One of the most important questions someone will ask when it comes to cord-cutting and switching to streaming TV is this:
How do you watch sports?
To which I respond: I dunno — how did you watch sports before?
Streaming TV isn't some magical, closed-off system in which sports are not invited. In fact, I'm pretty sure I've got access to even more sports than I had with cable. It's all a matter of which service you're using, and which plan you're using with that service.
ESPN and others are still a thing after cord-cutting
By last count, there were something like 13 ESPN channels out there. OK, that's a bit of an exaggeration. But the simple fact is this: If you could watch ESPN before — or Fox Sports, or NBC Sports, or CBS Sports or Whatever Sports — there's a pretty good chance you can find a streaming service that supports it, too.
All the major sports channels are available on all the major streaming services.
Let's look at the Cord Cutters Channel Matrix. ESPN is available on PlayStation Vue, Sling TV, DirecTV Now, Hulu Live, and YouTube TV. Sure, maybe you'll have to check individual plans, but the point is it's available. Same for FS1 and FS2. NBCSN is on all the major services.
When you get into the individual sports, things thin out a little bit. The NFL Network? OK, it's not on DirecTV Now or Hulu Live or YouTube TV. So maybe that's a choice you'll have to make. Or, you can decide to use a second service, or subscribe individually and use Chromecast or AirPlay to get it onto your set.
The point is, there are options. Lots of options. And lots of ways to watch things. Check the plans of each streaming service.
Regional sports are a thing
Regional sports channels are a big deal, too, particularly with streaming. Here in Florida, where I am, we get Fox Sports Sun and Fox Sports Florida. Depending on the service I also have an SEC channel from ESPN available. (I also get the Big Ten Network for some reason, but that works out fine for my Northwestern-graduate wife. No complaints here.)
It can be a little hit and miss, but this is one of the more important parts — take advantage of that free trial period! See which channels are available to you regionally, and adjust as needed.
Over the air is a godsend
Seriously, though, I can't talk enough about what a difference setting up a decent over-the-air antenna makes. You can make do with an indoor antenna, but a proper one mounted outdoors, elevated — and pointing the right direction — is a huge deal.
That means a couple things: First is that I get all the local affiliates of the major networks again. And not in some streaming workaround, which more often than not looks like it's being streamed, and thus doesn't look all that great. But in a proper OTA situation? It's coming in at 1080i, which is more than good enough for me. (Plus, you'll save on data, which is important if your ISP has implemented a cap.
Second: That means no more blackouts. Too many times I went to watch an NFL game on PlayStation Vue to find that it was blacked out there, but available on Amazon Video. Or, ya know, just watch it on my local CBS affiliate instead.
The bottom line
So can you still watch sports after you've cut the cord? Most definitely. Just do the following things:
Figure out which sports channels are important to you. See which services have those sports channels. Check out the regional sports situation. Get a good over-the-air-antenna. Prepare a good tailgate party.
That's it. Game on.
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