This holiday, you don’t need cable to watch all of your team’s games from the comfort of your home.
While you absolutely don’t need cable to watch basketball this year, it still might be the easiest and cheapest choice depending on where you live.
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Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors during a recent game.
Die-hard sports fans are beholden to regional sports networks, or RSNs, that carry the majority of the games for their local team. These RSNs are usually included in local cable packages, so most cable subscribers never have to worry about gaining access to the broadcasts on these channels: They can simply turn on the TV and watch the game.
Cord-cutting basketball fans have a tougher path. Because of rights agreements, most live TV streaming services like YouTube TV or Hulu with Live TV don’t carry many RSNs. DirecTV Stream is the exception. It has nearly every RSN, particularly the Bally Sports channels (formerly Fox Sports) offered by Sinclair, but you’ll need to spring for its $85-a-month plan.
Read more: DirecTV Stream review: Expensive, but the best option for streaming NBA and NHL
Ultimately, depending on your location, getting a cable subscription that includes ESPN, TNT and the local RSN might actually be cheaper and easier than streaming — especially if it’s bundled with the home internet you’ll likely be getting anyway.
For NBA fans looking to watch a ton of out-of-market basketball, a subscription to NBA League Pass has a lot to offer. You can get the whole NBA slate for $199 for the season, with commercials and one device, or $249 for the season with in-arena feeds instead of commercials, and the ability to watch on two devices at once. Those interested in following only a single team can buy a Team Pass for $119 for the season.
The key catch here is “out-of-market.” Most fans are in-market, meaning they follow the local team, and unfortunately for them RSNs have broadcast exclusivity in the region that they cover. That means local NBA games are blacked out on NBA League Pass.
If you’re living in Los Angeles, for example, you won’t be able to watch Lakers or Clippers games on NBA League Pass. The same goes for Knicks fans in New York, Bucks fans in Milwaukee and so on. The only way to watch most of those home team games in your home market is to get a service that has the local RSN, namely Spectrum SportsNet, Bally Sports SoCal, MSG Network or Bally Sports Wisconsin.
Services like NBA League Pass use IP addresses to block out games in viewers’ regions — you’ll just get a black screen if you try to watch those games. That’s why League Pass is ideal for those who want to follow one or more of the teams based in cities other than their own, aka out-of-market teams, but for local fans it’s not as useful.
In another twist, the NBA TV network will broadcast 107 games this season that will be considered national for those out-of-market. This means that you will still be able to watch your local team play on your RSN, but viewers around the country will need NBA TV in order to watch the game — it will be blacked out on League Pass.
Luckily, League Pass subscribers have the option of adding NBA TV to their package for an extra $60 a year or $7 a month. This is most likely one of the cheapest ways to get NBA TV for the out-of-market fan.
YouTube TV is the only live TV streaming service that includes NBA TV in its base channel lineup. DirecTV Stream, FuboTV and Sling offer the channel only on higher-priced tiers or in special add-ons; see below for details.
For those determined to watch their local basketball team without a cable or satellite TV subscription, a live TV streaming service is the best bet. While it is pricey, DirecTV Stream is the best option for most people, particularly those where the local games air on Bally Sports networks.
Below is a chart of all of the NBA teams in the US and their corresponding RSNs.
Note: None of the (US-based) services carry the RSN for the Toronto Raptors. Fans looking to watch Fred VanVleet and co. need to use NBA League Pass to get all the games that are not either on your local RSN or on a US national broadcast.
Some key takeaways:
One other note: If you don’t recognize the name of some of these channels, don’t worry. As mentioned, the Fox Sports RSNs have been rebranded as Bally Sports, because the channels are no longer owned by Fox but Sinclair, which has since partnered with casino group Bally’s to rename them.
DirecTV Stream is expensive. It’s the priciest of the five major live TV streaming services, but it’s also the one with the most RSNs. Its cheapest, $70-a-month Plus package includes ESPN, ABC, TNT and TBS. You’ll need to move up to the $85-a-month Choice plan to get any available RSN as well as NBA TV. You can use its channel lookup tool to see which local channels and RSNs are available in your area.
Aside from DirecTV Stream, the odds are long that a live TV streaming service carries the RSN for your local team’s games, which makes the other four services better bets for watching nationally televised games.
FuboTV costs $65 per month and offers 10 RSNs for basketball. It also includes ESPN, but not TBS — which might be a problem for some basketball fans. But you can add NBA TV for an extra $7 a month with the Fubo Extra Package or pay for the $80-a-month Elite streaming tier, which includes Fubo Extra. Check out which local networks and RSNs it offers here.
YouTube TV costs $65 a month and offers six RSNs for basketball, along with all of the national broadcasts including NBA TV. Plug in your ZIP code on its welcome page to see which local networks and RSNs are available in your area.
Hulu Plus Live TV costs $65 a month and carries six RSNs for basketball, along with ESPN, ABC, TBS and TNT, but not NBA TV. Click the “View all channels in your area” link at the bottom of its welcome page to see which local networks and RSNs are available where you live.
Sling Blue currently lacks a single RSN to watch basketball. You can, however, use Sling to watch some national broadcasts. Sling TV’s Orange plan includes ESPN, and both plans offer TBS, but neither of them gives you access to ABC. NBA TV is available as part of the Sports Extra add-on, which costs $11 a month for either the Blue or Orange plan, or $15 for the combined Orange-and-Blue plan. The individual plans cost $35 a month each, and the Orange-and-Blue plan costs $50 a month. You can see which local channels you get here.
Each live TV streaming service offers a free trial, allows you to cancel anytime and requires a solid internet connection. Looking for more information? Check out our live TV streaming services guide.