Can you cut the cord and still watch sports?

DETROIT, MI - APRIL 04: Rajai Davis #20, of the Detroit Tigers celebrates a win with his teammates over the Baltimore Orioles at Comerica Park on April 4, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan. The Tigers defeated the Orioles 10-4 (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Can you do without your favorite team? As sports programming gets more and more expensive, you may have to make choices. It’s a sad but true fact that even though sports teams play in stadiums funded by cities, use police and public transport funded by the taxpayer, it’s often impossible to see your local games for free. I personally think that’s very unfair, but it’s a fact of life.

Of course, things are even worse if you are a “displaced fan,” a follower of some team beyond the local area. It may be impossible to see your team’s games without paying through the nose. And the thing is, that probably isn’t going to change. Let’s look at the “major” sports and see what, if anything, you can see for free.

Football is probably the best sport for people who don’t want to pay. Most teams still allow their games to be broadcast over the air for free in local cities. On the other hand, if you’re looking for other teams that play in other areas, it quickly becomes the most expensive. DIRECTV NFL Sunday Ticket is the only place to see football nationwide other than a few games here and there. In order to get it, you’ll need a DIRECTV package and the NFL package itself is fairly pricey.

Stock car racing occasionally shows up on free TV, and the relatively small number of races means you’ll have a chance to see most of the action. However, there isn’t a streaming package so basically you either see it or you don’t.

In terms of cord-cutter friendliness, baseball comes next. Most cities don’t have baseball on local channels, but the MLB.TV package is reasonably priced and you can cancel any time if your team isn’t doing well. They also offer free games of the day if you’re looking to cut corners and still enjoy the boys of summer.

Basketball, Hockey, and Soccer
These all fall in the same category. Some cities broadcast over the air on one or two of these sports, but there isn’t a way to see games outside the local area unless you have a cable or satellite subscription. DIRECTV is the best source here.

College Sports
There are some parts of the country — not many — that broadcast college sports. In order to see most of the action a cable or satellite subscription is mandatory

Live Sports and Commentary
If you’re looking for ESPN or something like that, you’ll find it on some of the streaming packages like DIRECTV NOW and Sling TV. These are low-priced alternatives to cable and satellite, although including all the sports you want can drive prices up.

The bottom line here is that traditional cable and satellite is still the best place to get sports. In most cases, DIRECTV wins out, but there are a few channels that DIRECTV doesn’t have and you may want to look for another provider. The real holdouts here are the Pac 12 network which is not on DIRECTV and is on some other providers, and Spectrum SportsNet LA, which carries Dodgers baseball and is only found on Spectrum and a few other providers.

For the time being, streaming and sports aren’t really compatible. The fault for that lies with the sports leagues themselves; they want to charge far too much for streaming rights. Most people cut the cord to save money, so $200 for a season of streaming doesn’t sound like a good deal.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.