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Cord Cutting As a Sports Fan - Fall 2018 Update

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How is it working these days?

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2017 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Five Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

I’m a little late to the party, seeing as we’re already past the Week Zero mile marker, but it’s time for an updated look at all of the services out there that can save you an arm and a leg from your local cable company. As always, these reviews are from the focus of a sports fan, with the priority being LSU. If you’re not a lonely bachelor, it’s important to talk with the other TV viewers in your household about what’s most important to them. No use in getting the Pac 12 Network if you are suddenly without Paw Patrol or The Walking Dead (that’s still a thing, right?). Also, having access to the local broadcast stations is now a big thing for all of these services. I focused on the Lafayette and Baton Rouge markets when researching this, so your mileage may vary in this area.

DIRECTV NOW

Minimum cost for SEC Network: $55

Maximum cost for all available sports networks: $75

DVR: Free, 20 hours

  • ESPN/2/U/News (“TV Anywhere” app access, aka “TVA”)
  • SEC Network (TVA)
  • FS1/2 (TVA)
  • Local Fox Sports (TVA) (See notes)
  • Local NBC Sports (TVA)
  • NBCSN (TVA)
  • Big Ten Network
  • CBS-SN
  • Longhorn Network (in Texas zip codes only)
  • MLB Network
  • NHL Network
  • NBA Network
  • NFL Network
  • Olympic Network
  • Local Fox (KADN, WGMB)
  • Local CBS (WAFB)

Not Available

  • Pac 12 Network
  • NFL Redzone
  • beIN Sports
  • Fox College A/C/P
  • Local ABC
  • Local NBC

Let’s start with the service I’m currently using. DirecTV Now, from AT&T, has been around for a bit more than a year now. I find their software to have the most traditional TV look to it, with a standard grid guide that’ll be familiar to anyone who’s had cable. Live viewing has been rock solid, with excellent picture quality both on mobile and at home.

But there are some serious issues. Playback from the DVR or the On Demand option is often choppy, or will miss whole minutes of a broadcast, no matter how good the connection is. It has a 15 second skip, which isn’t as useful as a 30 second skip, plus it takes so long to reload a feed when you do that that it’s often not worth it. Also, most importantly for a sports fan, there is no option to extend recordings past their end times. So if a game goes long, it will be cut off on the recording.

Also, despite making multiple calls to support, they still do not carry Fox Sports New Orleans as a station, instead giving users in Louisiana Fox Sports Oklahoma, a station for an RSN market hundreds of miles away, for some inexplicable reason. It seems even more crazy given the fact that all of the other services I’m going to mention below don’t have this issue. If you’re a Pelicans fan, it’s pretty much a deal breaker. Another thing to consider as a college sports fan is that, thanks to the never ending stalemate between the Pac 12 and regular old DirecTV, it’s unlikely that P12 Net will ever come to this service.

Speaking of strange decisions, let me again repeat my biggest anguish with the service: Despite the fact that AT&T owns and operates DirecTV Now, you cannot get AT&T Sports Southwest, the home station of the WORLD CHAMPION HOUSTON ASTROS, which is also owned an operated by AT&T. This seems like the easiest thing in the world to do, but they don’t do it. Now, maybe the fact that none of these services offer any of the AT&T/Root Sports RSNs is part of the problem, but it seems like the worst kind of corporate bureaucracy mistake that AT&T can’t put their own station on their own platform.

Now I also need to mention that as someone who has an AT&T cell phone, using DirecTV Now on my phone or a hotspotted tablet doesn’t go against my data plan, which makes it immensely useful while tailgating. Also, I currently only pay $35 a month for the plan that includes the SEC Network thanks to a grandfathered price I got when the service launched in 2017. Without that discount, I’m not sure I wouldn’t have switched to another service by now.

Sling TV

Minimum cost for SEC Network: $30

Maximum cost for all available sports networks: $50

DVR: $5 add on, 50 hours

  • ESPN/2/U/News (TVA)
  • SEC Network (TVA)
  • FS1/2 (TVA)
  • Local Fox Sports (TVA)
  • Local NBC Sports (TVA)
  • NBC-SN (TVA)
  • beIN Sports (TVA)
  • Pac 12 Network (NO TVA, see notes)
  • NFL Network
  • NFL Redzone
  • Local Fox (KADN)
  • Olympic Network
  • NHL Network
  • NBA Network

Not Available

  • MLB Network
  • Longhorn Network
  • Big Ten Network
  • Fox College A/C/P
  • CBS-SN
  • Local ABC
  • Local CBS
  • Local NBC

One of the originators of the business, Sling TV, from Dish Network, has remained the low price leader in this space, and its variety of options, especially for programming from international markets, is second to none. They’ve also got some interesting technical innovations that set them apart from these other services.

Sling still uses an ESPN/ FOX-NBC split to give users options and keep costs down, but that can be an issue if you’re looking to watch more than just LSU. Sure, you can get the SEC Network for just $30, but that wont include the Fox or NBC Sports networks. While they do offer the Pac 12 network and all six of it’s regional stations, that oddly doesn’t include access to the P12 Now mobile app. Also, the Big Ten and CBSSN networks not being available at all may be a deal breaker for a college sports fan.

Sling TV does have a lot of cool technology though. They integrate ESPN3 and SECN+ games right into their program guide and you can tune to those games as easy as changing the channel. That’s a less useful feature now that ESPN+ is grabbing up so much of what used to be on ESPN3, but it’s still neat. Sling also offers a set-top box that integrates local over-the-air channels from an antenna into their program guide, a neat work-around for the lack of local stations they carry in the service.

PS Vue

Minimum cost for SEC Network: $50

Maximum cost for all available sports networks: $70

DVR: Unlimited, but 28 day save limit and other restrictions.

  • ESPN/2/U/News (TVA)
  • SEC Network (TVA)
  • FS1/2 (TVA)
  • Local Fox Sports (TVA)
  • Local NBC Sports (TVA)
  • Local CBS (WAFB)
  • NBC-SN (TVA)
  • NFL Network
  • NFL Redzone
  • NBA Network
  • MLB Network
  • Longhorn Network (TVA)
  • CBS-SN
  • Big Ten Network (TVA)
  • Fox College A/C/P

Not Available

  • Pac 12 Network
  • beIN Sports
  • NHL Network
  • Local Fox
  • Local ABC
  • Local NBC

PlayStation Vue (which, as is always needed to be said, you do not need to own a PlayStation to use) continues to be on of the better rated options in the OTT streaming market, despite warnings from Sony Execs that they just don’t know what to do with it. Its non-traditional guide layout that focuses on shows rather than channels isn’t ideal for channel surfing on a gameday, but features like their three-channel Multi-View give you new ways to watch. Vue has also fixed a long standing issue I’ve had with the service where viewing outside of you home network was extremely limited. Now you just have to check in once every couple of months.

Vue had been one of the better options for local stations nationwide, but a carriage fight with Sinclair ended messily. They also recently cut out beIN sports, home to some of the CUSA football slate. On the plus side, this is one of the few services where you can get Longhorn Network nationwide. That unlimited DVR is nice, but be aware that it will switch your recordings to On Demand versions depending on the show, which can be frustrating.

Hulu Live

Minimum cost for SEC Network: $40

Maximum cost for all available sports networks: $40

DVR: Free, 50 hours, upgradeable

  • ESPN/2/U/News (TVA)
  • SEC Network (TVA)
  • Big Ten Network
  • FS1/2 (TVA)
  • Local Fox Sports (TVA)
  • Local NBC Sports (TVA)
  • NBC-SN (TVA)
  • CBS-SN
  • Local ABC (KATC, WBRZ)
  • Local Fox (KADN, WGMB)
  • Local CBS (WAFB)
  • Olympic Network

Not Available

  • MLB Network
  • NFL Network
  • NFL Redzone
  • NHL Network
  • NBA Network
  • Longhorn Network
  • beIN Sports
  • Pac 12 Network
  • Fox College A/C/P
  • Local NBC

Hulu Live really hasn’t changed much at all since it launched last year. The lineup is the same, with a few more locals available, and they still have the single price for service that includes access to Hulu’s regular video streaming service. Their software is still clunky to use when trying to just switch channels in a live sports setting. It also still has strange location restrictions that, thanks to the improvements by PS Vue, are now the worst in the industry. Still, that price is pretty good, especially if you’re folding an existing subscription to regular Hulu into it.

YouTube TV

Minimum cost for SEC Network: $40

Maximum cost for all available sports networks: $40

DVR: Unlimited

  • ESPN/2/U/News (TVA)
  • SEC Network (TVA)
  • FS1/2 (TVA)
  • Big Ten Network
  • CBS-SN
  • Local Fox Sports (TVA)
  • Local NBC Sports (TVA)
  • Local Fox (WGMB)
  • Local ABC (WBRZ)
  • Local CBS (WAFB)
  • Local NBC (WVLA)
  • NBC-SN (TVA)
  • MLB Network
  • NBA Network

Not Available

  • Longhorn Network
  • NHL Network
  • beIN Sports
  • Pac 12 Network
  • NFL Redzone
  • Fox College A/C/P

YouTube TV is another service in the Hulu mold, with one catch-all price. It’s got unlimited DVR and no travel restrictions. They’ve also cleared up an issue at launch with the only way to watch it on a regular TV was through chromecasting from another device; they’ve now got apps on every platform. YTTV is the only service here that will guarantee access to all four locals, but for that benefit, YouTube TV is still only available in select markets nationwide. While that includes New Orleans and Baton Rouge, I’m SOL here in Lafayette. I’ve never been able to see it in action, but the SB Nation national staff swears by it.

Fubo TV

Minimum cost for SEC Network: N/A

DVR: 30 hours, upgradeable

  • FS1/2 (TVA)
  • Big Ten Network
  • Local Fox Sports (TVA)
  • Local NBC Sports (NO TVA)
  • NBC-SN (NO TVA)
  • beIN Sports (TVA)
  • Pac 12 Network (TVA)
  • Fox College A/C/P
  • Olympic Network
  • CBS-SN
  • NFL Network
  • NFL Redzone
  • NHL Network
  • NBA Network

Not Available

  • ESPN/2/U/News (“TV Anywhere” app access aka “TVA”)
  • SEC Network (TVA)
  • Longhorn Network
  • MLB Network
  • Local Fox
  • Local ABC
  • Local CBS
  • Local NBC

Fubo TV continues to be the odd duck out of the OTT streaming market. What was once a service dedicated to being the only legal way to stream more obscure European and South American soccer in the US, has now ballooned into a full service OTT option focused on sports. And if soccer is your thing, you can expand your service plan to nearly $200 a month if you want all that Fubo has to offer. It has a fantastic DVR service built from the ground up for recording games that wont cut off the end. And they even keep a 3 day window of most games so that you can still watch something you missed, even if you didn’t set it to record.

Unfortunately, it still has a fatal flaw that makes it a non-starter for most in the US. How can you have a sports-focused video service that doesn’t include ESPN? And with ESPN snatching up the rights to La Liga and warehousing it on ESPN+, Fubo lost one of it’s biggest draws.

But somehow, they keep chugging along. If, one day, Fubo adds the ESPN family, it will be a big contender as the best platform for sports fans. But you can’t be that when you don’t have the biggest sports network on the planet.


So, another year has passed and we’re still kinda stuck in the same situation. There is still no perfect option that has every station that will air D1 CFB games this fall. And frustratingly, they all seem to fall 1 or 2 channels short of being complete. In the three years since I cut the cable, I haven’t regretted it. The money I’ve saved has been great, and the platforms are all mature and stable. The market has grown by millions, and it looks like most of these platforms are here to stay.

I’m still using DirecTV Now, but I think I would recommend YouTube TV as the one to try. It seems to offer the best value for dollar for an LSU fan. If they ever expand service to the Lafayette area, I’d be tempted to switch. One of the great things about all these services is no contracts, so you can always just try them until you find what fits, or even turn them all off in the dead of summer.

How are you all going to be watching LSU this season? Is there a service I haven’t heard about? Let us know in the comments.

(As I always have to do on this post, discussion of illegal methods of streaming sports, “Kodi plugins”, “unlocked boxes” etc. will not be tolerated here. Yes, piracy exists and is pretty easy. Go talk about it somewhere else. Consider this the only warning you will get before an account ban. Do not test me.)