Cord-cutting and sports: 5 ways to squeeze out more savings

Here’s a harsh truth that every cord-cutting sports fan must live with: Chances are, the teams you want to watch are still locked up in bloated pay TV bundles. Whether that’s through traditional cable and satellite TV or through live streaming packages such as YouTube TV or Hulu with Live TV, you’ll pay for a lot of channels you don’t want just to watch the games you care about.

The reasons for this aren’t complicated. Most popular cable channels are owned by a small number of media conglomerates, which make more money by distrubuting all of their channels in bundles to TV providers. Because live sports are so popular, they have plenty of leverage to make sure those bundles command a high price. As a result, the cost of those packages keeps going up, even as viewership declines. And while I do think we’ll see an unbundling of sports over the next five years or so, for now it’s bundle or bust.

All of which hampers your ability to save money while cutting the cable TV cord. Although live streaming bundles are generally cheaper than cable and satellite TV packages, the savings potential with cord-cutting is much greater for folks who don’t care about sports and can abandon bundles entirely.

Having said all that, sports fans can still employ a handful of tactics to stretch their savings further. Here are some possibilities:

Use an antenna

An over-the-air TV antenna alone won’t give you complete sports coverage, but if your reception is adequate, you can still watch sports for free in high definition on ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox. This is a great option for folks who’ve opted out of big TV bundles, but still want to catch local football, the Super Bowl (which will also be streaming for free), the World Series, and other major events.

Our guide to choosing an antenna will help you figure out what to expect for reception, and our buying guide has advice on the best-performing antennas for the money.

Consider Sling TV

Among live TV streaming services that include sports, Sling TV is by far the cheapest option. For $30 per month, Sling’s Orange package has ESPN channels covered, while Sling’s Blue package (also $30 per month) offers FS1, FS2, and regional NBC Sports networks in certain markets. You can also combine the Orange and Blue packages together for $45 per month, which is still $5 per month less than YouTube TV, the next-cheapest streaming option.

A couple things to keep in mind, though: Local Fox and NBC coverage is only available in a small number of cities, and Sling doesn’t carry ABC or CBS anywhere, so you’ll really need an antenna to pick up the slack. And if your regional sports channels are covered by Fox Sports, you won’t be able to get them through Sling at all.