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ESPN Streaming Service Review: Best for Live Sports

Owlrating’s best pick for sports fans. It provides an affordable means of watching select live sports and original ESPN shows but lacks its flagship live programming.

ESPN streaming service

ESPN streaming service

ESPN offers broad coverage of men’s and women’s NCAA sports like ice hockey, baseball, field hockey, among other games.

  • Brand: ESPN
  • Live TV: Yes
  • Founded: 1979


ESPN offers a solid lineup of on-demand and live sports on the cheap. You can also access its top 30 for 30 and E:60 productions though it doesn't air live in the NBA and NFL broadcasts.


  • Affordable
  • Access to on-demand ESPN’s high-quality shows
  • Supports offline streaming on mobile


  • No live NBA or NFL games
Streaming speed
Ease of use
Value for money

The details

ESPN, the world’s leading sports channel, is the most popular among many sports fans. However, over the past year, the network introduced a paid service that offers more extensive sports coverage from leading reporters.

ESPN+ provides access to ESPN.com insider content and exclusive access to specific events, shows, and sports coverage. Note, it doesn’t replace the cable channel but a subscription add-on that functions like other streaming services.

Streaming speed

The streaming service requires speeds of 25 Mbps to function correctly. This means you need a stable internet connection to avoid getting interrupted during live sports streaming. As for the video quality, ESPN streams at a mere 720p HD which is readily accessible for most people.

HD videos are just as sharp as Hulu, Netflix, and other upper-tier streaming services and can be streamed on mobile devices easily.

Ease of use

ESPN provides a pretty solid viewing experience, but we found navigating through the cluttered menu a bit challenging on mobile devices. The stream itself is impressive as it’s delivered in HD quality. We tested its quality on a 4-inch iPhone SE screen, and the action was just as crisp as on a desktop or television.

What’s more, the service is equipped with some handy controls that allow you to watch a live stream while perusing other sections of the application. Tap the picture-in-picture icon, and the live stream is reduced to a small window allowing you to check scores.

And if streaming on-demand content, the app remembers where you left off once you pause to handle other tasks. For example, if you switch between programs or make a phone call when viewing, the app remembers where you left off.


ESPN+ isn’t the same as regular streaming services. It complements the main channel without including its core programming. As such, you can watch the whole schedule of live sports events on the service on ESPN’s site without a subscription.

If you’re a sports fanatic, it’s best to subscribe to the service to enjoy its primary content. ESPN+ breaks down content into three areas: live sports, ESPN shows, and ESPN+ originals. It broadcasts the leading national sports leagues held in the US during the first two months of the season (January and February).

It also covers out-of-market MLB games, the NBA G League matchups, and replays of many other games. But if you want to watch NFL or NBA games, you must subscribe to other sports streaming services.

We also found a few ESPN Plus exclusives, including Draft Academy, a behind-the-scenes look at the top players likely to be selected in the upcoming NFL draft. Other original programming includes ESPN FC, the roundtable soccer discussion program, and the night hockey highlight show.

Other sports events featured on this streaming service include 20 PGA tour events, live boxing, and Grand Slam tennis matches. While this is an impressive lineup, you need a cable subscription to enjoy ESPN’s vast programming (NBA games, basketball matchups, and college football).


Its content is wanting compared to other streaming services. While its value lies in its ability to broadcast live sports, we found ESPN+ overpriced. Well, soccer fans are covered given a large number of soccer matches (more than 250) aired. This is because ESPN+ has absorbed the MLS Live Service, known to host Major League Soccer games. Also, having signed a deal with Serie A recently, the streaming service is likely to throw in overseas matches.

Final verdict

Overall, the streaming service provides a decent variety of live sports in an affordable package. However, if you’re a mainstream sports fan, you’re less likely to find enough ESPN content to justify the subscription. This is because ESPN seems to serve the needs of fans with a particular set of passions.

The streaming service could use a few improvements. First, it should consider organizing its menu to make it easy to navigate on mobile apps. Secondly, it can incorporate prompts to remind fans when live sports are scheduled.

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