If you are a sports fan on a budget, there is no perfect option when it comes to watching all the live sports you want on TV. Here’s a breakdown of four options, with the pluses and minuses for each:
What you get: With a mid-to-upper-level package, you get access to hundreds of channels and tons of sports programming, including pretty much every game a local team plays.
Advantages: It’s simple and usually reliable. You pay for it and you know you can watch what you want.
Disadvantages: Often requires a multiyear contract, and rates tend to jump after introductory offers. You end up paying for a lot of channels you don’t watch.
Cost: Introductory rates are usually enticing, particularly when bundled with high-speed Internet or other services. Long-term, though, your bill for cable/satelitte plus Internet can easily reach $150/month or more.
Internet and heavy streaming:
What you get: Many leagues offer season-long packages of games streamed through devices like a Roku or Apple TV ($60-$80 one-time purchase, roughly) and onto your television. The NHL package, for instance, is $100 a year; MLB’s package is $130 per year. In this case, you’re getting access to more games in a specific sport than if you had cable or satellite.
Advantages: It’s great for fans of specific leagues who don’t want a traditional cable subscription.
Disadvantages: Local teams are blacked out. If you’re a Twins or Wild fan living in Woodbury, you’re out of luck. If you’re a Twins or Wild fan living in Arizona, you would get almost every game.
Cost: You still need high-speed Internet (cost of that varies, but count on $50-60 per month after promotional periods end), but the average monthly cost for Internet and streaming packages is far cheaper than cable/satellite.
What you get: Launched in February, it’s a package of 16 channels, including ESPN, ESPN2, TNT and TBS, that is available through a streaming device without a contract for $20 per month — with no other fees.
Advantages: If you are a casual sports fan wanting highlights and major events, having just ESPN and ESPN2 for that low of a month fee could be enticing. You can add a package that includes ESPNU and the SEC Network for an additional $5 per month.
Disadvantages: Regional sports networks like Fox Sports North and the Big Ten Network are not included, so most local team games are out of reach.
Cost: $20 a month, plus high speed Internet.
What you get: Whatever a friend or relative willing to share a cable/satellite streaming password gives you.
Advantages: You get access to shows and sports without having to pay for them (assuming the sharer doesn’t want anything in return except a hug or high-five).
Disadvantages: It’s an ethical gray area, to say the least, and cable/satellite companies could start cracking down on this more if they fear it is cutting into their business.
Cost: Free TV, but you will need high speed Internet still to stream.