Major League Baseball Playoff Action is arguably the best episodic drama to hit your screen this fall. From October 5 and 6, when the American League and National League wildcard games are played, respectively, until possibly November 3, when the champagne would flow after a championship-deciding World Series Game 7, the 2021 MLB Playoffs promise to pack a whopping 43 high-stakes games in four weeks.
If you’re a cable or satellite subscriber with a pretty varied channel lineup, you should be good to go. But if you’re a free agent, you need a plan to stream and watch all the MLB action after the season.
Do you have to come? YouTube TV? Would Hulu Plus Live TV work? Sling TV? Something else? You will find answers here. We run through five of the leading live TV streaming services and assess how each will meet your playoff baseball needs. We also look at MLB.TV, and give some love to free TV fans with a recommendation digital antenna.
If this all sounds like a lot to take in, then it is. MLB doesn’t make it easy for armchair fans who want to follow every field 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 wildcard games, there are three rounds of play-off action: Each league has two division series, followed by one league championship series each; and then of course the unique World Series. (This math does, by the way) not take into account any tie-breaker games in the regular season.)
From there, the 2021 MLB Playoff Schedule is divided into a total of five Networks – ESPN, FS1, the MLB Network, TBS, and Fox. You will need: ESPN to watch the AL Wild Card Game; TBS for the NL Wild Card Game, plus all 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 get on the board and find out.
YouTube TV is the MVP of this rundown. It is the only live TV streaming service discussed here with a basic package that (could be) you get every MLB postseason inning.
Note, basic does not 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 area of coverage, your local, over-the-air TV stations, including Fox. (Conversely, if you and your zip code aren’t so lucky, then you would not get Fox from YouTubeTV.)
As with the other live TV services listed here, there are no installation fees, equipment fees or contracts. And just like the competition, YouTube TV is supported on a number of devices and streaming media players. A warning to Roku users: YouTube TV is currently not available in the Roku channel store. Until YouTube TV’s parent company (aka Google) and Roku fix their problems , new users who have not downloaded the app before will have to settle for watching YouTube TV on a temporary basis through the YouTube channel.
Direct TV Stream
The recently launched, rebranded live TV streaming service (formerly known as AT&T TV) follows the script with no contract, no hassle, many channels of YouTube TV. And cable vets will be familiar with the tiered packages and prices.
As for the 2021 MLB playoff action, if you’re a completist, you need Direct TV Streamis $85 per month “Choice” package. It features over 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 that much about American League teams, like the Houston Astros, you can get by with Direct TV Stream$70 per month entertainment tier. It offers over 65 channels, including all the playoff baseball channels you need — except for MLB network. (So, to be clear, this option means you’d be missing out on some AL Division Series action.)
Hulu Plus Live TV
In a way, Hulu Plus Live TV is a streaming service for extreme old-school baseball fans – the people who view the American League as an inferior upstart to the National League. Translation: A monthly Hulu Plus Live TV subscription (normally priced at $65) you get over 75 channels including ESPN, FS1, TBS and possibly your local Fox station, but not the AL Division Series broadcast on MLB Network.
From publication, Hulu Plus Live TV offered 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” Level offers a whopping 110 channels, including ESPN, FS1, and, again, depending on your region, your local Fox station. With an $8 per month add-on package known as “Fubo Extra”, you also get MLB Network. If you go for the “Elite” layer, you get 158 channels, plus the “Fubo Extra” channels, bundled together for $80 per month.
Note that we didn’t say anything about TBS: FuboTV doesn’t have it. So, if you are a diehard fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants and other National League teams, then FuboTV maybe just not the ticket. (Remember: TBS is the nothing but channel for NL playoff action for the World Series.)
From publication, FuboTV offered new users a free trial.
Among the services covered here, Sling TV has the cheapest live TV prices: $35 per month for the so-called “Orange” and “Blue” tiers. But here’s the thing: to get each 2021 MLB playoff game, you got the $50 per month, “Orange & Blue” service, plus the $15 a month MLB Network Delivering “Sports Extras” Package. So yeah, $65 a month, just like the competitors.
If you don’t mind skipping the NL Wild Card game, you can get by with the ESPN-free “Blue” tier. That brings you FS1, TBS and possibly your local Fox station. Complete the subscription with the “Sports Extra” add-on, priced at this tier for $11 per month. All together you have everything you need (but NL Wild Card game) for $46 per month.
As of publication, Sling TV offered “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 on figuring out which streaming option gives you the most bang for your playoff baseball money, then we’ve got you the You Must Have Amplified Indoor HD Digital TV Antenna.
For a flat $30 fee, it delivers all live Fox-broadcast 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 fees. Just plug the U Must Have into your set and watch. It is the 20th century TV viewing experience with 21st century technology.
Not to complicate matters, but remember that the reason cable TV has become a thing is that some neighborhoods just don’t have very good TV reception. Today’s digital antennas are much better than the, but even they can only do so much if your home has reception problems.
And one more thing: as mentioned above, the live TV streamers cannot guarantee that you will get all your local TV stations. So if you live in an area where your, say, YouTube TV subscription, not including Fox, then you 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 MLB playoff game – no ifs, ands or buts. There’s just one very big caveat: if you’re a true cord cutter (meaning you do not have a TV provider), then you are can not watch the matches live. (Local TV blackouts apply to MLB.TV users who: to do TV providers, so nothing is perfect.)
For all subscribers, games can be streamed 90 minutes after the season on MLB.TV after they are completed. Archived action is still a lot of action – and it’s all in one place.
A new, annual MLB.TV Subscription can be purchased for $26.99. (Subscription expires before the start of the 2022 MLB Spring Training.) A seven-day free trial was also available.
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