Major League Baseball has always presented the biggest hurdle for sports-loving cable-cutters. Unlike the NFL, which still airs the bulk of its games on broadcast TV channels, MLB is a predominantly cable league. Of the six networks hosting nationally aired games over the 2017 season, only Fox can be accessed over the air.
Watching locally televised games has been even tougher. Most teams have deals with a regional cable-only network, such as Fox Regional Sports Network or Comcast SportsNet (CSN). Cord-cutting baseball fans have stood a better chance of connecting with a Jake Arrieta fastball than catching their hometown team on broadcast TV.
That’s finally starting to change as more TV-streaming services expand their offerings. Sling TV recently added CSN to its channel lineup, for example, and Fox Regional Sports Network channels are increasingly becoming available from all providers in select markets.
It’s now easier than ever before to follow your favorite ball clubs from Spring to September without a pricey cable subscription. Here’s how.
Over the air
Since broadcast baseball has largely gone the way of Sunday doubleheaders, there are few options for watching any game without some kind of subscription. The Fox network, however, can still be had for free with a good indoor antenna. That will give you access to about a dozen Saturday afternoon games, plus the All-Star Game.
If you’re purchasing an antenna for the first time, remember to first check to see what stations you can receive in your area and what antenna type you’ll need to pull in your local Fox affiliate.
Sling TV remains the cord-cutter’s greatest ally for affordably streaming sports. With channel packages starting at just $20 per month and no contract, you can easily find something that suits your needs.
Sling TV offers ESPN, ESPN2, TBS, Fox, and Fox Sports 1, as well as Fox Regional Sports Networks and CSN for local-team broadcasts. If you want them all in one package, though, you’ll need to get the top-tier Sling Orange + Blue option (basically Sling’s two lower-tier packages combined and offered at a discount) for $40 a month.
If that sounds just too easy, well, there is a caveat. Fox, as well as Fox Regional Sports Networks and CSN, are available only in select markets. Sling recently expanded those markets to include the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento, Chicago, and Mid-Atlantic regions. To see if you can receive one of the many Fox local networks, check here.
Sling TV is available on your iOS or Android device or on your big screen with a Chromecast, Apple TV, or Amazon FireTV. Currently, the service is offering a discounted Roku Premiere+ or Apple TV with a three-month commitment or a free Roku Express when you prepay for two months.
Launched just four months ago, DirectTV Now seems to be jockeying with Sling TV for position as the best one-stop shop for sports streaming. Its basic 80-channel Just Right package gives you all the networks broadcasting national MLB games—including MLB Network, which Sling TV does not offer—plus access to many Fox Regional Sports Networks and CSN channels for your home team’s games for $50 per month.
You can stream DirectTV Now to your computer, iOS or Android devices, Apple TV, Android Fire TV, and Chromecast.
If you own a PlayStation console, you might consider Sony’s streaming service, PlayStation Vue. Like Sling TV and DirectTV Now, it offers a handful of channel packages for monthly subscriptions. The 60-plus-channel Core package gives you everything you get in DirectTV Now’s Just Right package for $55 per month.
PlayStation Vue costs bit more than Sling TV or DirectTV Now, but its recently added multi-view feature may make it worth the extra expense. It allows you to watch up to three live channels at once, so if you have multiple team loyalties or just want to catch all the day’s marquee matchups, you’ll be sure not to miss a pitch.
In addition to your PlayStation console, you can watch PlayStation Vue channels on your Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, or iPad. The multi-view feature, however, is currently available only on the PS4.
The league’s official streaming service offers live streams of every regular season out-of-market game, with perks like multi-game viewing (up to four games at once), in-game highlights, and a free subscription to the At Bat Premium app.
Note the phrase “out-of-market,” though. MLB.TV is not a true cord-cutting resource. It was really designed as way for transplants—a Red Sox fan living in Seattle, for example—to watch their former home teams. As local broadcasts are still subject to blackout rules, you won’t be able to watch your hometown ball club live.
That said, MLB.TV is still a valuable option for dyed-in-the-wool seamheads to catch virtually every out-of-market game broadcast—home or away—throughout the regular season. And if you’re not particular about real-time viewing and can avoid social media and other potential spoiler sources, you can watch replays of your local team’s games on demand 90 minutes after the game’s conclusion.
A full MLB.TV subscription, which gives you access to all 30 teams' games—minus those of your local club's—is $25 per month or $113 per year. There’s also a single team option that lets you follow a non-local squad of your choice for $87.50 per year. MLB.TV is available on the web and for the Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, PlayStation and Xbox consoles, Amazon Fire TV, and a range of other devices.
Major League Baseball is finally stepping up the plate and giving cord cutters more options to watch the Grand Old Game. We’d still like to see it offer more free streaming options of marquee matchups, as the NFL has done with Yahoo! and Twitter. But until then, you can take advantage of these cable alternatives, along with our guide to second-screen baseball apps, to make sure you catch all the diamond action.