ESPN has launched a brand-new streaming service that is a bold attempt to generate substantial revenue for what it considers a lot of niche sports that it previously mostly streamed at no additional cost to sports fans who had access to ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app.
Since it’s so new and different, there’s a lot of confusion in the marketplace, which is why we’ve collated all of your questions from the website and social media during the past two weeks and created this FAQ that will hopefully clue everyone in. If not, just post your question in the comments section below and we’ll do our best to answer it.
The FAQ is so long that we’ve spread it across several pages, so be sure to click on the next page button near the bottom of every page.
Q: What is ESPN+?
A: ESPN+ is a new paid-subscription streaming service that launched April 12, 2018. A cable or satellite subscription isn’t required, but you can’t access ESPN or ESPN2 content on it. ESPN+ provides exclusive broadcasts of several leagues, competitions and sports.
If you do have a cable or satellite TV subscription, you can use your login details to authenticate and watch ESPN and ESPN2 programming with the app in addition to the exclusive ESPN+ streams. Or you can pay to just watch the ESPN+ programming separately.
For soccer fans, the games previously available via the MLS Live paid-subscription service (owned by ESPN, operated and promoted by MLS) will now be exclusively available via ESPN+ except for the nationally televised games that air on ESPN or ESPN2.
ESPN+ will exclusively stream the following soccer leagues and competitions:
English Football League – Approximately 200 total matches, including an average of four per week from Sky Bet Championship Playoffs, League 1 and League 2, plus six matches per month from the EFL Cup (beginning in August) and 16 matches per month throughout the EFL 2018-19 season.
MLS – The entire MLS LIVE out-of-market schedule will be available with more than 250 games this season, as well as the local-market home for the Chicago Fire, exclusively bringing 23 Fire matches to fans in Chicago.
United Soccer League – Approximately 450 USL matches this season
UEFA Nations League – Over 100 live matches from the newly created tournament. Pay TV customers with an ESPN+ subscription will be able to access the entire tournament including the 36 UNL matches on ESPN linear networks and ESPN3.
Q: How do I access ESPN+? What devices is it available on? Also is it available via the web?
A: ESPN+ is available via the redesigned ESPN App (through Android or iOS smartphones) as well as directly through the ESPN+ website.
ESPN+ is also available via the following devices:
• Amazon – Fire TV, Fire TV Stick, Fire TV smart TVs and Fire Tablets (4th generation and newer).
• Apple – iPhone, iPad and Apple TV. The ESPN App with ESPN+ will also be supported in the Apple TV App on iPhone, iPad and Apple TV.
• Google – Android phones, Android TV and Chromecast.
ESPN+ is currently not available on Roku, PlayStation or Xbox. Roku will be added in the near future.
A: It’s $5 dollars a month or $50 for the year.
Q: Is a free trial available?
A: Yes. During the first week of launch (April 12-18, 2018), fans are being offered a special extended 30-day free trial subscription.
After that, a 7-day free trial will be offered.
Q: Is a credit card required for the free trial?
A: Yes, either a credit card or PayPal account is required.
Q: Wait, wasn’t this supposed to be launched years ago for MLS games?
A: ESPN’s streaming service was supposed to launch in 2015 with MLS games being streamed on the platform and with MLS Live going away. After repeated delays, it’s finally here combined with a whole lot more.
Q: Who are the winners and losers with ESPN+?
A: Without any shadow of a doubt, the biggest winners with ESPN+ are MLS fans who used to pay $80 or more a year to watch out-of-market games. With an annual subscription of $50 for ESPN+, the cost savings for MLS fans are immense.
The losers with ESPN+ are the soccer fans who were accustomed to watching the popular, daily ESPN FC television show. That program is now exclusively available via ESPN+, which means that US television has lost yet another daily soccer news and highlights show (ESPN FC and FOX Soccer News, just as two examples of many shows from the past).
Q: Is ESPN+ a good streaming service to consider for cord cutters?
A: It all depends on what leagues and sports you’re interested in, so the answer will vary. It’s not a one-stop-shop streaming solution that offers you access to everything. Cord cutters can use DIRECTV NOW or Sling Orange to access all of the ESPN programming instead of having a cable/TV subscription. But ESPN+ would have to be purchased separately in order to give you access to everything ESPN-related.
For ESPN, the ESPN+ service gives them the opportunity to dip their toe in the water to provide access to exclusive content. This ensures that ESPN is generating revenue from cord cutters, and additional revenue from current cable/TV subscribers.
Q: Can ESPN TV/cable subscribers access ESPN+ at no additional charge?
A: No, and here’s where it’ll upset many sports fans. You have to pay more now ($50/year or $5/month) to get much of the same content that you were getting for free previously when you had a cable/TV subscription.
Here’s what one of our writers thought about ESPN+.
Q: Are there any plans for ESPN to add quality soccer leagues and competitions?
A: We understand that ESPN is interested in acquiring the rights to the FA Cup and Serie A, which would considerably strengthen ESPN+’s programming for hardcore soccer fans, but no decision has been reached as of press time.
Q: Is ESPN3 dead?
A: No, confusingly, it still continues although it won’t have the vast amount of live programming that it used to. Most of the programming will be on ESPN+ exclusively instead.
Q: Are there any alternative options to watch ESPN+ programming?
A: If you’re wondering what other options are available instead of ESPN+, here are a few to consider for soccer fans:
(1) If you want to watch UEFA Nations League, Univision Deportes has the rights to that tournament so you could watch those games on television or via a legal streaming service such as fuboTV, DIRECTV NOW or Sling TV (among many).
(2) For Championship, League One or League Two games, you can subscribe to many of the clubs directly via their iFollow service, but it’ll be cheaper to pay $5 per month to ESPN+ to watch a select number of games.
(3) For MLS out-of-market games, ESPN+ is the only game in town.
Q: Does that mean that the English Championship games will no longer available via ESPN3 or Sling Orange?
A: Correct. While Sling Orange will continue to provide access to sporting events and games available on ESPN3, the Football League games are no longer on ESPN3. They’re only on ESPN+ and iFollow.
Q: Do you know if ESPN FC will be available on demand or do I need to watch it nightly at 6pm ET?
A: ESPN FC will be available on-demand via ESPN+ each night.
Q: What is going to happen to the World Cup/ Euro qualifiers & the German Cup?
A: The German Cup will continue to be available via ESPN3. Regarding the World Cup and Euro qualifiers, we’ll have to wait to see what the schedule will be. Presumably most of them will be available via the ESPN TV networks and ESPN3. There is no mention of them being included on ESPN+.
Q: So, what’s the deal with the UEFA Nations League? I thought that ESPN was going to cover it as they did the Euros, where they put most games on the main channel. I didn’t know it would be mostly streaming.
A: You’re correct. ESPN+ will stream over 100 live matches from the UEFA Nations League. Approximately 36 games will be on ESPN television networks and ESPN3.
Q: What is ESPN+ powered by and how reliable is it?
A: We haven’t had an opportunity to give it a test drive yet, but ESPN+ is powered by BAMTech, which is the leading streaming technology company in the United States, so we’re very confident that it’ll work like a charm.
Q: Is the streaming available in HD?
A: Yes, 60 FPS (frames per second) stream quality. According to BAMTECH Media President Michael Paull, “ESPN+ launches with several exciting product features, including an upgraded HD stream quality to make the action crisper and cleaner, and decreased video load time, getting fans into the live action faster.”
Q: Will I be able to pause, rewind and restart live programming?
A: Yes. Pause, rewind and start-from-the-beginning functionality is available for all live and on-demand content, all with the ability to multitask on devices while streaming.
Q: Will ESPN+ feature advertisements?
A: Yes, but ESPN+ subscribers get a differentiated advertising experience throughout the entire ESPN App or website, with no display ads and no pre-roll ads within video content (ads remain in the natural advertising breaks of live sports content).
Q: What other sports are available exclusively on this service?
A: ESPN+ includes hundreds of MLB, NHL and MLS games, Grand Slam tennis, Top Rank boxing, PGA Tour golf, college sports, international rugby, cricket and the full library of ESPN Films (including 30 for 30) and more. Here’s the latest list as of press time:
• MLB – A daily game, seven days per week, throughout the regular season, a total of more than 180 games that will include every MLB team.
• NHL – Beginning with the 2018-19 season, a daily game throughout the regular season (in keeping with the NHL schedule), a total of more than 180 hockey games* — as well as on-demand replays of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
• College Sports – thousands of live events – including football, basketball, baseball, softball, soccer, track & field, gymnastics, swimming & diving, lacrosse, wrestling, volleyball, golf and more – from 20 conferences across the country.
• Top Rank Boxing – Hundreds of live boxing matches, including 18 ESPN+ exclusive Top Rank fight cards throughout the year, all Top Rank on ESPN undercard fights, re-airs of all Top Rank on ESPN and Top Rank on ESPN PPV bouts, plus weigh-ins and more.
• PGA Tour Golf – 50 days of coverage from 20 PGA tour events, including the RBC Heritage, THE PLAYERS Championship, the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, the FedExCup Playoffs and more.
• Grand Slam Tennis – Hundreds of men’s and women’s singles, doubles and other matches, from the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.
• Cricket – Hundreds of Test, ODI and T20 format matches from New Zealand Cricket and Cricket Ireland.
• Rugby – Hundreds of matches from SANZAAR Rugby, the HSBC World Rugby Sevens series, and Major League Rugby.
• Canadian Football League – Nearly 200 games from Canada’s professional league.