What Is ESPN+?
ESPN+ is a subscription service that gives you access to live and archived sporting events, shows and documentaries.
The advantage it offers is that those without a cable package that includes ESPN are able to get streaming content that’s not available to them otherwise. However, that streaming content does not include live content on ESPN and ESPN2. In that sense, ESPN+ is its own channel with its own unique content.
The subscription sports service was launched in April 2018 as an additional package that individuals could by at a low monthly rate, which we’ll discuss later in this review.
Those who love sports will certainly want to know what ESPN+ offers. How much does it cost per month? Which types of sporting events does it offer and are there limitations? Is it meant to be a substitute for ESPN’s regular lineup of sports and talk shows? How does it compare to other add-on sports subscriptions?
These are the questions we’re going to answer in this review via our own in-depth analysis and expertise. At the end of our review, we’ll provide you a basic list of the service’s pros and cons.
ESPN+ Subscription Fees
You have the option of choosing between a $4.99 monthly fee or a $49.99 yearly fee, both of which are pretty reasonable fees for someone who is trying to cut the cord. Choosing the yearly fee will save you $9.89 per year.
In terms of cable sports subscriptions, Comcast had several options for adding sports channels. However, those options were limited to specific sports and did not give you access to an add-on channel that allowed you to watch multiple sports.
As is the custom with most cable companies, you have to buy an upgraded cable package – say, $99 a month instead of $59 a month – in order to get ESPN.
In this sense, ESPN Plus provides an economical way to get access to games, matches, talk shows and documentaries.
The real value of these additional options lies in the sports, shows and documentaries you have access to, which we’ll cover in the next section.
ESPN Plus offers a seven-day free trial, which we took advantage of in order to do research for this review.
The Sporting Events, Shows and Documentaries You Get and the Limitations
The value of any added streaming service is what you get for the money you pay. The ESPN+ lineup at the time we did our research included several different sports, shows and documentaries.
To access your subscription, you can use your phone or your web browser. Via the web browser, you’ll be presented with a home page in which there’s a large video screen playing a live sporting event, a lineup to the right that details what’s available for live viewing and then a series of options below.
We did our research between 10 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. EST. At that time, ESPN Plus was streaming the 2018 FIL World Lacrosse Championships. We did a quick search of the ESPN Plus upcoming broadcasts for the day. There were eight more lacrosse matches as well as a Canadian Football League matchup between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Hamilton Tiger-cats.
The schedule for the next day, a Friday, presented a little variety:
- Car racing (Porsche Supercup Series)
- MLB baseball
- Canadian football (CFL)
- Lacrosse (World championships)
- Rugby (Super Rugby)
- Soccer (United Soccer League)
We gave a quick look at the weekend events and found that ESPN+ also offers MLS soccer games as well as coverage of the Little League Softball World Series and eSports.
Replays of these events were limited. According to the schedule we checked during our research, there were no archived replays of any of the events we listed above.
We did, however, find a replay of a Manny Pacquiao fight against Lucas Matthysse that took place five days previous.
ESPN+ Shows and Documentaries
Our free-trial research revealed that many of the shows you can watch on ESPN Plus are archived. Most of those shows focused on boxing and soccer. Here’s a sample of the 123 archived episodes that were available when we took advantage of our free trial:
- The Boxing Beat with Dan Rafael
- Ariel and the Bad Guy (MMA)
- In This Corner (Boxing)
- Lacrosse Weekly
- Detail (NBA)
- I’ll Take That Bet (Sports betting)
- Enhanced (sports tech)
In addition to these archived episodes, ESPN+ gives you access to ESPN’s full library of 30 for 30 documentaries. We also saw that they offer access to the ESPN “Best of Boxing” series and archives of every Indianapolis 500 race dating back to 2010.
Is ESPN+ a Substitute for ESPN?
Based on our research, we believe that ESPN+ does not serve as a substitute for someone who wants access to ESPN’s coverage. Rather, we believe it’s a supplement to what ESPN already offers.
We make this statement based on our survey of the programming that was available during our free trial as compared to what was available on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN3.
First, ESPN’s flagship program, Sportscenter, is not available to ESPN+ subscribers. In order to access it, you’ll need to log in via your cable company. If ESPN isn’t part of your cable package, then you won’t be able to access any of their shows. The same goes for ESPN2 and ESPN3.
So, in that sense, you’ll be missing out on Sportscenter as well as other notable shows like First Take, Monday Night Football and more.
In addition, you won’t be able to access Monday Night Football as well as other mainstream sports aside from the MLB coverage that you get via your subscription.
Because of these gaping holes in what would be considered ESPN’s most popular offerings, we think ESPN+ acts as a supplement to the more comprehensive coverage of popular sports that ESPN provides.
Pro tip: You may not be able to watch teams in your local market due to blackout rules. A good example of this would be a city in which games aren’t televised unless ticket sales for the game exceed a certain amount.
How ESPN+ Compares to Other Add-On Sports Subscriptions
The assumption we’re making about the average consumer is that you already have some sort of TV viewing package, whether it’s through a traditional cable provider or a service like Sling TV.
Whichever package you have, you tend to have one of two options: add the stations you want by upgrading your package or by adding on a channel or series of channels a-la-carte style.
For example, Sling TV gives you ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN3 as part of their Orange package. If you want to add on ESPNU and ESPNEWS as well as NHL and NBA games, it’s an extra $5 a month.
You can also choose a $10/month package that includes the NFL, NHL, NBA and golf channels as well as the Olympics channel and several other channels.
Now, if you’re a cable customer like I am, the options are a bit different. I’ll use my own situation as a Comcast customer to help you understand how it works. I pay $59.99 a month for 75 Mbps internet, HBO and Showtime plus basic cable.
If I wanted to upgrade my cable package to include ESPN, I would have to upgrade to their “Starter” cable level, which would cost me an extra $65 a month. Comcast does not provide options to add a single channel to your package.
Hulu TV, on the other hand, includes ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN3 in their $39.99 package.
In our opinion, ESPN Plus’ value doesn’t quite measure up to what you get out of the $5 add-on package from Sling TV, mainly because the Sling package is giving you ESPN’s three main channels whereas the $4.99 you’re paying for ESPN+ gives you one channel.
The Final Word: Pros, Cons and Who We Think ESPN+ Is Good For
Based on our research, we believe ESPN Plus’ greatest strength is that you get good value for the money as compared to the entire cable and non-cable landscape. When you compare it specifically with Sling TV’s $5 add-on, it loses some of its value, but that all depends on what you want out of your sports package (more on that in a second).
We also want to know that, via our 75 Mbps internet connection, we had no streaming quality issues during the few hours we tested out content on the site.
And, finally, we like the fact that you can watch MLB games.
The downside to ESPN+ is that the sports it offers are considered, by American standards, fringy. The bulk of the coverage available during our free trial was lacrosse, soccer and rugby, three sports that have small, albeit devoted, followings.
In our opinion, ESPN+ is an excellent fit for someone who loves baseball and soccer. Since the subscription includes MLB games and MLS games, you’ll get your fill for a very affordable rate. If you’re a sports fan who loves hockey, basketball or football, this won’t be the best choice.