Over the past year, ESPN’s business model has changed, both from a broadcast and digital perspective. Now “The Worldwide Leader in Sports” is putting a greater emphasis on its additional paid service, ESPN+. Not meant as a replacement for the cable channel, it’s a subscription add-on to ESPN that is quickly becoming essential for sports fan who doesn’t have a cable subscription to access ESPN’s content and coverage.
ESPN+ also has grown to encompass ESPN Insider, ESPN.com’s paid subscription that provided access to “Insider” content like special analysis, fantasy sports content, and more. Today, more and more content qualifies as “Insider” material, making ESPN+ a more essential service for sports fans, especially if you follow ESPN’s top analysts like Zach Lowe and Bill Barnwell. Additionally, subscribers get exclusive access to certain sports coverage, events, shows, and more.
If you want more access to sports news, games, shows, documentaries, and more, ESPN+ is a great investment. Here’s what you need to know before you subscribe.
If it seems right for you, there are three different subscription models. Currently, you’ll pay $6 per month or $60 per year for the services, but the parent company Disney recently announced that as of August 13, 2021, an ESPN+ subscription will cost either $7 per month or $70 annually, a $1 and $10 increase, respectively. While more expensive upfront, the yearly subscription model saves you $12 per year. ESPN also offers occasional deals that bundle yearly ESPN+ subscriptions with UFC pay-per-views, so if you’re a fan of both, keep an eye out and you may be able to save a few bucks.
Also, if you want to watch ESPN+, the Disney+ streaming service, and Hulu streaming, you can get them all in a package — called the Disney+ Bundle — that costs just $13 a month. That price remained unchanged when Disney increased ESPN+’s cost.
Watching live ESPN channels still will require a paid TV subscription, whether from cable, satellite, or a live TV streaming service. The app acts as a gatekeeper by requiring users to sign in with their TV provider account to enable live viewing. If you need help finding a streaming TV provider, take a look at our live TV streaming services guide.
If you decide the service isn’t meeting your needs, you can cancel your subscription at any time, with no strings attached.
Most importantly, ESPN+ gives you access to ESPN Insider content on ESPN.com. In the last few months, ESPN began putting significant amounts of content behind the ESPN+ paywall. This includes basically any non-beat news coverage or analysis from leading writers such as Bill Barnwell and Zach Lowe as well as fantasy sports coverage from Matt Berry, Field Yates, and other experts.
The service includes select live events, including MLB, NHL, NBA, and MLS games as well as college sports, PGA golf, Top Rank Boxing, and Grand Slam tennis matches. You’ll also find the United Soccer League, cricket, rugby, Canadian Football League, English Football League, and UEFA Nations League games.
ESPN+ is becoming a soccer fan’s best friend, too. In addition to the soccer content listed above, ESPN+ has a multiyear deal with the FA Cup — the oldest domestic cup tournament in the world — to stream English football matches in the U.S. Signing up for ESPN+ also grants you access to the Bundesliga, Germany’s top football league, which previously cost $20 through Fox.
The app gives you access to scores, news, sports radio, podcasts, an on-demand library, and certain games and programming not available on ESPN’s cable channels. Plus, there’s a condensed, digital version of the network’s popular SportsCenter roundup each day. ESPN+ is also the only place to find the new, digital version of ESPN’s NFL Prime Time.
It also enhances your existing sports subscriptions. If you happen to subscribe to another premium sports streaming service, like MLB.tv or NHL.tv, you’ll be able to access out-of-market games through the ESPN app.
Furthermore, ESPN owns exclusive rights to UFC pay-per-views, making ESPN+ the only place where you can stream the promotion’s biggest matches. Those events don’t all come free with an ESPN+ subscription, however. UFC Fight Night events are included, but each PPV will cost an extra $70 on top of your existing subscription fees. Here’s where you can stay up-to-date with UFC results, scheduled fights, top fighters, and more.
ESPN is also the exclusive home of Wimbledon and Monday Night Football, and will give ESPN+ subscribers exclusive access to 75 NHL games per year starting in the 2021 season.
In addition to live sports, ESPN+ also includes a wide variety of classic and original ESPN content. ESPN+ is home to the entire 30 for 30 documentary catalog, including hit series like The Last Dance, Long Gone Summer, and O.J Simpson: Made in America. Original programming includes NBA Rooks, which follows NBA rookies in their first season; The Boardroom with KD, Kevin Durant’s show about the business side of sports; Peyton’s Places, Peyton Manning’s show discussing NFL history, current events, interviews, and more; Detail, a show that features elite athletes like Kobe Bryant, Daniel Cormier, Manning, and more breaking down game film as they would in the pros; and much more.
After hiring House of Highlights founder Omar Raja, ESPN also renewed its commitment to digital programming by renovating a 2,750-square-foot studio space dedicated to all things digital. Now, ESPN plans to air more than 500 live original shows across ESPN+ and other platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat, and Facebook.
Critically for sports content, video can be streamed at up to 60 frames per second, though this will increase your data charges if you’re watching on a mobile device. Unfortunately, one area where ESPN+ is a lot like its cable channel sibling is advertising. Despite the subscription model, you’ll still encounter a limited number of ads while watching live programming.
On the bright side, if you happen to miss the first part of a game, you can watch live content from the beginning, even if you start watching late. Not everyone has been thrilled with the service’s performance, however, and past production problems have forced ESPN+ to issue apologies.
The ESPN streaming app is available on almost every streaming device and platform we can think of, including Android smartphones, Android TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, Fire TV Stick, Fire TV Cube, Fire TV Smart TVs, Fire/Kindle tablets, Apple TV, iPhone, iPad, Roku, Oculus Go, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Samsung Smart TVs. A pretty comprehensive list, as you can probably tell.
Ideally, platforms like LG’s WebOS and Vizio’s SmartCast will jump on the list soon. For the time being, however, Vizio owners can use their TV’s built-in Chromecast function to access ESPN+. This is a pretty limitless option, excluding the fact that you must be in the U.S. to watch. At this time, there are no international plans — which could be a sticking point for some viewers. While this could very well change soon, we aren’t sure when it will, so we’ll share updates as they come to us. Barring production issues, though, there’s not much to complain about with ESPN+.
Of course, ongoing updates and new developments mean ESPN+ is likely to evolve even more. For now, you can learn more about the service on the ESPN Media Zone website. Smartphone viewers also can download the dedicated ESPN mobile app via the App Store or Google Play.
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