What is ESPN+ and How Does ESPN's Live Streaming Service Work?

Catch your favorite sporting events with the online streaming service

ESPN+ is a stand-alone streaming service from ESPN where you can watch live events from the UFC, Major League Soccer, documentaries and original programming, and a whole lot more. This service is accessed through ESPN's main website and mobile app, but it isn't tied to any kind of cable or satellite service. That means you don't need a cable subscription to sign up for ESPN+, and having a cable subscription doesn't give you access.

The only way to access live streaming content from ESPN+, like UFC Fight Night, is with an ESPN+ subscription, and we'll walk you through what that means, what you get with a subscription, and how to make use of it once you have it.

A man looks for streams to watch on the ESPN+ app.
Wat'hna Racha / EyeEm / Getty 

The Difference Between ESPN and ESPN+ on WatchESPN

ESPN+ is a little more complicated, and can be somewhat more confusing, than most other streaming services. The main issue is that you access it through the same WatchESPN website where you can watch free videos and clips, or log in with your cable subscription information to watch live sports and other events.

Most events that are broadcast on ESPN and ESPN2 are available to view, live or time shifted, on WatchESPN if you have a valid cable subscription. The ESPN+ service provides live streaming access to sporting events that aren't available on any of the regular ESPN cable channels.

Aside from appearing on the same site, there is no overlap between ESPN and ESPN+. Paying for access to ESPN+ does not grant you access to ESPN live streams, and having a cable subscription doesn't provide you access to ESPN+.

If you want access to exclusive ESPN+ content, like live UFC matches, the only way to get it is to sign up for ESPN+.

What is the Connection Between ESPN+, Disney+, and Hulu?

Disney owns a controlling share of both ESPN and Hulu, which created an opportunity for cross promotion when Disney launched their own streaming service. While there are no connections between the content on ESPN+, Disney+ and Hulu, you can sign up for a subscription bundle that includes all three at a reduced price.

If you're interested in signing up for all three of these services, the package can save you about five dollars per month compared to signing up for each individually. Check out our guide to Disney+ if that sounds interesting, since you need to sign up through Disney+ to get the deal.

If you've already signed up for ESPN+ and and want to take advantage of the package deal, Disney may convert your existing account. Contact Disney for more information, but make sure to sign up for the Disney+ with the same email you used for ESPN+ or it won't work.

How to Sign Up For ESPN+

Signing up for ESPN+ is easy, and there's even a free trial that you can use to take the service for a spin without paying anything up front. Here's what the sign up process looks like:

  1. Navigate to plus.espn.com and click or tap start your free trial.

    A screenshot of ESPN+
  2. Click or tap Sign Up.

    A screenshot of the ESPN+ sign up procedure.
  3. Enter your information, create a password, and click or tap Sign Up.

    A screenshot of the ESPN+ sign up procedure.
  4. Select your plan, enter your billing information, and click start 7 day free trial.

    A screenshot of the ESPN+ sign up procedure.

    At the end of your trial, you will be charged based on the plan you select during this step. If you decide that you don't want the service, you need to cancel it before the trial expires to avoid a charge.

  5. Click or tap Get Started to finish the sign up process.

    A screenshot of the completed ESPN+ sign up procedure.
  6. Your ESPN+ account is now active. You can start watching immediately on the main ESPN website, or download the appropriate app for your phone or streaming device.

What Can You Watch on ESPN+?

When ESPN+ first launched, a lot of content was moved to the new service from ESPN3. If there's anything you used to stream through ESPN3 that's no longer available there, it may still be on ESPN+.

One of the biggest draws that ESPN+ has is the UFC. Most Canadian football coverage was also moved to the service, and the older MLS Live service, with out of market Major League Soccer games, was also moved over.

Other notable content includes coverage of each Tennis Grand Slam event, several different soccer leagues, games from the American Athletic Conference, and even original programming.

You also get access to all of the content that used to be exclusive to the ESPN Insider subscription service, including things like exclusive beat reports.

How to Use ESPN+

ESPN+ can be accessed through WatchESPN, which is the main site that ESPN uses for all of its streaming services. It's the same site you would use to watch live streaming video from ESPN or ESPN2, which requires a valid cable subscription to access.

Since content from ESPN+ is mixed in together with other ESPN content on the same site, navigating can be a little confusing. It's easy to pick out ESPN+ videos, but only if you know what you're looking for.

When you visit the ESPN website, each video card has some text underneath that states which ESPN channel it's associated with. Videos that are tied to ESPN+ also have a small yellow banner on them with the E+ logo.

Here are some of the ways you can use ESPN+ to watch live events and replays of older events:

  1. Navigate to WatchESPN.com.

    A screenshot of WatchESPN.
  2. Move your mouse over the ESPN+ logo to see an overview of some of the most popular ESPN+ content. If anything looks interesting, click to watch it. If not, scroll through the main WatchESPN site to find other ESPN+ content.

    A screenshot of ESPN+.
  3. Scroll down to the Live section. Look for video cards with the yellow banner and a white E+ logo. These are ESPN+ live streams that you can access with your ESPN+ subscription. Click any of these videos to start watching it immediately.

    A screenshot of live content on ESPN+.
  4. Continue scrolling to discover even more ESPN+ content, like UFC Fight Night Replays. Every video that has the yellow banner and the white E+ logo is available through ESPN+.

    A screenshot of ESPN+.
  5. Check out the ESPN+ schedule for live, upcoming, and replay events to see a full list of everything that's available to watch at any given time.

Watching ESPN+ On Your Mobile Device or Television

While watching ESPN+ through the web browser on your computer or tablet is both easy and convenient, you can watch it in a whole lot of other places with the right app. The ESPN app is available for phones and tablets, streaming devices, and even game consoles.

There is no dedicated ESPN+ app, so if you already have the regular ESPN app you can log in with your ESPN+ information and start streaming. If you don't already have the app, grab it here:

You can stream ESPN+ from your iPhone or iPad to your Apple TV via Airplay, even older generations that can't run the ESPN app natively, if you have the ESPN app on your phone or iPad. You can also stream ESPN+ via Chromecast from both Apple and Android phones.