Made up of brands Wave, RCN, Grande, and enTouch, Astound offers internet-based entertainment that uses TiVo, Sling TV, and the Google Play store. Fabulous first-year pricing includes internet, but if you want premium perks or a provider you can grow old with, swipe left on this one.
We loved how much extra sports content ESPN+ served up, but we couldn’t get around pay-per-view fees or regional blackouts. ESPN+ won’t replace our other live streaming services or help us cut the cord, but it makes for a great add-on. Superfans will love it. Everyone else? Maybe not so much.
Astound’s base plans are pretty standard compared to competitors, and initial costs are low. However, if you start adding custom channels, costs quickly add up. Plus, after a year-long honeymoon with great introductory rates, Astound turns up the heat and quickly drains your bank account. Although Astound leans on Sling TV to deliver its live TV channels, it offers a better experience and more channels than just Sling alone.
Astound sells its TV and internet plans together. First, you’ll pick your internet plan, then you can add a TV plan. Whichever TV plan you choose, you’ll stream all your shows over your Astound internet connection, so getting the right internet plan is critical. If you’re a small household that doesn’t stream a ton of HD content, a 110 Mbps internet plan could be plenty. But if you want to take full advantage of Astound’s 4k streaming capabilities, we recommend at least the 400 Mbps plan.
ESPN has a history of making it expensive to be a sports fan, and ESPN+ carries on the tradition. Since its launch in 2018, the monthly price has doubled from $5 to $10, and it comes with a ton of hidden costs many fans don’t see coming. For starters, you won’t get any actual ESPN channels, so if you sign up hoping to get ESPN1, 2, or 3, or other channels like ESPN U, Longhorn, SEC, or ACC, you’ll be disappointed. Technically, you can watch these channels from ESPN+, but you’ll still have to log in with credentials from a cable TV or other streaming provider that has these channels. Cord cutters take note: you’ll still have to pay for live TV.
Speaking of needing more credentials, you won’t get around regional sports fees or blackouts—nor will you get a discount on pay-per-view events, like numbered UFC matches. If you’re hoping ESPN+ will save you money on sports entertainment, you’re in for a rude awakening—especially since ESPN+ doesn’t have a free trial.
In ESPN+’s defense, it has some great content (and a monopoly on most of it). You’ll get a ton of top-notch sports documentaries, news, and commentary shows. You’ll get some live professional and college events, including football, basketball, baseball, soccer, golf, tennis, hockey, MMA, and more. Some games even come with live stats and analysis when you watch them with the ESPN app. An ESPN+ subscription also gives you access to multiple daily articles so you can read about last night’s game even if you missed it. But there’s little chance ESPN+ will be your one and only source of sports content simply because it's unlikely to have all your team’s games. It’s probably best as a supplementary service for superfans, not a replacement for other live TV streaming services.
Our advice? Bundle your ESPN+ subscription with Disney+ and Hulu for a total cost of $13 per month ($20 with ad-free Disney+ and Hulu), then grab a low-cost live TV streaming service like fuboTV. You’ll pay around what you would for traditional cable while getting all the sports you could want, plus content for everyone else in your household too.
Astound leans on TiVo’s Stream 4k device to combine the capabilities of a DVR, live TV (via Sling), and streaming services (via Android apps). If that sounds like a lot of stuff to try to sort through while your popcorn gets cold, you can use the voice button on the remote to tell your TiVo what you’re looking for—or ask it to give you a few curated options.
If you ever want to leave your couch (like, say, to run out and get more popcorn), you can use the Astound TV+ app to watch shows in line at the quickie mart, tap into a respectable 125 included hours of Cloud DVR storage, or schedule a future recording. Register up to 12 devices, and watch on up to five at a time.
ESPN+ has tons of live (and replay) sports to stream, including NFL, UFC, multiple international soccer leagues, the US Open, PGA, X games, NHL, and a multitude of college sports, to name just a few. This service even helped us discover the rising Indian sport kabaddi, which is like watching adults on the playground at recess. It’s just delightful. You’ll also get a metric ton of documentaries like the 30 for 30 and E60 series, which cover everything from Payton Manning’s life story to the history of boxing. There’s even an entire series following the Savannah Bananas, a team putting an entertaining spin on baseball (seriously, check out Banana Ball).
Unfortunately, if you’re hoping to get around regional sports fees or blackouts to watch your favorite local teams, ESPN+ won’t help you there. You have to share your location to watch certain games. And depending on the rules in your area, there’s a good chance you’ll still need to add your login credentials from a cable TV provider or another live TV streaming service like fuboTV or Sling TV to catch the big game.
The worst offense, however, is ESPN+’s hidden UFC costs. Although the ESPN+ website touts “unrivaled UFC access,” you’ll still have to cough up a whopping $75 for each pay-per-view Fight Night game on top of your ESPN+ subscription. That’s a jab to the faces of MMA fans if we ever saw one.
Astound uses a mix of cable, DSL, and fiber infrastructure, so depending on where you live, performance could vary widely. Your Wi-Fi router is your new best friend because you’ll be streaming everything, even live TV (Astound uses Sling for this). You aren’t required to run wires from a modem to your Stream 4k box, but you might experience more interference or have a harder time troubleshooting if you don’t. Because Wi-Fi.
Equipment costs with Astound vary based on where you live, and therefore whether you’re using Astound powered by Wave, RCN, Grande, or enTouch. Generally, equipment rental costs are low—just remember you’ll need to budget for both internet gear (like a modem and Wi-Fi router) and TV gear (like a DVR player).
Astound has a free self-setup option and often runs promotions for free professional installation (otherwise around $80). If your house already has working coax outlets, you’ll probably get off scot-free with no installation costs.
In addition to adding exclusive content to the regular ESPN app and browser experience, ESPN+ adds the ability to read exclusive articles and join fantasy leagues for multiple sports. On the app, we liked that some events provided game stats and other graphics before the video when our devices were in portrait mode. It helped longtime fans get a fast glimpse of the game while multitasking, and helped the non-fans among us learn about a new sport.
Beyond that, ESPN+ doesn’t have as many features as other live streaming services. There’s no DVR capability, so if you miss a live game and ESPN removes the replay, it’s just gone. We were able to download some of the documentary content to watch offline, but no actual events. It was useful for calming our sports cravings on the go, but it wouldn’t satisfy us on an hours-long road trip or flight. The good news? ESPN+ says you get up to three simultaneous streams—but we were able to get five going at once without anyone getting kicked off. Looks like ESPN accidentally left some hidden value on the table, and we’ll take what we can get.
Overall, Astound’s Basic and Signature plan channel lineups are about average. The Premier plan has a few premiums included, but you’ll have to add most of these a-la-carte ($15–$19/month), for an additional fee. The upside is you can pick and choose a little more, but you won’t save much, so we’re not that into it.
Unlike many competitors, Astound’s lowest-tier plan (Basic) includes Fox Sports. Its mid-level plan (Signature) is pretty standard and includes sports like ESPN, Fox Sports, TNT, and the Golf and Tennis Channels. A top-tier plan (Premier) adds more music (CMT and MTV) and cartoon channels (like all the Nickelodeons). (1)
ESPN+ builds on the features of the regular (free) ESPN experience. So if you’ve already had the ESPN app, ESPN+ simply adds another tab for its exclusive content. The browser experience is a similar tacking-on of ESPN+ content. That meant we got all the regular ESPN features we were used to, but it was also frustrating to use compared to dedicated streaming apps.
In some formats (like our Chromecast and Samsung smart TVs), getting properly logged into the ESPN+ experience was confusing, because it wasn’t obvious which experience we were logging into: ESPN+ or regular ol’ ESPN. But after a few false starts, we got it working. Unfortunately, the lack of a Live/Replay section made life hard again. To find the kabaddi game we were looking for (a sport which is rarely in the Featured section), we had to dig around in the Browse tab for the correct league (Pro Vivo Kabaddi) to find it.
Fortunately, watching ESPN+ on a browser was easy. We logged in to see the familiar ESPN website with an added ESPN+ bar at the top with all our premium content. The tabs helped us find featured content, documentaries, and live and replay events, or we could hit the Browse tab to choose a specific sport or league. However, the Tools tab left us confused. It took us to an ad for fantasy leagues, then prompted us to sign up for ESPN+... which we clearly already had. It tried to push us into an annual subscription, and when we selected “Skip and get started,” it just took us back to the ESPN+ home screen. We were able to get onto a fantasy league using the Fantasy tab in the top (regular ESPN) navigation bar, which made the Tools tab seem completely pointless.
The app experience was so-so. There was no “Continue watching” section (though the browser version has it), so we had a hard time picking up live where we left off. And switching between the app and the browser was annoying because ESPN+ didn’t remember our progress across platforms. It started up back at the beginning, and we’d spend several minutes trying to find our place again. Ugh.