Freelance contributor, TechHiveOct 17, 2023 3:00 am PDT
Watching the NBA season without a cable subscription has always been a hurdle for basketball fans, but this season the league has added a new twist. The In-Season Tournament, a new annual competition for all 30 teams, will make its debut on Friday, November 3 with a stage of group play, before moving on to a knockout round on Monday, December 4 and culminating in a championship game for the last two teams standing the following Saturday, December 9.
That changes the requirements a bit for cord-cutters who want to catch all the hardwood action when the 2023-24 NBA season starts on Tuesday, October 24. As in the past, big matchups will be broadcast nationally on ABC, ESPN/ESPN2, TNT, and NBA TV. And you can get most, if not all, of these covered with a single live TV streaming package.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the regional sports networks (RSNs) that air the bulk of the teams’ games. Fox Sports, NBC Sports, YES Network, Marquee Sports Network, and other RSNs have been dropped from YouTube TV, Hulu With Live TV, Sling TV, and fuboTV over carriage-fee disputes.
If you’re mainly interested in following your local team through the season, your best bet is to determine which streaming service has an agreement with your team’s regional network and go with that one. Chances are it will also stream some or all the cable networks mentioned above. A few teams can still be found on over-the-air channels—the Chicago Bulls on the windy city’s WGN, for one—but that arrangement is rapidly going the way of the two-handed set shot.
At this point, it looks like some key In-Season Tournament matchups the will be broadcast nationally on ABC, ESPN/ESPN2, TNT, and NBA TV, but you will likely need your home team’s regional network to view the bulk of their games and an NBA League Pass subscription to watch the whole tournament.
We’ve put together guide to all your options, whether you just want to follow your team or the whole league.
Updated October 17, 2023 to report all your streaming options for the 2023-24 NBA season.
Over the air
The good news is you can access ABC for free if you have an over-the-air TV antenna (you’ll find our top antenna picks here) and are within the radius of your local ABC affiliate’s broadcast tower. The bad news is the network is scheduled to air only about two dozen of this year’s nationally televised games. These, however, include some of the league’s marquee matchups, including two Christmas Day games—Warriors vs. Nuggets and Lakers vs. Celtics—and the In-Season Tournament final on December 9.
You can watch the remaining games with some combination of the following services.
The easiest way to catch many of the cable telecasts is with the Sling TV streaming service, but you’ll need to pony up for a monthly subscription. For $40 per month (currently half off for the first month), Sling’s Orange package will get you ESPN/ESPN 2 and TNT. You can also get NBA TV with the Sports Extra add-on for an additional $11 per month. With a TV antenna to catch the ABC broadcasts, you’ll have everything covered.
You can also get ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, and NBA TV with DirectTV Stream. All you need is the Choice package for $99 per month, currently being offered for $10 off for the first three months. You might also be able to get your local team’s games, as DirectTV Stream is the only service to offer a full complement of regional sports networks, including the NBC Sports regional networks, Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, New England Sports Network, YES Network, and Spectrum SportsNet LA. To find out what’s available in your area, enter your ZIP code into DirectTV Stream’s channel lookup. Note that you’ll still need an antenna to watch games on ABC.
Hulu + Live TV and YouTube TV
Both Hulu + Live TV and YouTube TV give you access to ABC, ESPN/ESPN2, and TNT, for a flat fee, but only YouTube TV offers NBA TV, giving it the edge for hoop heads. Disney just raised the price for Hulu + Live TV to $77 per month. YouTube TV charges $73 a month, discounted to $55 a month for the first three months. With just the one channel package for each of these services, however, you don’t get the customizability of Sling TV or DirecTV Stream, so keep that in mind if you plan to use your subscription beyond basketball season.
FuboTV offers ABC and ESPN in its $75-per-month Pro package, but none of its packages include TNT. This package also includes regional networks NBC Sports Bay Area and NBC Sports California, which is great news if you’re a fan of the Kings, Warriors, Lakers, or Clippers. You can add NBA TV by purchasing the Sports Lite add-on for an additional $11 a month.
NBA League Pass
If you’re truly hardcore for the hardwood, you should consider a subscription to NBA League Pass, the league’s official streaming service. For $100 a year or $15 per month, you can watch every live out-of-market game that isn’t being broadcast nationally on one of the four networks we’ve mentioned.
A League Pass subscription allows you to watch every feed (home, away, mobile view, plus additional languages and camera angles) of a game on your TV, computer, tablet, and smartphone. Games originally broadcast on ESPN, TNT, and ABC are available three hours after completion in the video archives. You also get anytime access to a curated selection of “classic” games.
For $150 a year or $23 per month, you can upgrade to NBA League Pass Premium, which enables you to stream a game on three devices at once and watch all games commercial free.
NBA Team Pass
That’s a big investment if you only want to follow your favorite team. NBA Team Pass is a less-expensive alternative. For $90 a year, you get access to all your squad’s local broadcasts for both home and away games.
The rub is that NBA blackout rules still apply. If you live in your team’s “home” market—a Warriors fan residing in the San Francisco Bay Area, for example—you still won’t be able to watch their games even with a Team Pass subscription (this goes for League Pass as well). Your team’s home market, however, isn’t necessarily defined by your town’s city limits.
In the NBA’s own words, the league determines blackout zones “using zip code (if watching via a satellite television provider), a combination of zip code and cable system distribution territory (if watching via a cable television provider), or by the IP address associated with your internet connection or your mobile device’s GPS coordinates.”
That means this isn’t a cord-cutting option for everyone. You can see which teams are not available in your area in the blackout section on this page when you choose your subscription.
NBA streaming is still 50-50 ball
Streaming live NBA games continues to be a mixed bag for cord-cutters. The availability of national broadcasts through streaming services gives you a courtside seat for some of the biggest matchups of the season. But local fanbases who want to follow their team continue to be left on the bench, for the most part. Until streaming options for regional sports networks become more widely available, you might want to dust off your radio.