 and 70 channels, depending on your home market. Available channels include ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNews, ESPNU and ESPN Goal Line. You also get access to ESPN3’s exclusive sports content.

The $40 monthly subscription also includes access to a full set of features. The standard cloud DVR lets you record fifty hours of programming. You can expand that to two hundred hours for another $15 per month. You also get access to Hulu’s entire catalog of on-demand content.

Hulu with Live TV also lets you stream content to two devices at a time. For another $15 per month, you can stream to an unlimited number of devices on your home network plus three mobile devices. Hulu’s industry-leading number of supported apps makes “unlimited” mean something.

  • Living room devices: Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, Nexus Player, Roku and TiVo.
  • Smart TVs and Blu-ray players: Certain models from LG, Samsung, Sony and Vizio.
  • Mobile devices and tablets: Amazon Fire Tablets, Android, iOS and Windows Phone 8
  • Game consoles: Nintendo Switch, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo Wii U, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.
  • Desktop browsers: Chrome, Edge, Firefox and Safari.

DirecTV Now

DirecTV Now channels galore
Source: DirecTV Now

With more than 1.8 million customers, DirecTV Now is the second-most popular streaming TV service in America. One reason for DirecTV Now’s success is its large channel selection — more than any other streaming TV service.

 Live a LittleJust RightGo BigGotta Have It
Simultaneous Streams2222
Fire TV SupportYesYesYesYes
Roku SupportYesYesYesYes

ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNews and ESPNU are all part of DirecTV Now’s overall channel lineup along with access to ESPN3’s content. The number of channels you get depends on which of DirecTV Now’s subscription plans you select:

  • Live a Little: 60+ channels / $40 per month.
  • Just Right: 80+ channels / $55 per month.
  • Go Big: 100+ channels / $65 per month.
  • Gotta Have It: 120+ channels / $75 per month.

The entry-level “Live a Little” plan includes ESPN and ESPN2. Getting the full ESPN lineup requires upgrading a step to the “Just Right” plan.

Shortcode TV Subscription Desktop Directv black 700px


Despite its popularity, DirecTV Now has some weaknesses. The biggest weakness is the limited DVR service. You’ll only get a 20-hour cloud DVR with a 30-day video expiration date.

DirecTV Now’s parent company, AT&T, is revamping all of its fiber, internet and satellite TV services. Over the course of the year, DirecTV Now will add support for 4K content and other benefits.

The most popular set-top boxes and mobile devices have DirecTV Now apps:

  • Living room devices: Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast and Roku.
  • Smart TVs and Blu-ray players: None.
  • Mobile devices and tablets: Android and iOS.
  • Game consoles: None.
  • Desktop browsers: Chrome and Safari.

DirecTV Now will probably round out its app ecosystem as time goes on. Android TV, PlayStation and Xbox are platforms notably absent from DirecTV Now’s list of apps.

PlayStation Vue

Profiles on PlayStation Vue
Source: PlayStation Vue

Sony’s PlayStation Vue streaming service competes most directly with DirecTV Now in price and channel lineup. The four subscription plans PlayStation Vue offers let you balance channel selection with your budget.

  • Access: 50+ channels for $45 per month.
  • Core: 60+ channels for $50 per month.
  • Elite: 100+ channels for $60 per month.
  • Ultra: 100+ channels, including HBO and Showtime, for $80 per month.

Both ESPN and ESPN2 are part of the entry-level “Access” plan. A step up to the “Core” plan will add ESPNews and ESPNU. The “Elite” level includes ESPN Deportes.

The $10-per-month expansion pack adds ESPN Bases Loaded, ESPN Classic, ESPN Goal Line and at least seven other national and regional sports networks.

Included with all of the subscription plans is a very competitive cloud DVR. PlayStation Vue does not set any storage limits. Your household can record as many sports events, movies or TV shows as they can watch. Of course, nothing lasts forever: PlayStation Vue deletes recordings after twenty-eight days.

Besides the generous cloud DVR, large families will appreciate the five-device limit on simultaneous streams.

PlayStation Vue works on a wide range of platforms. Its platform support isn’t quite as big as Hulu’s, but PlayStation Vue comes close:

  • Living room devices: Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast and Roku.
  • Smart TVs and Blu-ray players: None (not even Sony’s).
  • Mobile devices and tablets: Android, Amazon Fire Tablets and iOS.
  • Game consoles: PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4.
  • Desktop browsers: Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Microsoft Edge.

Sports fans who own a PlayStation 4 game console get the added benefit of streaming up to three video streams at a time to their TV.

YouTube TV

YouTube Live TV
Source: YouTube TV

YouTube TV is another new addition to the list of streaming TV options. It offers a fifty-channel lineup for only $40 per month. That includes ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU.

YouTube TV’s biggest strength, however, is support for local channels. If you live in a market served by YouTube TV, you have a better chance of getting your local stations with YouTube TV than with any other streaming TV service.

The cloud DVR service that’s included in YouTube TV’s subscription is the best on the market. You and your family can record as many programs as you want. YouTube won’t delete the recordings until nine months after you make them.

If YouTube TV had a weakness, it was in the slow rollout of YouTube TV apps.This year YouTube TV introduced apps for the most popular streaming boxes.

  • Living room devices: Android TV (but not the Xiaomi Mi Box), Apple TV, Chromecast and Roku.
  • Smart TVs and Blu-ray players: Certain models from LG and Samsung.
  • Mobile devices and tablets: Android and iOS.
  • Game consoles: Xbox One.
  • Desktop browsers: Chrome.

The PlayStation and Amazon’s Fire devices are the only major platforms missing from YouTube TV’s list. A PlayStation app could be in the works. Don’t hold your breath for the Amazon Fire TV Stick. YouTube and Amazon have such a bad relationship that the YouTube TV app for Fire TV may never see the light of day.

ESPN3 on WatchESPN

WatchESPN on iOS
Source: Apple App Store

You can get ESPN3 content on the ESPN site and through the WatchESPN app, which is available on the most popular platforms:

  • Living room devices: Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Chromecast and Roku.
  • Smart TVs and Blu-ray players: None.
  • Mobile devices and tablets: Amazon Fire Tablets, Android and iOS
  • Game consoles: PlayStation 4, Xbox One.
  • Desktop browsers: Chrome and Safari.

Who can use WatchESPN?

TV Everywhere in WatchESPN App
The WatchESPN app requires a TV provider. Source:

ESPN doesn’t make it easy for people to watch sports on its apps. Like apps from many other TV channels, the WatchESPN app is part of the TV Everywhere program. The app only unlocks its content when you log in using the credentials from a TV provider.

In the past, “TV provider” has always meant cable or satellite company– but not anymore. All the streaming services mentioned above work with TV Everywhere. All you have to do is open the WatchESPN app, tap one of the live streams, then pick the streaming service you subscribe to from the list.

Once you enter your login credentials, you’ll have access to ESPN3’s live and on-demand content. You’ll also have access to content from the other ESPN channels, too.

ESPN3’s internet-only option

There are ways to get ESPN3 without cable that don’t involve signing up for a streaming TV service. ESPN will grant free access to ESPN3 content (but not the other channels) depending on how you get your internet.

Anyone accessing the internet from an American college campus gets complimentary access to ESPN3. The same is true for anyone accessing the internet from a US military-operated network anywhere in the world.

For everybody else, access to ESPN3 depends on your internet service provider. Broadband subscribers to Comcast/Xfinity and Cox Communications, for example, can get ESPN3 free of charge.

There is a catch, of course. You can only watch ESPN3 content on a desktop or laptop computer on your home network. The WatchESPN app on any other device will not recognize your ISP.

Whether you run WatchESPN on a streaming box like the Roku or on a smartphone, you have to log in with a TV provider. Subscribing to one of the streaming TV services is the only way to use an app to watch ESPN3 without cable.