Chromecast gets WatchESPN, MLS, Google+ Photos and Crunchyroll

chromecast dongle

Google has filled in a few more gaps in the Chromecast catalog, with an emphasis on sports.

The biggest new addition is WatchESPN, which is adding support for Google’s streaming stick just in time for next week’s World Cup kickoff. All the games will be available for live streaming through ESPN’s app, which also covers college football, Monday Night Football, the NBA finals, the X Games, and anything else the cable sports giant throws online. The only catch is that you’ll need a pay TV subscription to watch, but this is no different from WatchESPN’s apps on other platforms.

For even more soccer, Major League Soccer’s Matchday app is getting Chromecast support as well. This will allow subscribers to the $50-per-year MLS Premium service to watch live games on the big screen.

If you don’t care for sports, you may be more interested in Google+ Photos support. This is a huge addition if you’re backing up your phone’s photos and videos to Google+, as it’ll allow you to display them on a television, even from other devices such as tablets. (And if you’re not backing up your photos to Google+, here’s how to set it up.)

Finally, Crunchyroll is getting Chromecast support as well. The app includes full episodes of anime and drama from Asia, and has a $7 per month subscription option with no ads and new episodes an hour after their original airing.

As with all other apps, Chromecast support entails adding a “Cast” button to existing apps for iOS and Android. Instead of using a regular remote, you use your phone or tablet to find the video you want, and hit the Cast button to play it on the television.

Chromecast has come a long way since it launched last summer with only support for Netflix, YouTube, Google Play Music, and Google Play Movies & TV. Since then, Google has added most of the major streaming services, including Hulu Plus, HBO Go, Pandora, Rdio, MLB TV, Songza, and Vevo. Google has also opened up Chromecast to all third-party developers, which has led to some interesting creations such asquiz games and local media streamers.

There are still a few big apps that Chromecast lacks, including Spotify, CBS, and Amazon Instant Video, and some users may never be happy with using a phone or tablet as their only remote control for streaming video. Still, it’s getting harder to argue that Chromecast isn’t a worthy alternative to Roku, Apple TV, or Amazon’s Fire TV, especially with Chromecast’s $35 price tag.

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At a Glance
  • While it's not for everyone, Chromecast is a cheap and effective way to make any TV smart. Read the full review

    Pros

    • Fast and easy phone- or tablet-based navigation
    • Automatic TV controls are a brilliant touch
    • Unbeatable price at $35 (frequently available for less on sale)

    Cons

    • Unusable without a phone, tablet, or PC
    • No universal search or on-screen menu system
    • Chrome tab mirroring still doesn't work that well
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