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How to watch the NBA

Headshot of Dave Schafer
Researched by
Dave SchaferContributing Writer
Headshot of Bri Field
Reviewed by
Bri FieldAssigning Editor
Updated 2/9/23

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If you don’t have a way to watch the NBA season, make sure you sort it out before the season starts. In this article, we’ll cover all the different ways you can watch NBA games—cable and satellite, streaming, in-market, and out-of-market. If it’s NBA-related, it’s here. Let’s dive in!

The best ways to watch the NBA

  • DIRECTV: DIRECTV is one of the best TV providers period, and that’s also true for NBA fans. You get tons of sports content and a great DVR.
  • YouTube TV: YouTube TV is our favorite streaming service for the NBA. It’s got all the same content as Hulu + Live TV, but for less money.
  • NBA League Pass: If you want the most NBA possible, you need NBA League Pass. This service gives you all the out-of-market games, so you don’t have to worry about missing any of the action. You can add it to either of the above providers.

If you want to watch every NBA game

Basketball fans who want access to every NBA game will need the following channels and services:

  • ABC (some nationally televised games)
  • ESPN (some nationally televised games)
  • TNT (some nationally televised games)
  • NBA TV (some nationally televised games)
  • Access to regional sports networks (RSNs) (local, in-market games)
  • NBA League Pass (out-of-market games)

What are in-market and out-of-market games?

In-market games either feature your local team or directly impact them in some way (like impacting who your team plays in the playoffs). “Local” might cover a wide geographical range, so make sure to check which team is local to you before choosing a provider. Aside from a handful of nationally broadcast games, all other games are out of market.

Your location affects which games are in-market or out-of-market for you, and the games that aren't aired on a certain channel are said to be "blacked out." If you want to watch only national and local in-market NBA games, having access to regional sports networks and a few national networks may be all you need. But if you're a fan of a non-local team or want all the NBA's games, you'll need access to more channels and NBA League Pass.

How to watch in-market NBA games

In-market NBA games include your local team’s matchups and those that are nationally televised. National games air on ABC, ESPN, TNT, and NBA TV. These are available through most cable and satellite TV providers, as well as many live TV streaming services, like YouTube TV. You can also pick up the ABC games over the air for free with an antenna.

Local games are trickier. They air on regional sports networks, which are widely available on cable and satellite TV plans, but pretty rare to find on streaming services. Only DIRECTV STREAM offers a full range of RSNs, which may be part of why it’s the most expensive live TV streaming service on the market. YouTube TV, fuboTV, and Hulu + Live TV carry a more limited selection.

You can also catch these games on demand with NBA League Pass after they've aired—three hours later for national games and three days later for local games. If you don't mind the delay, you could get away with having only NBA League Pass.

infographic showing the difference between in-market and out-of-market games

How to watch out-of-market NBA games

Out-of-market games are all those that aren’t local and aren’t nationally televised. In other words, these make up the vast majority of games in a given NBA season, so die-hard fans will likely want a way to watch them.

Out-of-market NBA games are available on NBA League Pass. This service carries every out-of-market game and also includes a subscription to NBA TV. You can also opt to remove commercials for an extra fee, which makes this a great package for basketball fans. The catch is that it’s pricey—around $50 per month for the basic plan and $65 per month for the premium plan with no commercials.

How to stream NBA games

Cord-cutting NBA fans have more options than ever for catching live games. Here are some of the best NBA streaming options:

  • DIRECTV STREAM: DIRECTV STREAM is interesting because it’s basically a streamed version of the “regular” satellite DIRECTV. That makes it not only one of the best live streaming services but one of the best TV services period. NBA fans can get all the channels they need here, starting at $69.99 per month.
  • YouTube TV: YouTube TV is a little more affordable, starting at $64.99 per month. This service carries all the essentials for NBA fans, including some in-market games through limited RSNs. YouTube TV is an excellent service overall, with lots of content for everyone, not just basketball fans.
  • Sling TV: Sling TV takes the crown as one of the most affordable live TV streaming services, with prices starting under $50 per month. It offers most of what NBA fans need, but not everything. There are no RSNs, which means no local in-market games. There is also no ABC, which seems like an odd oversight. Still, for the price, Sling TV is hard to beat.
  • Hulu + Live TV: Hulu + Live TV is a live streaming service that offers a similar NBA lineup to YouTube TV. In other words, it has everything you need, with the exception of RSNs. Starts at $69.99 per month.

DIRECTV is a slam dunk

If you’re a basketball fan, it doesn’t get much better than DIRECTV. This provider, combined with NBA League Pass, is the best way to watch the NBA this season. Streamers can get a great experience with YouTube TV.

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Contributing researcher
Headshot of Dave Schafer
Researched by
Dave SchaferContributing Writer

Dave Schafer is a freelance writer with a passion for making technical concepts easy for anyone to understand. He’s been covering the world of gadgets, tech, and the internet for over 8 years, with a particular focus on TV and internet service providers. When he’s not writing, Dave can be found playing guitar or camping with his family and golden retriever, Rosie.

Contributing reviewer
Headshot of Bri Field
Reviewed by
Bri FieldAssigning Editor

Bri Field has a background in academia, research writing, and brand marketing. She has edited scientific publications, conference papers, digital content, and technical communications. As Assigning Editor, she enjoys ensuring all content is accurate, clear, and helpful. In her free time, you can find her in the kitchen trying a new recipe, out on a hike, or working through her massive TBR list.