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What is ESPN Plus? The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide

Looking for the best way to stream sports online? In years past, regional broadcasting restrictions but a big damper on streamers and cord-cutters who wanted to watch live games and fights without cable TV. But times have changed, and fans of boxing, MMA, baseball, football, soccer, and other sports have a great platform for watching live and on-demand content on their computers, smart TVs, mobile devices, and even gaming consoles — no cable or satellite subscription required. That platform is ESPN+. If you’re new to this streaming service and want to know what you’re getting, here’s everything you need to know about ESPN+.

What is ESPN Plus?

The ESPN+ logo on a blue background.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

ESPN+ is a premium streaming platform akin to Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, and Disney+, with the obvious exception that this one is all about sports. In general, live sports content is subject to more strict broadcasting regulations than other programming. These restrictions typically break down according to geography, as different media outlets have broadcasting rights and relationships with different sports leagues.

There are also various legal rights and regulations to deal with when you consider that many major sports, such as UFC and soccer, are enjoyed internationally. All of this combines to weave a complicated web of red tape that broadcasters have to deal with, which has, until lately, made sports streaming difficult. Thankfully, some of these barriers have given way in recent years, while broadcasters like ESPN have managed to make online streaming work with (or around) such restrictions.

If you’re in the U.S., then the biggest sports broadcasters are NBC, Fox, CBS, and ESPN. ESPN might be the biggest of them all, and in 2018, it finally rolled out its own platform for online streaming to much fanfare — that’s ESPN+. Since its debut a few years ago, ESPN+ has grown to become an essential tool for any cord-cutting sports fan to live stream sports online. Along with live games and fights, ESPN+ is also the go-to streaming app for sports-related analysis, press conferences, and interviews, as well as exclusive shows and series like 30 for 30 and Dana White’s Contender Series. Also exclusive to ESPN+ are UFC pay-per-view events, all of which broadcast live only on this streaming platform. That’s due to the relationship between the fighting league and ESPN, and it makes ESPN+ a particular must-have for MMA fans.

How Much is ESPN Plus?

ESPN+ by itself currently costs $7 per month if you want the pay-as-you-go flexibility of a monthly plan, but the better value is to sign up for the annual plan for $70. A monthly subscription will cost you $84 per year while the annual membership is equivalent to ten months, so you’re basically getting two months of ESPN+ for free if you sign up for the yearly subscription instead. You can certainly sign up for ESPN+ as a standalone streaming service if it’s all you want, but you have a couple of other options, too.

Trio of logos for the Disney plus bundle which includes Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu.

Most notably, ESPN+ is part of The Disney Bundle, which is one of our favorite high-value streaming packages out there. It gets you Disney+, ESPN+, and ad-supported Hulu for $14 per month ($20 per month if you want ad-free Hulu), which is a 35% discount on the price of the combined subscriptions. With Disney+, you can enjoy classic and new Disney and Pixar films, exclusive shows, and all the Marvel and Star Wars content that a geek could ask for. Hulu is home to  That’s a ton of entertainment at your fingertips and basically gets you ESPN+ for free.

Want even more? The Disney Bundle was recently rolled into the Hulu with Live TV streaming package, which is designed for cord-cutters looking for a replacement for traditional cable or satellite television subscriptions. This gets you everything you get with the Disney Bundle (including ESPN+, of course), along with more than 75 TV channels. That adds even more sports content to the mix, as those live TV channels include CBS, NBC, and Fox. You also get channels like Adult Swim, Discovery, FX, BET, MTV, and many, many more.

What Devices Support ESPN Plus?

You can watch ESPN+ on virtually any modern device on which you can use other popular streaming services, so you shouldn’t have to worry too much about being able to stream sports and more on whichever platform you prefer. There’s a dedicated ESPN+ app that you can install (and often comes pre-installed) on smart TVs and streaming sticks, as well as mobile devices like Android phones and tablets, iPads, iPhones, and Kindle Fire tablets.

TV platforms that currently support the ESPN+ app include Samsung, Roku, Google Chromecast, Fire TV, and Apple TV — both smart televisions and external streaming devices — as well as Xfinity streaming platforms. The ESPN+ app also works on Xbox and PlayStation gaming consoles. You can watch ESPN+ on the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S. Your subscription lets you stream, record, and watch replays on up to three devices at once.

If you’d like to skip the app altogether, you have another option, and that’s to simply open up your computer’s web browser and watch ESPN+ right on your laptop or desktop PC. There’s no dedicated app or other software necessary to stream ESPN+ in a web browser. This is a great option if you have a desktop battle station (maybe with an ultrawide monitor) that you use for entertainment, or if you travel with a laptop and don’t use a tablet or want to watch sports on a smaller phone screen.

In What Countries is ESPN Plus Available?

As of now, ESPN+ is only available to subscribers residing in the United States. That’s not a huge shocker considering that ESPN is headquartered in the U.S. Unfortunately, it’s also not likely to change any time soon, but there is a workaround for international viewers who want to watch ESPN+ outside of its service area. That workaround is a virtual private network, or VPN.

A VPN encrypts your internet connection and routes it through global remote servers of your choosing. This allows you to access content and online services that you otherwise might be unable to in your current location, and considering that so much sports content is locked behind regional broadcasting walls, a VPN is a good thing to have — especially if you’re not in the U.S. but want to watch ESPN+ for things like UFC pay-per-views.

All you have to do is connect to your VPN, select a U.S.-based server, and then stream ESPN+ to your heart’s content. Most of the best VPN services allow you to assign a static IP address to certain services, too, which is a good idea when logging into your personal accounts. You want to make sure you pick a good virtual private network for streaming, though, as connection speed and reliability are paramount. Our favorite VPN for this is NordVPN . It’s fast, easy to use, has a great set of security features, and is an excellent value. We chose NordVPN as the best VPN for watching international Netflix, so it’s a good fit for other streaming services like ESPN+ and the Disney Bundle as well.

Can You Watch ESPN Plus in 4K?

Unfortunately, as of yet, streamers are unable to watch ESPN+ in 4K. This is not uncommon with streaming apps (in fact, many services charge an extra fee to allow you to stream in 4K), as Ultra HD video requires a lot of bandwidth and a very fast internet connection to stream smoothly. ESPN+ currently supports HD streaming at a maximum resolution of up to 1080p. Your sports will still look great in Full HD, though, and ESPN+ content can also be streamed at 60 frames per second, assuming your TV or streaming device is capable of it.

That higher frame rate is arguably more important than resolution, as fast-paced sports action will look smoother and minute details are admittedly less important when watching things like football or UFC fights than they are with movies and the like. Your local network connection naturally plays a part in this, too — in order to guarantee a steady 1080p stream (especially at 60 fps if that’s what you’re aiming for), you’ll need a fast enough internet service for it.

It’s generally a good idea to use wired ethernet rather than Wi-Fi at-home streaming devices like smart TVs and gaming consoles if you can, although that’s obviously not an option with devices such as smartphones and tablets. If your internet connection isn’t up to snuff, ESPN+ may drop the resolution down to 720p (standard HD) for a while. You probably won’t notice this too much when using a mobile device, however, given the smaller screen. Note that while you cannot watch ESPN+ in 4K, the ESPN channels included in the Hulu with Live TV can be streamed in 4K.

What Sports are on ESPN Plus?

Soccer, MMA, boxing, football, cricket, baseball, rugby, golf, college sports — it’s all there with ESPN+. ESPN has partnered up with a wide array of sports leagues and promotions, so no matter what you’re looking to watch, ESPN+ probably has it. It’s a great way to watch MLB live streams online, and golf fans will be pleased to know that PGA Tour Live is now on ESPN+ as well. There are thousands of live sports games at your fingertips here, including international soccer tournaments, the National Hockey League, professional tennis, and too much more to list here. ESPN+ is also a great destination for streaming live college sports including football, wrestling, basketball, and lacrosse.

If you’re a lover of the ancient art of combat sports, then ESPN+ is a must-have. ESPN and the Ultimate Fighting Championship have a very tight relationship, and ESPN+ is by far the best way to live stream UFC online. In fact, it’s been the exclusive outlet for watching live UFC pay-per-view events for a few years running now, and that’s not looking like it’s going to change any time soon. That means that if you want to keep up with the largest mixed martial arts league in the world, now’s the time to sign up for ESPN+. You can also watch many Top Rank Boxing fights.

There are some limitations, however, with those aforementioned broadcasting restrictions rearing their ugly heads. ESPN+ only gives you access to a limited number of NFL football games each season, and you can’t watch NBA games at all on this platform. However, you can if you sign up for Hulu with Live TV, as this streaming bundle includes ESPN, NBC, Fox, and CBS television channels along with ESPN+, filling some of the gaps and giving you a more complete package for watching sports online (and one that can pretty much replace your cable altogether).

How to Sign Up for ESPN Plus

If you’re signing up for a basic ESPN+ subscription and not opting for any of the larger streaming plans that include it, the process is pretty straightforward: You either choose the monthly $7 subscription or pay for the $70 annual membership (which is the best value), create your account, download and install the app on whatever devices you’d like to use to watch ESPN+, enter your account credentials on your device(s), and you’re ready to get streaming. As we mentioned above, though, you have some other options for signing up if you’d like more than just ESPN+.

If you want the Disney Bundle, the process is much the same and you can sign up for that right through the ESPN+ page if you wish. Note, however, that you’ll have to install and download three separate apps for ESPN+, Disney+, and Hulu — the Disney Bundle doesn’t come in a single app, unfortunately; it’s only a streaming subscription package. Signing up for Hulu with Live TV isn’t much different, other than that your Hulu will be expanded with live TV channels along with the same shows, movies, and Hulu originals that you get with basic Hulu.

Whether you just want ESPN+, a more complete streaming package with the Disney Bundle, or a complete cable TV replacement with Hulu and Live TV, you’ve got three options for getting ESPN+ and the sign-up process is pretty straightforward. Whatever your streaming needs are, we think that all of these are a pretty good value and you can’t really go wrong with any of them if you’re looking to sign up for ESPN+.

Editors' Recommendations

Lucas Coll
Lucas Coll is a freelance commerce and affiliate writer for The Manual and our tech-focused brother site, Digital Trends…
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