How to stream live NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL games

It's still not possible to stream all of your favorite live sports due to programming restrictions, and the available paid options can be pricey, but this guide to live sports streaming can help find the best available options.

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Many of us simply can't live without our quota of live sports games. That appetite translates into a multi-billion-dollar business for cable and satellite TV providers, so they purposefully make it hard to watch live sports without an expensive TV subscription. Thankfully, the "cord-cutting" movement is changing that.

Live streaming NFL and MLB games

The National Football League (NFL) announced yesterday that Thursday Night Football games during the upcoming 2016 season will be available for free via Twitter's website and mobile apps. Earlier this week Yahoo Sports also said it will feature one live Major League Baseball (MLB) game every day, also for free.

These offers only give serious fans a taste of the sports they crave, but there are other streaming options that let you cut the cord and watch sports on almost any device, though you have to pay for the privilege.

The ability to regularly stream MLB games can be pricey. Although some games are available on broadcast TV for free, most are on cable. MLB.TV costs $110 a year, which is $20 less than last year, and it covers all of the teams. However, it only includes out-of-market games, meaning you can't watch San Francisco Giants games if you're in the Bay Area. (You can, however, watch the Giants if you're traveling in Boston.) A subscription for just one team is a bit cheaper at $85 a month, but you still can't watch local in-market games.

An agreement between MLB and Fox, which controls baseball rights in many markets, is supposed to let TV subscribers stream home games. It looked like the home games of 15 teams would be available by the beginning of this season, but that feature is still not available, and it's not clear when it will be. And teams such as the Giants and the Oakland A’s, whose games are on Comcast, are not part of the agreement, so their in-market games won't be available for streaming anyway.

NBA and NHL live streams

The NCAA March Madness tournament just ended (congrats, Villanova!), but the National Basketball Association's (NBA) lengthy series of playoff games tip off on April 16. Chris Brantner, a sports fan from Houston, put together a helpful guide to cord cutting and the NBA playoffs.

The first two rounds of the NBA playoffs will be broadcast on TNT Sunday through Thursday evenings. Most weekend games are on ESPN, though ABC will get a few of those as well, according to Brantner. And the finals will be broadcast by ABC.

The best way to get TNT and ESPN without a cable subscription is via Sling TV, Brantner says. Sling's $20-a-month basic package comes with both TNT and ESPN, so you can watch all those games on that service. You also can use your SlingTV credentials to log in to the WatchESPN app, which will simulcast the ABC games. If you have a digital antenna, of course, you can simply watch ABC live on your TV without using an app.

A lot of NBA programming is also available via Playstation Vue, and the service costs $30 a month.

Professional National Hockey League (NHL) streaming is in a similar state as pro baseball; you can stream out-of-market games via NHL.tv, but in-market games aren't available. The regular season is almost over, but you can watch the rest of it online for $4.99. At the moment, NHL.tv does not have the rights to the Stanley Cup playoffs, but a league representative told me it is doing its best to secure those right in time for this year's Cup finals.

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