The Cheapest Ways to Stream NBA Basketball (Without Cable)
I love NBA basketball. Every year, I get really excited around the beginning of September because I know tip-off is approaching. This year, I also had to figure out how I’m going to watch the Bulls (lose almost every game) with a combination of streaming packages. That’s fun. And slightly depressing.
Fortunately, you can benefit from my hours of research—I’ve done pretty much all the legwork for every streaming package, so you can pick which one works best for you. We’re basically best friends, so I don’t mind sharing it with you.
Before we get into the details, though, let’s talk about who carries these games on normal TV. Basically, the NBA is broadcast on five primary channels:ABC: The home of The Finals. You may not watch many games through the regular season here, but The Finals aren’t something you’re going to want to miss—especially if you’re a Cavs or Warriors fan (for the next several years, anyway).TNT: NBA on TNT! It’s as classic as the game itself. Basically.TBS: Again, there aren’t a lot of games here, but it does happen, so you may want this.ESPN: The de facto sports channel gets several NBA games spread throughout the year, so it’s a must-have. Plus, you’ll get all sorts of extra NBA action, like highlights and specials.NBA TV: It’s a channel dedicated to nothing but NBA basketball. Of course you’re going to want this. Your Local Station(s): If you want to watch your local team (aka the team from the city you currently live in), many games are probably broadcast on local stations, like FOX Sports Detroit for the Pistons, or NBC Sports Chicago and WGN-TV for the Bulls. You’ll probably have to Google the TV schedule for your local team to find out which channels broadcast these games, and then look up streaming options for those channels. Not all local affiliates offer streaming, though—thankfully, you can make up any holes with an inexpensive TV antenna.
But even if you choose a streaming package that has all of those channels, you’re still going to miss out on a bunch of games—there are 30 different teams, each of which play 82 games in just the regular season. That’s a lot of games, and there’s no way every single one of them is going to get a live broadcast. Especially if your team is, like my Bulls, bad. At least I still have the Wolves, which is almost like watching the Bulls in blue and white at this point.
But I digress. If you want all the games, NBA League Pass will give you access to every game that isn’t broadcast nationally or in your local area (aka “blacked out” games). So, if a game is available on broadcast TV in your area, it won’t be on League Pass.
That’s still a ton of games that League Pass does have, though—way more than you get with the above channels. They’re just less high profile, or for out-of-your-state teams.
In addition, League Pass only covers the regular season. All post-season games come on TV anyway, so you still won’t miss anything if you pick the correct streaming package.
So, with all that, let’s talk about pricing, starting with League Pass.
Since League Pass is a must-have for NBA fans who never want to miss a game, let’s start there. Since we’ve already talked about what League Pass does (and does not) include, we can just straight into the dollars. Basically, League Pass is broken down into three different packages with two pricing plans for each:All Teams + In Arena ($250/year or $40/month): This gives you access to all 30 NBA teams, as well as their in-arena entertainment during halftime and whatnot. There are no commercials or advertisements during in-game breaks, which is neat, I guess.All Teams ($200/year or $29/month): This gives you access to all 30 teams—every game, save for the blacked out games mentioned above. You will have to deal with advertisements during game breaks though, like time-outs, and halftime.One Team ($120/years or $18/month): If you only want to follow one team, this is your package. Again, keep in mind that you still won’t be able to watch your local team on League Pass, regardless of which package you choose, so this is mostly useful for fans who follow an out-of-state team.
That’s pretty straightforward. The pricing structure is pretty steep if you ask me, but I buy it every year regardless, so whatever. I like ball.
Thankfully, pretty much every platform on the market is supported by NBA League Pass, so no matter where you want to stream, you probably can. NBA League Pass has apps on:WebiPhone/iPadAndroid Phone/TabletApple TVAndroid TVAmazon Fire TVRokuPlayStation 3 and 4Xbox OneSamsung Smart TVChromecastAmazon Alexa devices with videoApple CarPlay (audio only)
If you’re trying to stream to something that isn’t on this list, I don’t know what to tell you. That’s pretty much everything out there, and even some stuff that doesn’t even make sense. The NBA really goes all out.
So what about those other channels we mentioned earlier? The best way to get all those together are through the five major live TV streaming providers: Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, Hulu TV, DIrecTV Now, and YouTube TV. Each of them has its own set of pros, cons, pricing structures, and offered channels. You’ll also probably want to consider the other channels offered with each package, but that’s for you to decide. We’re just talking about basketball here.
Sling TV is probably the most popular streaming service on the web, and it should offer most of what you want for NBA streaming. Here are the packages you’ll need:Sling TV Blue: $25 a month for the package gets you TNT, TBS, ESPN, and ABC. The latter is only available in some markets—you’ll have to search with your zip code to make sure you’re in one of them).Sports Extra: You’ll have to tack on an extra $10 a month to get NBA TV, which I think is worth it.
So, for $35 a month, Sling gets you most of the channels you need. You can also add a Cloud DVR service for a five spot, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Sling is available on the following streaming devices:AirTV PlayerAmazon Fire TVAndroid (Phone, Tablet, TV)ChromecastiOS (iPhone, iPad, Apple TV)webOSMacPCRokuXbox OneWeb
You can get more information or sign up for Sling here. You can also find our coverage of Sling here.
Sony’s take on streaming television, known as PlayStation Vue, is more encompassing than any of the others on this list, and it feels more like traditional cable (if you’re into that). It’s also comparable to Sling in terms of pricing:PlayStation Vue Core Package: For $45 a month, you get everything you need to watch NBA basketball (except for League Pass, of course). That’s ABC, TNT, TBS, ESPN, and NBA TV.
Naturally, you can also opt to get a larger package if you need other channels for non-basketball related stuff, but that’s your call. The Core package is the most affordable one available that covers everything we’re looking at here. It’s also worth mentioning that Vue comes with Cloud DVR service baked into that $45 per month pricing.
Vue is available on the following streaming platforms:PlayStation 3 and 4Roku (firmware 7.1 and above)Amazon Fire Tablets and TVAndroid (phone, tablet, and TV)iOS (iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV 4th gen+)ChromecastWeb
To learn more about PlayStation Vue, head here. Alternatively, read our take on it here.
DirecTV Now can pretty much give you what you want, but since it’s provided by one of the biggest satellite companies on the planet, it’s comparatively pricier than the others. Imagine that. Your choices here are:DirecTV Now Go Big Package: For $60 a month, you’ll get all the channels you need for NBA basketball. That’s a pretty steep price tag, however.DirecTV Now Live a Little or Just Right Packages: For $35 or $50 respectively, you can go with a smaller package and get everything except for NBA TV. It’s your call, but I’d recommend just going with Sling or Vue.
Of course, since DirecTV Is owned by AT&T, you can also bundle and save. Do your research to see if this will work out better for you in the long run. Personally, I hate bundled packages because then I have to commit to the company for X number of years, which is not something I’m into. But hey, saved dollars are saved dollars, so you do you.
You can stream DirecTV Now on the following platforms:Amazon Fire TVChromecastRokuAndroid (phone and tablet)iOS (iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV)Web
You’ll notice it not only has the highest price tag, but a smaller number of streaming device. Yeah, I’m out. If you’re still in, however, you can get more info here.
YouTube TV keeps things about as simple as they come, with just one all-in package for $35 a month. The thing is, you won’t get TNT, TBS, or NBA TV with it. That’s more than half the channels you want to watch NBA games. Meh.
It’s also only available for streaming on the web or through the iOS and Android apps. It’s not even available on any set-top box platforms yet. Ouch.
As I’ve said before, YouTube TV is a good idea in theory, but it’s pretty terrible in execution. Just save yourself the time and don’t even look at this one. If you must, though, you can find more info here.
Hulu has been doing its thing for a number of years, but most recently it got into the streaming TV game. The packages aren’t terrible, and it’s a pretty decent choice if you’re already a Hulu die-hard:Hulu TV: There’s only one live streaming package with Hulu, and it’s $40 a month. You’ll get everything except NBA TV. Pretty straightforward.
Hulu TV is available on the following streaming devices:Amazon Fire TViOS (iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV)Android (phones and tablets)RokuChromecastXbox One and 360Web
So it’s pretty decent and offers streaming on a pretty decent number of devices. Not bad, especially if you’re prepared to live a life without NBA TV. You can find out more here.
Whew, that was a lot, but hopefully this will help my fellow NBA fans get the most out of their season and beyond. I mean, let’s be honest here: it’s not like the Bulls are making it to the Playoffsanyway, so I really don’t even need to pay attention past the regular season. At least I can still watch Jimmy and Taj on the Wolves. Sigh.
Cameron Summerson is a die-hard Android fan, Chicago Bulls fanatic, metalhead, and cyclist. When he’s not pounding keys here at HTG, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, spinning legs on the bike, chugging away on the 6-string, or being disappointed in the Bulls.