Unfortunately, ESPN isn’t available everywhere. This can cause problems, for instance, if you’re trying to watch your favorite team play while on vacation abroad (outside of the US). Even assuming you can stream ESPN where you are, there’s a good chance that some sports are subject to regional restrictions (sometimes called blackouts).
If you try to access an ESPN site from abroad without a VPN, you’ll probably encounter an error like “An unexpected error occured” or “ESPN+ is not available in your country due to content rights issues.”
On the plus side, it’s fairly easy to stream ESPN live online with the right VPN. Short for Virtual Private Network, a VPN connection masks your real location so that you can browse safely and regain access to your usual services while traveling.
How to watch ESPN live online from anywhere
New to VPNs and not sure where to begin? Here’s how to unblock ESPN from abroad in a few simple steps:
- Sign up for a quality VPN. We recommend NordVPN.
- Download and install the VPN app for your device.
- Open the app and select a server location in the US. Also, be sure to avoid the blackout region for the team you’re watching.
- Hit the Connect button.
- Open the ESPN stream and start watching!
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ESPN is a multi-billion dollar company and has taken great pains to block VPN users from accessing its services. As such, not just any VPN will work. That’s why all of the VPNs we’re recommending had to meet all of the following criteria:
- Is fast enough for live HD streaming
- Works with ESPN, ESPN+, and similar services
- Uses powerful security tools to keep you safe online
- Apps for both mobile and desktop systems
- Has lots of US servers to choose from
Further down, we’ll cover each of our recommended VPN providers in more detail, but if you just need a quick summary, here are our top choices.
We found these to be the best VPNs for ESPN and ESPN Plus:
- NordVPN Best option for watching ESPN from abroad. Vast server network achieves reliable streaming speeds. Good privacy features. Includes a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can try it risk-free.
- Surfshark Best budget choice. Intuitive apps, strong security, and great streaming potential. Keeps no logs.
- ExpressVPN Fast internet speeds make for reliable streaming.Works with most other popular streaming sites too. Top privacy and security.
- CyberGhost Streaming-optimized servers and easy to use apps. Private and secure with the largest network around.
- IPVanish A zero-logs provider boasting steady speeds, strong security, and no connection limit.
- VyprVPN Worked well with ESPN in our tests. Solid security and reliable but a bit pricey.
Best VPNs for streaming ESPN
Here are the best VPNs for streaming ESPN abroad:
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
NordVPN offers an impressive 60 server country locations spread across the globe, including a whopping 1,900+ standard VPN physical servers in the US. Further, this is one of the fastest VPNs we’ve tested, which means you shouldn’t notice any lag or buffering while streaming. User bandwidth isn’t restricted in any way, and you can connect up to six devices at a time.
This provider incorporates security features like 256-bit encryption, a customizable kill switch, leak protection, and double-hop servers, which routes your data through two locations instead of one. There’s also a true no-logs policy, plus you can pay in Bitcoin, meaning paper trails are minimized and privacy all but guaranteed.
NordVPN apps are available for iOS and Android as well as Windows, Linux, and MacOS. Manual configuration is required for use with supported routers.
- Over 1,900 servers in the US
- A veteran online security provider with an impeccable reputation for privacy
- Ranks highly for speed
- Major emphasis on security and privacy
- Personal data is protected as it keeps no logs
- Desktop apps take two clicks to disconnect
BEST VPN FOR ESPN:NordVPN is our top pick for ESPN. Connects up to 6 devices simultaneously. Works well with most popular streaming services and offers consistently high speeds. Impressive security features and a risk-free 30-day money back guarantee.
Read our full NordVPN review.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
Surfshark has over 3,200 servers in 60+ countries including the US. Its speeds are extremely high, averaging over 300 Mbps in our latest tests. That’s certainly fast enough to watch live sports streams! As a bonus, you can connect as many devices as you like.
This service doesn’t log any personally identifiable information. It does store some data (such as whether your connection attempt failed) but this is for diagnostic purposes only. Surfshark actually takes your security very seriously. Its apps include 256-bit encryption, protection against DNS, IPv6, and WebRTC leaks, and a kill switch. There’s also the option to sign up anonymously with a throwaway email address and cryptocurrency payment.
This VPN has software for Android, iOS, MacOS, Windows, and Linux. It can be manually configured for use with home routers too.
- Fast and versatile
- Strong multi-platform support
- Unlimited simultaneous connections
- Strong on security
- Accepts various cryptocurrencies
- Menus could be easier to navigate
BEST BUDGET VPN:Surfshark users can easily unblock ESPN and provides a secure, private connection. This wallet-friendly service even offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full review of Surfshark here.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
ExpressVPN is a solid bet for streaming ESPN online. It has servers in 94 countries, plus 20 locations to choose from in the US alone. This makes it well-suited to those hoping to bypass ESPN’s regional blackouts and see their local team play. Better yet, this is one of the faster VPNs on the market.
This service uses 256-bit AES military-grade encryption and comes with DNS and IPv6 leak protection plus a kill switch that completely halts all internet traffic if the connection drops. ExpressVPN doesn’t log any data that could identify you, but you’re free to pay in Bitcoin for a little extra anonymity.
ExpressVPN has apps for Android, iOS, Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Linux, so you can view the action on the device of your choice. There’s also a new and improved router firmware that can protect every device on your network.
- Fast, reliable speeds for streaming HD content and for downloading/uploading large files
- Works with major streaming sites,
- Top-class security and privacy protection features
- Keeps no traffic logs of personal data
- Not the cheapest option here without using a discount coupon
IMPRESSIVE SECURITY:ExpressVPN is a blazing fast and reliable choice. Great at providing secure access to content from all over the world. Top online privacy features and a strict no logs policy. Has a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full review of ExpressVPN.
Money-back guarantee: 45 DAYS
CyberGhost is a beginner-friendly VPN service that will appeal to users on a budget. It doesn’t have the fancy customizable settings associated with some of the other providers in our list, but it does have decent speeds and a huge network, with over 7,000 servers globally. Notably, some of these are optimized for accessing services like ESPN+ abroad.
It boasts a strong security offering too, with 256-bit AES encryption, WireGuard support, DNS and IPv6 leak protection, and a kill switch. CyberGhost even recently launched its standalone Windows security suite, so it’s clear that this provider has big plans for the future. CyberGhost doesn’t log any personally identifiable data and provides around-the-clock support via email and live chat.
Apps are available for both Android and iOS mobile devices as well as Windows and MacOS. Linux systems and supported routers must be configured manually.
- Streams HD video seamlessly with no buffering during testing
- Over 1,100 servers in the US
- Apps are easy to use and great for new users
- Solid privacy and security features enabled by default
- Won’t work in Turkey, China, Saudi Arabia or UAE
RELIABLE OPTION:CyberGhost has a simple set up. Great privacy and security. Streaming-optimized servers for fuss-free viewing. 45-day money back guarantee.
Read our full review of CyberGhost.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
IPVanish continues with the tradition of having a user-first mindset. It operates around 1,900 of servers spread across 75 locations worldwide, with hundreds in the US alone. The network recently saw a significant speed boost, so you shouldn’t run into any problems watching ESPN. Best of all, IPVanish lets you secure all of your devices at the same time.
The company is based in the United States, but follows a strict “no-logs” policy coupled with 256-bit encryption, a kill switch, and leak protection. This VPN also recently introduced support for the WireGuard protocol, which is a huge step. Need help? Customer support can be reached 24/7 over email and live chat.
Apps are available for iOS, MacOS, Windows, and Android. IPVanish also offers support for Linux systems and select routers, but you’ll have to install these manually.
- Operates around 1,100 US servers
- Customer support is not outsourced, a good privacy consideration
- The interface is easy to use with Kodi and other Android-based media systems.
- Doesn’t accept Bitcoin for anonymous payment
PROTECT EVERY DEVICE:IPVanish has a large network of servers and handles multiple connections well. Easy to use and preferred by users who need high standards of privacy. Doesn’t work with as many streaming services as some of its rivals. 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full IPVanish review.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
VyprVPN is a veteran provider with a stellar reputation, so it’s no surprise that it’s a popular choice for streaming. There are over 700 servers to choose from, with eight locations in the US alone. Speeds are decent, so as long as your base connection is reasonably fast, you’ll be able to watch live HD sports without too much trouble.
The company uses 256-bit AES encryption as standard, plus it boasts a kill switch, leak protection, and its own proprietary Chameleon protocol (and, as of recently, WireGuard support). It also owns all of its servers rather than preferring to rent, giving it complete control over the data passing through its network. VyprVPN follows a zero-logs policy and has a 24/7 live chat service in case you need any help.
VyprVPN has apps for iOS, Android, Linux, Windows, and MacOS. Alternatively, you can manually install it on some home routers.
- Has servers in 8 US cities with fast streaming speeds
- Strong security and privacy features and decent speeds
- No issues unblocking ESPN from abroad
- Needs manual tweaking to work in China
- Not the cheapest in this post
EASY TO SET UP:VyprVPN is user friendly. Works well with ESPN and most popular streaming services. Offers secure connections. Reliable but not the cheapest option on the list. 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full VyprVPN review.
Can I use a free VPN to watch ESPN?
A bit of digging around on Google, DuckDuckGo, or Reddit will help you uncover free VPN services, but our recommendation is to avoid this trap.
There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and such options will bombard you with all sorts of tracking cookies, advertisements, and other methods to mine browsing data that pass through the VPN.
There’s also a very real risk of malware infection which can take several excruciating hours to fix as well the possibility of data loss. In some cases, free VPN services have been caught selling or otherwise abusing user data without their permission – a major security concern. A recent example was Hola VPN, a browser plugin with over 50 million users, that used its critical mass to attack other sites.
That’s an abhorrent practice and a stark reminder of the fact that typically when the product is free, you end up being the product.
Methodology: Choosing the best VPNs for ESPN
Deciding which VPN to use is tricky at the best of times but when it comes to sports streaming, there’s a whole other layer of pressure. After all, poor performance could lead to you missing a crucial moment. To prevent this from happening, we’ve created a set of minimum requirements that VPNs had to meet in order to be considered. You’ll find these below:
- Streaming abilities: First and foremost, you have to be able to watch ESPN online. We tested our top VPNs with lots of services that carry this channel (like ESPN+, fuboTV, YouTube TV, and Hulu) to see how effective they are at beating regional restrictions.
- Speed and reliability: Flawless live streaming requires pretty high speeds. We’ve speed tested dozens of leading VPNs, so we know which are the fastest and which have slipped a little lately. What’s more, we can provide the data to back up our claims.
- Supported locations: ESPN has different content for different countries, so having servers all over the world is a huge plus. Additionally, in the US, there are state-specific blackouts that stop you from streaming your local teams’ matches online. This means that a large server presence in the US is a necessity.
- Security and privacy: To ensure your online activities are kept hidden from snoopers, we only recommend VPNs with 256-bit encryption, a no-logs policy, a kill switch, and protection against DNS and IPv6 leaks. Of course, this is the bare minimum and we prefer providers that go even further.
- Ease of use: All of the VPNs above are easy enough for complete beginners to use. Further, they all have free, live chat-based customer support just in case you run into any issues.
- Price: We’ll never recommend a service that charges more than it’s worth. Additionally, to make sure you pay as little as possible, we’ll let you know about any discounts or money-back guarantees that are available.
Looking for more information on how we test VPNs? We’ve dedicated a whole post to explaining Comparitech’s testing process.
How can I watch ESPN online without cable?
ESPN is available online from a few different sources. Unfortunately, these are all only available in the US:
- ESPN+ is ESPN’s standalone streaming service that costs $6.99 per month or $69.99 per year. Note that a VPN will likely not work if you’re using an Android or iOS smartphone to watch.
- Watch ESPN is basically the main ESPN website and app where you can watch live streams if you log in with your US cable provider.
- Sling TV is a streaming television service designed for cord-cutters who don’t have cable or satellite. The cost for Sling Orange, which includes ESPN, is $35 per month.
- YouTube TV is a paid service from YouTube that carries several live channels for $64.99 per month including ESPN and ESPN2. You can even record games for later viewing with no storage limits. Up to six accounts are allowed per household, plus there’s a two-day free trial.
- Hulu + Live TV is Hulu’s streaming live TV service in the US. A 7-day free trial is available. You can watch in a web browser or get the app for Android, Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, game consoles, Roku, and smart TV.
- fuboTV is yet another over-the-top option. It costs $64.99 per month following a seven-day trial and lets you stream a wide range of sports channels including ESPN, CBS Sports, FS1, NFL Network, and BeIN Sports.
ESPN VPN FAQ
Which is a better VPN service, NordVPN or Windscribe?
Both NordVPN and Windscribe are strong choices for anyone concerned about their privacy. If you’re looking to stream ESPN online, though, we’d recommend using NordVPN.
It has thousands more servers than Windscribe and has a stronger set of security and privacy features. Further, NordVPN works with a wider range of streaming services and offers 24/7 live chat in case you need help. Best of all, NordVPN offers a no-questions-asked 30-day money-back guarantee, while Windscribe only offers refunds for the first three days.
Is it legal to watch ESPN with a VPN?
VPNs are primarily used to enhance your online privacy, and as such, they’re extremely valuable tools that are completely legal in most countries. This means that if you’re an ESPN customer, you should feel free to watch while connected to a VPN. Simply put, as long as you aren’t using a VPN to commit crimes on the internet, there’s no reason you’d get into any trouble.
Disclaimer: Although we’ve researched this topic thoroughly, we are not legal experts and nothing we’ve said above should be taken as legal advice.
How do you avoid blackout restrictions?
You might find that your local team’s games aren’t available on ESPN -- this is due to local blackouts, which are intended to encourage fans to watch on a regional network or to attend matches and show their support in person.
Luckily, there’s an easy way to get around these restrictions: just connect to a server in a different part of the country. This way, when the ESPN website checks your location, it’ll think you’re somewhere else, and allow you to watch your local team play. Of course, this will blackout matches from your chosen server’s region, but there’s nothing stopping you from switching servers again later.
How can I stop my ISP from throttling ESPN?
If you find that your ISP is throttling your connection, you should use a VPN. A VPN encrypts your data and hides your IP address so your IP can’t see what you’re doing online or selectively throttle your bandwidth as a result. The best VPNs offer unlimited bandwidth with absolutely no throttling. This means you can stream ESPN without having to worry about performance issues such as buffering or lag.
Why isn’t my VPN working with ESPN?
You may find that your VPN doesn’t work with ESPN on occasion. That’s because ESPN actively blacklists some IP addresses. In this case, simply connect to a different US server to get a different US IP address. Note that local and regional broadcasting blackouts can also be an issue. For instance, you'll usually find your local team's matches to be inaccessible. In this case, you should connect to a server in another US city or state to bypass the blackout.