Major League Baseball playoff action may be the best episodic drama to be had on your screen this fall. From Oct. 5 and 6, when the American League and National League wild-card games, respectively, are scheduled to be played, to potentially Nov. 3, when the champagne would flow following a championship-deciding, World Series Game 7, the 2021 MLB playoffs promise to pack as many as 43 high-stakes games into four weeks.
If you’re a cable or satellite subscriber with a decently diverse channel lineup, you should be good to go. But if you’re a cord-cutting free agent, then you need a plan for streaming and watching all the MLB postseason action.
Should you go with YouTube TV? Would Hulu Plus Live TV work? Sling TV? Something else? You can find answers here. We’re running through five of the leading live-TV streaming services, and assessing how each will meet your playoff-baseball needs. We also take a look at MLB.TV, and give some love to free-TV fans with a digital-antenna recommendation.
If all this sounds like a lot to take in, it is. MLB doesn’t make it easy on armchair fans who want to follow every pitch facing Mookie Betts and the 2020 World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers, Jose Altuve’s Houston Astros, Christian Yelich’s Milwaukee Brewers and more.
After the wild-card games, there are three rounds of playoff action: Each league has two division series, followed by one league championship series each; and, then, of course, the singular World Series. (This math, by the by, does not account for any potential regular-season tie-breaker games.)
From there, the 2021 MLB playoff schedule is split among a total of five networks — ESPN, FS1, the MLB Network, TBS and Fox. You’ll need: ESPN to watch the AL Wild Card Game; TBS for the NL Wild Card Game, plus all the NL Division Series games and the NL Championship Series; FS1 and the MLB Network for the AL Division Series games; FS1 and Fox for the AL Championship Series; and, finally, Fox for the World Series.
But where to stream and how? It’s time to step up to the plate, and find out.
YouTube TV is the MVP of this rundown. It’s the only live-TV streaming service discussed here with a basic package that’ll (maybe) get you every MLB postseason inning.
Note, basic doesn’t mean cheap: YouTube TV’s standard monthly service costs $65. For that investment, you get more than 85 live-TV channels, including ESPN, FS1, TBS, the MLB Network, and, depending on your coverage area, your local, over-the-air TV stations, including Fox. (Conversely, if you and your zip code aren’t so lucky, then you won’t get Fox with YouTubeTV.)
As with the other live-TV services noted here, there are no installation fees, equipment fees or contracts. And, as with the competition, YouTube TV is supported on a number of devices and streaming media players. One heads-up for Roku users: YouTube TV is currently not available in the Roku channel store. Until YouTube TV’s parent company (aka Google) and Roku resolve their , new users who haven’t previously downloaded the app will have to settle for watching YouTube TV in work-around fashion via the YouTube channel.
The recently launched, rebranded live-TV streaming service (formerly known as AT&T TV) follows the no-contract, no-hassle, loads-of-channels script of YouTube TV. And cable vets will be familiar with its tiered packages and pricing.
As far as 2021 MLB playoff action goes, if you’re a completist, then you’ll need DirecTV Stream‘s $85-a-month “Choice” package. It features more than 90 live-TV channels, including ESPN, FS1, MLB Network, TBS and, depending on your coverage area, your local Fox station.
If you don’t care as much about American League teams, such as the Houston Astros, then you can get by with DirecTV Stream‘s $70-a-month “Entertainment” tier. It offers more than 65 channels, including all the playoff-baseball channels you’ll need — except MLB Network. (So, to be clear, this option means you’d miss some AL Division Series action.)
Hulu Plus Live TV
In a way, Hulu Plus Live TV is a streaming service for extremely old-school baseball fans — the folks who consider the American League an inferior upstart to the National League. Translation: A monthly Hulu Plus Live TV subscription (regularly priced at $65) will get you more than 75 channels, including ESPN, FS1, TBS and potentially your local Fox station, but not the AL Division Series-airing MLB Network.
As of publication, Hulu Plus Live TV was offering new subscribers a seven-day free trial, followed by $10 off the first three months of a monthly subscription.
For $65 a month, FuboTV’s “Starter” tier offers as many as 110 channels, including ESPN, FS1 and, once again, depending on your area, your local Fox station. An $8-a-month add-on package, known as “Fubo Extra,” will get you MLB Network, too. If you go for the “Elite” tier, you’ll get 158 channels, plus the “Fubo Extra” channels, bundled together for $80 a month.
Note we’ve haven’t said anything about TBS: FuboTV doesn’t have it. So, if you’re a diehard fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants and other National League teams, then FuboTV may just not be the ticket. (Remember: TBS is the only channel for NL playoff action before the World Series.)
As of publication, FuboTV was offering new users a free trial.
Among the services covered here, Sling TV has the cheapest live-TV prices: $35 a month for its so-called “Orange” and “Blue” tiers. But here’s the thing: To get every 2021 MLB playoff game, you’ll need the $50-a-month, “Orange & Blue” service, plus the $15-a-month MLB Network-delivering “Sports Extras” package. So, yup, $65 a month, just like the competitors.
If you don’t mind skipping the NL Wild Card game, then you can get by with the ESPN-free “Blue” tier. That’ll bring you FS1, TBS and potentially your local Fox station. Complete the subscription with the “Sports Extra” add-on, priced at this level for $11 a month. All together, you’ll have everything you need (but the NL Wild Card game) for $46 a month.
As of publication, Sling TV was offering the “Orange” and “Blue” tiers to new users for just $10 each for the first month; the deal for the “Orange & Blue” tier was $20 for the first month.
Indoor HD digital TV antenna
If you’re still with us, and haven’t given up figuring out which streaming option will give you the most bang for your playoff-baseball buck, then we offer you the U Must Have amplified, indoor HD digital TV antenna.
For a flat $30, it’ll deliver any live, Fox-aired games, including the World Series, to your HDTV set — plus everything else offered by the other free, digital channels in your area. No subscription, no monthly fee. Just connect the U Must Have to your set, and watch. It’s the 20th century TV-viewing experience with 21st century technology.
Not to complicate things, but keep in mind that the reason cable TV became a thing is that some neighborhoods just don’t get very good TV reception. Today’s digital antennae are far better than the, but even they can only do so much if your home is reception-challenged.
And one more thing: As noted above, the live-TV streamers can’t guarantee that you’ll get all your local TV stations. So, if you live in an area where your, say, YouTube TV subscription will not include Fox, then you’re going to need a digital antenna to pick up the free-TV channel.
Our very last option is the simplest: With a MLB.TV subscription, you can watch every single MLB playoff game — no ifs, ands or buts. There’s just one very big caveat: If you’re a true cord-cutter (meaning, you don’t have a TV provider), then you can’t watch the games live. (Local-TV blackouts will apply to MLB.TV users who do have TV providers, so, truly, nothing is perfect.)
For all subscribers, postseason games will be available to stream on MLB.TV 90 minutes after they conclude. Archived action is still a lot of action — and it’s all in one place.
As of publication, a new, yearly MLB.TV subscription could be had for $26.99. (The subscription will expire before the start of 2022’s MLB spring training.) A seven-day free trial was also available.