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ESPN+ Not the Same as ESPN: Here’s How They Are Different

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Updated: June 7th, 2022 at 08:56 am

ESPN+ and ESPN are similar and while either is likely to be a good addition for those looking for sports content, they are not the same. Understanding how they are different and which ESPN service is best for an individual or household can help to make sure time and money is not wasted by paying for the wrong one.

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While much of the industry has shifted to streaming and on-demand content, one thing that is unlikely to change soon is the need to tune in to sports and watch live. Arguably, live sports is one of the main reasons nowadays to pay for a live TV streaming service. In spite of this, actually being able to access live sports is becoming increasingly harder. This is mostly due to issues related to accessing local channels and regional sports networks.

Still, the main nationwide channels that provide access to many sports, including live events, remain widely available. ESPN is one of them and the sports channel can be watched through most live TV services. At the same time, there is also the ability to sign up to ESPN+, with a standalone subscription available for $6.99 per month, or the option to save even more over the course of the year by signing up for an annual subscription.

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ESPN+ is a service, not a channel

ESPN+ is a standalone service and this is one of the most obvious differences. While ESPN is a channel that’s primarily designed to broadcast live events and scheduled programming, ESPN+ is a streaming service which brings together on-demand content in one place. Although that content does overlap at times, including with MLB, MLS and NHL content, it won’t always. For example, ESPN+ comes with its own exclusives that won’t be available to watch through the standard ESPN channels.

Building on this point, ESPN+ is also a gateway in general. Technically, there is no ESPN+ app available to download. Instead, both ESPN and ESPN+ subscribers can access their respective subscriptions directly through the standard ESPN app or the ESPN website. Once signed in, ESPN+ also offers the option to pay for and watch additional premium live content, including UFC PPV events. In this sense, ESPN+ is much more of a hub compared to the traditional linear experience on offer with ESPN channels.

In addition, as ESPN+ is a standalone service, it can actually be bundled with others. For example, there is the option to combine ESPN+ with Disney+ and one of the Hulu plans. This allows for access to all three services at a discounted rate compared to subscribing to each one separately. This is not something that’s possible with the standard ESPN network experience which does typically require an actual live TV subscription from one of the major players.

ESPN+ not a replacement for ESPN

Although ESPN+ might sound like it offers more than ESPN, that’s not strictly true. What ESPN+ offers is different to ESPN and, in this sense, it should not be viewed as a replacement for any of the ESPN channels. For the most part, any live sports events that are shown on ESPN won’t also be available on ESPN+. At least, not at the same time and while the event is considered live. It is far more accurate to view ESPN+ as a complement to the traditional ESPN experience that provides access to additional and often related content.

For those that want more ESPN content, then ESPN+ is likely to be a good fit and a low-cost way to improve on the amount of content that’s available at a given time. This is in addition to opening up the door for easier access to select PPV events. For those that are primarily only interested in watching live and scheduled programming, then ESPN+ is not going to be a viable replacement for any of the ESPN channels.

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Put simply, there is no current way to get around the live TV subscription requirement. If access to ESPN channels is what matters most, the individual or household will need to consider signing up to a live TV service that includes the ESPN channels they are interested in. While a standalone ESPN+ subscription will increase the amount of content they have access to, the actual content will mostly be different to what is shown on ESPN channels.

ESPN+ versus ESPN summary

ESPN+ and ESPN share a number of similarities and both will appeal to sports fans, but they are very different services and aimed at different consumers. ESPN remains the go-to option for those that want to watch a majority of sports events live, while ESPN+ is a way to expand on the amount of content that’s available to watch. Although the content overlaps significantly with many sports covered by both, the actual content itself is different. Just like ESPN has its exclusive programming and events, so does ESPN+.

Deciding on which is best for an individual or household will depend on their specific needs. While some consumers may find ESPN+ injects enough sports coverage into their subscription setup, others will find that they still need to continue paying for the ESPN network to maintain access to their favorite live sports. For some, a combination of both ESPN and ESPN+ will be the best solution as this will fully maximize the experience.

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John Finn

By John Finn

John started Streaming Better to help consumers navigate the live TV streaming and subscription service landscape. John has been writing about technology and TV-related services and devices since 2014 and believes the best streaming approach is to bounce between services as needed. Contact John via email at john@streamingbetter.com or on Twitter

20 replies on “ESPN+ Not the Same as ESPN: Here’s How They Are Different”

if I already have a tv package that includes espn, will I have to pay more for the college playoff games? if so, how much per game? straight answers would be appreciates.

This is helpful and makes me even more upset about the greedy breakup of YouTubeTV and ESPN. I have ESPN+ through Verizon wireless, but it is in NO WAY a substitute for ESPN. At first, I was relieved thinking I would not lose access to ESPN at all going into the bowl games…but now…I am freaking out about it!

Sling orange has most cost effective way to watch ESPN. 35 a month. Common knowledge but worth mentioning. Plus Sling gives first month trial for 11. WOW

I have espn in my fubo service. I also have ESPN plus. When I watch hockey on espn plus, i sometimes try to watch espn programs on my app between periods and I get a message ACCESS TO THIS PROGRAM IS NOT INCLUDED IN YOUR PROVIDER SUBSCRIPTION. Why is this? I have to exit my app to get espn on my provider service.

That article really helped me understand the difference. I’m an old guy and this new streaming thing is not obvious. Thanks

In other words this is more gouging by media companies. How many subscriptions does one need to watch a range of sports. Greed! Greed! Greed!

WTF????
I have NESN (for Red Sox and Boston Bruins coverage) in my shitty cable package — yet ESPN+ blocks their doing the games on NESN????

I thought the law said our cable service was obligated to show games on another channel when NESN is not available?

Thanks. You folks are real princes. Some of us are older and poorer and can not afford all of today’s bells and whistles much less figure how to operate them. Perhaps you would like to fill this inequity.

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