How To Stream Live Sporting Events in the RV
Are you looking to save money by cutting cable? Are live sports holding you back?
There are now ways that you can save money, cut cable, and still watch all the college football, NFL, MLB, NHL, and NBA games. And boxing and MMA too!
Legally! Yes, that means that there are solutions where you aren’t relying on illegal streams to watch your favorite games.
Let’s find out how you too can stream live sporting events in the RV (or home) cost effectively.
Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links for various products below. You get the same low prices and we earn a small commission.
Cutting Cable and Satellite Service
Are you tired of paying ridiculous high monthly bills for satellite or cable television?
When you probably only watch about 10 channels in the lineup, right?
The first step in saving money is getting rid of your existing service.
Now, you might be under contract and there could be early termination fees. That might make you want to stick around longer but do the math – you might come out better by paying those fees and cutting the cord.
Also, don’t forget to return any equipment that they gave you – or more likely rented or leased to you.
And keep the receipt that you get for the equipment! I know several people where the cable or satellite companies have come back months later with fees of $200 or more because they said that the equipment was never returned. That receipt saved their butts.
Finally, make sure that you scan the receipt. Many receipts will fade, sometimes in just a few months. Especially if you are keeping it in the RV or other place where you might get a lot of heat. And with it scanned, it’ll be readily available if you need to search for it.
Once you get rid of the old service, it’s time to start adding back the channels you need.
The first way to get your favorite sporting events is through over-the-air (OTA) channels.
You can use a high-definition antenna to get television signals for the major broadcast networks like ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC.
This means that for football, both professional and college, you can get whatever the major football games they are showing in the local market. The OTA channels will also have some limited golf, NASCAR, MLB and other sporting events. And in 2020, we also have the Olympics on NBC.
You’ll likely need an HD antenna to get these stations. If you live in a downtown area, your TV may have enough built-in for a handful of channels, but you are likely to need an external (to the TV) antenna to get the best picture, sound, and quantity of OTA TV stations.
High Definition Antennas For Your Home
For your sticks and bricks house, try one of the attic mount long-range antennas that gets reception for 70 miles.
If you aren’t interested in mounting something, you can go with an indoor antenna. These are great if you live in a metropolitan area where you are close to the broadcast signal, as they reach only about 55 miles.
High Definition Antennas For Your RV
The indoor antenna may work inside your RV as well.
I have an indoor antenna that I bought years and years ago that worked well in Starter RV.
And see, you can watch the Olympics in your RV with just an HD antenna and a HD TV. That picture is from when I upgraded Starter RV’s TV to a digital flat screen during the last summer Olympics in 2016. Pictures may be bad by today’s blogging standards but you get the idea nonetheless.
Remember, that RV was to see if I could “do this” and I wasn’t really interested in making major upgrades to it. See, Starter RV was only $4,000 to buy and mostly, but not always, reliable. I wasn’t going to put a lot into it, so borrowing equipment from the house made since.
It also helps that I RV tailgate at college campuses in mostly cities. This means, it is typically pretty easy to pick up the OTA broadcast channels.
RV Roof Mountable HD Antennas
There are also antenna options that you mount on the roof of the RV.
The most popular is the Winegard Sensar IV (available at Amazon, Camping World) The Winegard Sensar IV has a built-in amplifier and a low profile when retracted during travel. The range on the Sensar IV is about 55 miles from the broadcast signal. Just don’t forget to retract it before you leave the tailgate or you’ll be buying another one soon!
The advantage of the retractable antennas like the Winegard Sensar is that you get the antenna up and over many of the obstacles on the roof of your RV, like say your air conditioner. You also get the antenna further from these high power devices which can provide their own interference and reduce the picture and audio quality of your sporting event.
Another popular RV OTA antenna is the ANTOP UFO 720 degree Omni-directional HD antenna (available on Amazon, Camping World) The Antop UFO has a range of 55-65 miles from the broadcast origin and can receive 1080 and 4K ULTRA HD signals. The cool thing about the Antop UFO is that you don’t have to worry about forgetting to retract the antenna before you leave your tailgate! The Antop UFO also has a built-in 4G LTE filter to blog 3G and 4G signal that will interfere with your TV reception.
If you aren’t up to mounting an antenna on the top of your RV (or you’ve just run out of room up there), try the KING OmniGo Portable Antenna (available on Amazon, Camping World). With the tripod, it looks like the UFO landed at your campsite instead of hovering over the top of the RV!
The OmniGo portable antenna is easy to setup with a collapsible tripod and magnetic mount. It weighs only 6 pounds in the carry bag, making it easy to move the antenna from your RV to your car or truck for tailgating without the RV (hey, it happens on occasion!) You can also use 110 AC or 12V DC power, making it ideal for a lot of different and varied uses (home, RV, or truck tailgating).
DVR For Over-The-Air TV
One feature that a lot of people like about cable and satellite television is the DVR capability. But that’s no reason to stick with cable or satellite!
You can now get DVR for OTA channels with Amazon’s Fire TV Recast.
There are two versions of the Fire TV Recast – 2 tuners, 500 GB and 75 hours storage. And another one that is 4 tuners, 1 TB and 150 hours storage.
Either way, you can record and then later watch over-the-air TV without monthly fees. But you’ll need a Fire TV or Fire TV stick. And you can only have 1 Recast per Amazon account (so you can’t have one at home and one in the RV).
Meanwhile, the original DVR company TiVo has an OTA DVR option called the TiVo Bolt. The downside of the TiVo Bolt, however, is that you have a monthly subscription cost. And the whole idea is to minimize subscription costs, so that’s why I don’t recommend the TiVo (there are plenty of monthly subscription costs available later, no reason to add to them here). There is also a more expensive TiVo option called the TiVo Roamio that does not have subscription fees, but the payback period is pretty long on that (for the added cost of the DVR).
Adding the Sports Cable Stations
OK, so over-the-air TV is great for live TV and you can even add DVR to get a cable-like experience.
But that still leaves out the major cable sports station – ESPN.
That’s where ESPN+ comes in.
You can get thousands of live events, plus a whole lot of ESPN originals for just $4.99 month or $49.99 a year (that’s less than $4.17 a month).
UFC Fight Nights or pay-per-view events will cost extra.
ESPN+ is also subject to various blackouts, in particular to conform with the various league agreements that ESPN has negotiated or for local games. ESPN+ will determine your geographic location to comply with these rules, so your location tracking must be on for ESPN+ to work.
If you are like me, then the OTA channels and adding on ESPN+ will be more than sufficient for your television viewing needs.
But I recognize that some people like to watch TV way more than I do (I really only watch live sports on TV). There’s a few options for you:
Hulu is another option for streaming live sports. You’ll need to get the Hulu + Live package to get your sports stations like ESPN, ESPN2, ACC Network, SEC Network, etc.
The problem is that Hulu + Live will start at $54.99 for 2020, actually as of December 18, 2019. That makes it slighly more expensive than SlingTV.
Oh, and you don’t get the MLB Network, NFL Network, NBA TV, or NHL Network.
It’s also quite difficult to stream from your RV. You can watch Hulu away from home on a mobile device. That means to watch the football game live on your RV TV, you’ll need to screen cast your phone or tablet to the screen. And that eats up device battery pretty quick and typically provides a less than ideal picture quality as well as serious lag time.
Get ready for crowds! Once night falls, project the game onto a large screen so that everyone can enjoy the game together. Also great for movie nights.
We can’t forget our friends over at YouTube who have launched YouTube TV. The cost for YouTube TV is $49.99 so equivalently the same as SlingTV. The big draw here is unlimited DVR!
Unfortunately, YouTube TV does not carry the NFL Network, NHL Network, or Pac12 Network. It does have the MLB Network and NBA TV.
In order to stream YouTube TV as an RVer, you’ll need to sign-in at home at least once every three months, unless you want to watch MLB content where you need to signin at least once a month. Not difficult for most part-time RVers. But a little more difficult for full-time RVers.
But the six user accounts for each membership help. Just make sure that one is with someone back home has one of the accounts and signs in (they are going to use GPS, IP detection and other methods to figure out where you are).
For full-time RVers, you may need someone else to pick up the tab and then add you – they use the billing zip code to determine where home is. And this can affect your channel selection.
For example, I live in Atlanta and want to follow the Atlanta Braves so I need channels like Fox SportSouth. If I register as a full-timer out of South Dakota and that’s my billing zip code for my credit cards, I won’t be able to get FSS.
FuboTV is another popular service for sports fans cutting the cord with the cable and satellite companies.
Unfortunately, it is more expensive than the others at $59.99, but it doesn’t have MLB Network, NHL Network, ACC Network or the SEC Network.
Don’t Forget Amazon Prime Benefits
If you have an Amazon Prime subscription, you can also stream several channels or events through your existing subscription.
For example, the NFL Network Thursday Night game is available as part of your Prime subscription.
If you are a basketball fan, you can add-on the NBA League Pass. Same with MLB.TV for baseball fans. If you aren’t getting these channels through a service such as SlingTV.
How Do You Stream Games in Your RV?
Unlike regular TV shows, you probably want to watch your sporting events live.
That means that you don’t record the show or download it to watch later when you don’t have your internet connection (something that we often do for regular TV shows or movies).
You want your football (or baseball or hockey or basketball or NASCAR or Olympics… well, you get the idea) and you want it now!
And unfortunately, we can’t rely on campground WiFi. Even on a campus like Georgia Tech, the WiFi available to us as visitors is going to be limited out in the parking lot (it’s great in the buildings, but not where you are likely to be out tailgating).
You are going to want a really good data plan.
My current favorite way to watch the streaming games is to pair my cell phone or iPad to my TVs. I have unlimited data on my Verizon plans. As long as I am using the data on-device and not as a hotspot, then the data is unlimited.
I can use the built-in casting software on both my phone and TV. Or attach a simple adapter to go from USB C to HDMI cord already running to my TVs. This has not used up my hotspot data.
Just make sure you are not connected to the WiFi on your Ring Alarm Pro RV Security System.
Will My TV Be Able to Stream the Game?
The final question you’ll need to answer is whether your existing TVs can stream the game.
Most smart TVs will have everything you need to connect your phone or tablet and use ESPN+ (or one of the other streaming services).
If you have an older “dumb” TV that doesn’t have the streaming and WiFi capabilities built-in, then you’ll need to get an add-on device like a Roku Streaming Stick.
Cutting the Cord, Streaming Live Sporting Events in the RV
Like many aspects of RV life, streaming live sports can be as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be.
There are definitely ways to go cheaper (watching OTA games only) or more expensive (streaming all the games over an unlimited cell data network).
- HD Antenna for Over-The-Air Channels such as ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC, currently between $30-350 (one time expense).
- ESPN+ to stream ESPN channels, currently $4.99 per month;
- Smart TV or
- Roku Streaming Stick, currently around $40
Your up-front one-time expenses will be for the two antennas (the HD and the WiFi/cell data) at about $400 if you don’t have this equipment already. And possibly about $40 for a Roku Streaming Stick.
The ongoing expenses will vary depending on the service from $34.99 to $80 per month.
Cutting the cord and still being able to stream live sporting events in the RV is going to be a little pricey for the first year. But after that, you can see some real savings.
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I find it helpful when you said that most, if not all, smart TVs would be able to connect to a WiFi network and use streaming service to live stream a sporting event in a tailgate trailer. My family is planning to rent a tailgating trailer for the racing event next month, and we were wondering about the technicalities of streaming live. I’ll mention what you said with my dad so he would make sure the trailer he rents has a smart TV that can connect to a WiFi signal. Thanks for this!