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 for fans.
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. Some games even come with live stats and analysis when you watch them with the ESPN app. 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). 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.
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 Fubo or Sling to catch the big game.
ESPN+ is one of the cheapest streaming apps we reviewed at just $10 per month or $100 per year. You can even bundle it with Hulu and Disney+, which helps you save more than $10 per month—making ESPN+ a sort of free add-on. You could spend just $13 for all three ($20 for commercial-free Hulu), then add an inexpensive live streaming service like fubo or YouTubeTV to cover all your bases.
Unfortunately, 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 that many fans don’t see coming. For starters, you won’t get any actual ESPN channels, so you’ll be disappointed if you sign up hoping to get ESPN1, 2, or 3, or other channels like ESPN U, Longhorn, SEC, or ACC. 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 if you want that.
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. 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.
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 addition to adding exclusive content to the regular ESPN app and browser experience, ESPN+ adds some extra features like joining a fantasy league and live stats and scores for some events. But beyond that, ESPN+ doesn’t have as many features as other live streaming services—and that made it hard to use at times.
Ability to watch: Great
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.
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.
Ability to record: Bad
ESPN+ lets you download some content to watch offline, but there’s no DVR capability. 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. But if we missed a live game and ESPN removed the replay, it was just gone.
Ability to find: Fine
Finding shows on ESPN+ is easier in a browser than with the app, but neither is stellar. 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.
On the app, it got tough to find the events and shows we wanted. There’s no Live/Replay section to find currently or recently playing events. 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. There’s also no “Continue watching” section (though the browser version has it), so we had a hard time picking up 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.
Finally, there are no parental controls with ESPN+. While this streaming service was specific enough to quiet some of our concerns—we knew we wouldn’t log our kids in to watch cartoons and come back to find them watching a horror flick—we wanted more control over screen time and the kinds of sports content they watch. The lack of parental controls made us wary of sharing login credentials, which meant more active monitoring on our part.
Ability to share: Fine
ESPN+ doesn’t seem to be designed for sharing. It doesn’t have multiple user profiles and many events prompt you to input your location before they’ll play. 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.
The ESPN+ website is overall very usable, but we’d like to see clearer pricing right away. You have to click the tiny print for terms or scroll down to the bottom and open an accordion to find out how much a subscription costs. If you miss these clues, you’ll have to give ESPN+ your email address before you know how much the service even costs.
Getting help is easy—at least, after you scroll to the bottom of the ESPN+ website homepage again. There, you’ll find step-by-step instructions and troubleshooting tips, videos, and contact options—including a live chat option. There’s even an entire section for troubleshooting UFC PPV events—though our biggest takeaway here was to purchase an event on the app at least 30 minutes before the event, or it may not go through the Apple Store or Google Play before the event starts.
Generally, people seem to like ESPN+ customer service representatives. However, many users seem to have trouble canceling their subscriptions, especially if they purchased it through a third party like Apple or Verizon. Some went as far as freezing or canceling a credit card to make the monthly fees stop, but most customers were able to cancel in a few minutes if they used live chat to talk to a representative. As for us, we purchased our subscription through a browser directly on the ESPN+ website and could easily cancel the same way.