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.
Optimum offers exceptional value. You get tons of channels, a solid DVR, and a good selection of sports and premium channels for a very reasonable price. Despite some additional fees, Optimum is an excellent choice.
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.
Optimum TV offers excellent value, whether you live in an area that gets only cable internet or one wired for fiber-to-the-home. Internet-basedTV packages are available for as little as $30 per month (for basic TV), while the higher-tier plans offer high channel counts for the price. There are as many as 420+ channels available—one of the highest channel counts of any provider.
All those channels aren’t just for show, either. The lineup includes all the most popular networks, including CBS, NBC, ESPN, HGTV, Univision, and History. Finally, the internet service is also a fantastic value, offering faster speeds for the money than many competitors.
There's a 2-year price lock on most plans, which is great! Prices go up in the third year of TV service, though, and the company doesn't say by how much. We've heard customers complain about price hikes in the range of $85–$115, though, and that's just for TV. Since you also need internet, your price could balloon by $200 per month by year three.
You may be able to save on your bill by calling in and threatening to switch to a competitor, so we recommend it!
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.
Optimum’s Cloud DVR system offers up to 150 hours of storage for your favorite shows and movies, and you can record up to 15 shows at the same time—perfect for large families or households with lots of roommates. The system comes with all the modern features we expect from a DVR: voice control, an Apple TV app, support for streaming services, and more.
You can also access your DVR and on-demand content from your iPhone, iPad, or Android device with the provider’s app. Our only gripe is that the DVR storage is costly—more than $20 per month for the full 150 hours, in addition to the fee for renting the box. You'll also be charged a DVR service fee for every set-top box you rent.
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.
Optimum gives you the first set-top box for free, but you'll be charged an additional $10 per month each if you want to upgrade to an Apple TV or lease additional boxes. The equipment itself is more-or-less on par with other providers and should serve most users just fine.
Installation is a little complicated to explain, although the actual appointment should be simple enough. There are two cost structures for installation: one for customers who order online, and one for those who don’t.
If you order online, standard professional installation is free, or you can pay around $60 for a premium installation service if you want the technician to help set up your devices and walk you through using the service. If you don’t order online, these standard installation costs about $100 and premium installation costs about $150. You can also get an Optimum self-installation kit, which is a nice option if your home is already wired for service.
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.
Optimum offers all the expected premium channels, with the exception of EPIX, and prices are about average. Some packages also include premium channels in the price: the Premier package, for example, includes HBO Max, SHOWTIME, and STARZ.
Optimum also offers a Sports Pack, which includes more than 20 popular channels for $15 per month. You get NFL Network, NFL RedZone, NBA TV, the Golf Channel, and more. The higher-tier packages also include a number of channels by default—sports aficionados should opt for at least the Select TV plan to get the best selection.
If Optimum's offerings aren't quite right, you're in luck! A lot of games and matches are now available via streaming or over the air. Find out how to watch the MLB, how to watch pro football, and how to watch the NHL.