Do you schedule wake up at odd hours to watch the English Premier League? Have you taken vacation days during Wimbledon, just to watch live coverage? Are you guilty of saving all your beer money, so you can watch Notre Dame football at Matt’s Bar while enjoying the original Jucy Lucy?
While watching sports on an actual TV has it’s place, building your life around sports coverage can be exhausting- just ask anyone who is a fan of less popular olympic sports like Badminton. And paying for all the sports coverage you want, can add up in a hurry. Instead of paying for everything, these are a few ways to watch sports coverage for free online.
How To Watch Just The Highlights
If your primary interest in watching sports online is knowing what to say when coworkers start talking about the big game, you can get away with watching just a few highlights. ESPN.com consistently offers free highlight reels that cover all the most important plays on all major sports (and quite a few minor sports too).
If ESPN doesn’t have you covered with free highlights (perhaps you’re a fan of fencing or team handball), YouTube will have you covered.
CBS Sports and NBC sports also offer free highlights.
How To Watch Sports For Free By Streaming
Although the highlight reels are good for casual fans, streaming live coverage (for free) is the true fan’s desire.
Watch From The Networks
Before diving into the “secret world” of live sports streaming, it’s worthwhile to know what sports coverage you can get live directly from the Networks. Live streaming from major TV networks like NBC, CBS, ESPN or sports center is ideal because these sites won’t bug you with invasive pop-ups or bog down your computer with malware. The downside to trying to live stream from the major networks is that you’re generally limited to live coverage that you could get just by flipping on the TV.
The three best places to find legitimate sports coverage include ESPN.com, CBS Sports, NBC sports (and NBC’s affiliated sports sites such as NBC Olympics). Some of the smaller sports can be found by watching Facebook Watch (just type sports, or volleyball, or whatever you want to watch to see if it’s being covered).
Also, remember that some sports are also now streamed on Amazon Prime (such as NFL Thursday Night Football), and on Apple TV Sports.
Other Ways To Watch Live Sports
Once you leave the world of network streaming, the most important task isn’t finding the live streams (we’ll cover that in a minute). It’s figuring out how to protect yourself from invasive pop-ups and malware.
If you’re going to stream live sports from anything other than a local network, you need to install an ad-blocker. AdGuard AdBlock and Opera Browser are my two favorite ad blockers for Chrome browsing (right now I use Opera). If you use an alternative browser, try to find an ad blocker using this article. Ad blockers not only enhance your viewing experience, they can also protect you from accidentally clicking onto malware, so download an ad-blocker even if you’re using a browser like DuckDuckGo.
On top of an ad-blocker, you’re going to need an antivirus software. AVG is a perennial favorite since it’s free and high quality. If you’re not a fan of AVG, you can simply search for the best antivirus software options, and you’ll find dozens of free options for every computer and browser you could want.
Once you’ve got yourself protected, the key is to find the games you want to watch. NCAA sports and most professional sports are pretty easy to find by following Reddit threads about live streaming. The suggestions you’ll find on these streams are usually 100% free, although you’ll also find discussion threads on paid streaming services. Whenever you’re looking for a game, you’ll want to follow the specific Game Thread (including date and time) to get the best and most up to date information.
Depending on the sketchiness of the free streaming, you might have a game shutdown in mid-broadcast. That’s why it pays to follow the reddit thread (which allows Redditors to submit multiple links).
Most of these sub-Reddits have bots that clean up the old threads, so they are easy to follow.
- Hockey streams (mostly NHL, but other hockey is allowed through subreddits): r/puckstreams
- NCAA College basketball (you can request any game you want, but many times the NCAA games focus on the best teams in Division I basketball) r/ncaaBBallStreams
- Rugby streams (mostly pro): r/rugbystreams/
- Golf Streams (not as up to date as other sports threads): r/PuttStreams/
- MLB streams: r/MLBstreams
- WWE streams (we all know it’s fake, but we can call it a sport): r/WWEstreams/
How To Watch Sports Online With Low Cost Paid Options
If you’re interested in watching sports, but not interested in destroying your computer, you may be able to protect yourself by opting into a few services. These are the top three considerations for sports fans anywhere.
VPN: VPN or virtual private networks allow you to choose your IP address for browsing the internet. That might not sound like a big deal, but if you want to watch La Liga or the English Premier league for free, the safest way is to log watch the stream via a local TV network. This is impossible if you’re logged in through your Sacramento IP address, but it’s pretty easy if you can pretend you’re located in London.
You can find VPN subscription services for less than $10 per month (consider NordVPN as a low cost option). By itself, VPN won’t get you every sport you want to watch (especially if you want to watch boxing or other typical pay-per-view sports), but it will get you any network coverage you want. Most devices can be programmed using VPN which could allow you to watch international sports as if you’re a local.
Is this legal? It’s possible that using VPN to access an alternative IP address is a breach of copyright law in one country or another. At the very least, it’s a legal gray area, so consider this option with caution.
Sling TV: Sling offers EPSN, the NFL network, Fox Sport (select markets) and NBC sports (some regional markets). The cost for all of the sports channels is $35 per month. Overall, it’s not a bad price to pay for all the sports (and other TV) you can handle.
Roku: Roku is a device that makes streaming anything easier. While you’ll be limited to watching local channels or things freely available online, it’s still a great option with a one time fee. Roku devices are specifically designed to make it nearly impossible to hack into paid cable subscriptions, so don’t see it as a panacea for free sports.
However, Roku will be paired with the IP address on your router, and your router may be compatible with VPN, so you may be able to watch regional sports by adjusting your Router’s IP address. Again, this is a legal gray area, so it’s not necessarily the right choice for everyone.
While there are a lot of options to stream for free, you need to understand the legal obligations of each method for yourself and your country. You don't want to get into trouble for streaming for free, when there are a lot of low cost options that could work just as well.
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him on the About Page, or on his personal site RobertFarrington.com.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.