How to get around ESPN blackout in 2023
If you see the error message 'This content is subject to blackout' on ESPN+, you've encountered an occasional ESPN blackout. Commonly used to restrict local sports game streaming due to broadcasting rights, like local FC Dallas games, it sometimes extends to national streams, too.
Luckily, there’s an easy way to get around ESPN blackouts. A reliable VPN is the number one go-to tool to bypass regional blocks, and we'll show you exactly how to use it to avoid ESPN blackouts.
Based on our tests and expert opinion, we've gathered a list of the three best VPNs to get around ESPN blackouts with speedy US servers that will unblock restricted sports games. Furthermore, they're fully compatible with other streaming services, like Disney+ and Netflix, expanding available content options. Let's dive in!
How to get around ESPN blackout with a VPN
- Subscribe to a VPN with speedy US servers. We recommend NordVPN, now 69% OFF!
- Download and install the app on your device
- Connect to a server in a state where the ESPN+ stream is available
- Visit the ESPN+ website and enjoy the matches
Best VPNs to bypass ESPN blackout in 2023
- NordVPN – best VPN to bypass ESPN blackout in 2023
- Surfshark – cheap ESPN VPN to bypass blackouts on any device
- Atlas VPN – streaming-optimized VPN to watch ESPN matches
We tested all top-rated VPNs on the market to select only the ones that work with ESPN and can bypass blackouts. We looked for an extensive network of fast US servers, robust security features, excellent speed retention rates, and additional features to enhance your browsing experience.
Why does ESPN blackout games?
In the US, sports generally have two broadcasting tiers – local and national live streams. National broadcasts are available on over-the-top streaming services, like ESPN+ and FuboTV, but local games are often blacked out. That's because ESPN must abide by rights holders' agreements.
Each sports league negotiates contracts with streaming services and cable TV providers for the rights to broadcast their tournaments. Local matches are frequently telecast via local Cable TV channels that want to retain an active user base in a competitive streaming landscape. Meanwhile, national games are broadcast over the Internet to make them available nationwide.
Although there's no comprehensive ESPN blackout map, you'll know the stream is restricted because ESPN will display the ESPN blackout error message.
Luckily, VPNs are especially effective at bypassing ESPN blackout restrictions. For example, you can use one to avoid ESPN NHL blackout wherever you reside. ESPN+ does not enforce anti-VPN rules very hard, so you'll quickly find a working US server to watch restricted games.
Best VPNs to get around ESPN blackouts – detailed review:
We've tested 32 VPNs to pick the ones best for sports streaming. We've looked at US server amount and speed, streaming-friendly features, price, and a money-back guarantee in case you only require a VPN for a few matches. Here are our top three recommendations!
1. NordVPN – best ESPN+ streaming VPN overall
|Servers/countries:||5,900+ servers in countries|
|Bypass ESPN blackout:||Yes|
|Current deal:||🔥Holiday Deal! Get NordVPN with 69% OFF + 3 months FREE!🔥|
NordVPN is the best VPN to get around ESPN blackout. It offers nearly two thousand speedy US servers in 16 locations optimized for HD streaming. In addition, it has a proven track record of bypassing streaming restrictions with various platforms, like Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, and others.
All servers have a default SmartPlay feature that ensures NordVPN bypasses even the toughest geographical restrictions. The NordLynx tunneling protocol provides excellent connection speeds; based on our testing, NordVPN retains around 90% of the initial speed, so you get to enjoy a lag-free streaming experience.
Furthermore, you can stream the games on six devices simultaneously on your preferred platform.
NordVPN costs only $2.99/month and offers a 30-day money-back guarantee. Mobile users can also use a 7-day free trial.
There's more information in our detailed NordVPN review.
2. Surfshark – budget-friendly ESPN+ streaming VPN with unlimited connections
|Based in:||The Netherlands|
|Servers/countries:||3,200+ servers in 100 countries|
|Bypass ESPN blackout:||Yes|
|Current deal:||🔥Holiday deal! Get 82% OFF Surfshark + 4 months FREE🔥|
Surfshark is an excellent choice to get around ESPN blackout on whatever device you use. It provides unlimited device support and allows account sharing between friends and family.
You can forget about ESPN blackout restrictions using Surfshark's 600 US servers in 25 major cities. There's also a Smart DNS technology to optimize streaming quality, although you'll have to set it up manually. Based on our tests, the speedy WireGuard connections ensure 86% original speed retention, which leads to a lag-free streaming experience.
Best off, this VPN works with all of the popular streaming platforms, like Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and others, and has been tested numerous times to be an excellent solution to bypass content restrictions or blackouts.
Unblock ESPN+ on any device for just $1.99/month and a 30-day money-back guarantee. Android, iOS, and macOS users also get a 7-day free trial.
Learn more in our in-depth Surfshark review.
3. Atlas VPN – fast and affordable streaming VPN for bypassing ESPN+ blackout
|Based in:||United States|
|Servers/countries:||1,000+ servers in 42 countries|
|Bypass ESPN blackout:||Yes|
|Current deal:||🔥Holiday deal! Get Atlas VPN, now 86% OFF + 6 months FREE!🔥|
You can use Atlas VPN to get around ESPN blackout without paying extra for a VPN service. This freemium VPN has one of the best prices and offers a free version, although with a bandwidth cap.
The 1000-server network is spread in 42 countries, including paid and free servers in the US. We were surprised at how efficiently Atlas VPN bypasses geo-blocks, securing its place on this list. Better yet, both free and paid versions have the same performance; based on our tests, Atlas VPN retains around 80% of the initial internet speed. So, the streaming experience is smooth and lag-free.
You can get Atlas VPN for $1.64/month with a 30-day money-back guarantee or use its free version to try it out before committing.
Visit our in-depth Atlas VPN review to learn more.
How can a VPN help to get around ESPN blackouts?
ESPN+ monitors users' IP addresses like most over-the-top streaming services to determine geographical location. It will not show the game if it doesn't have the rights to broadcast a sports match where the user resides. That's why the ESPN blackout happens.
ESPN+ is also unavailable outside of the US, so you'll get another streaming error message if you attempt to use it while on vacation abroad.
A VPN lets you choose a server in the US to get a different IP address to get around the blackout and watch ESPN online. You can simply connect to a server in a different state that broadcasts the match nationwide and enjoy the stream as if you were there. Simultaneously, you can access ESPN+ outside of the US and watch games live abroad!
And if you're wondering whether it's legal to use a VPN to watch ESPN blackout games, we can assure you that no one has ever gotten in trouble for using a VPN to stream sports.
ESPN+ live blackouts: desktop vs mobile
Bypassing ESPN+ blackout on browsers is as simple as the four steps we outlined at the very beginning. Monitoring users' IP addresses is a basic online tracking tool that's easy to avoid using a streaming-friendly VPN service. More so, ESPN+ doesn't push these rules too hard, and although they can issue an account ban if the user doesn't abide by its rules, they commonly simply block the VPN IP address.
Unblocking ESPN+ on mobiles is more complicated. ESPN forces smartphone users to turn on GPS location tracking to verify their location and provide only geographically available streams. Because GPS technology is unrelated to IP addresses, VPNs cannot obfuscate the smartphone location to bypass the ESPN blackout. That is, they require additional software.
It's possible to use a GPS spoofer to change your phone's virtual location and then use a VPN to connect to a US server to watch the games. Unfortunately, GPS spoofers require rooting or jailbreaking the smartphone, which is often risky, especially if you're not tech-savvy.
We recommend sticking to streaming via a browser or a smart TV. They do not have GPS modules, so ESPN cannot use them to pinpoint geographical locations, making VPN an effective solution.
Bypass ESPN+ live blackouts on browser
- Subscribe to a streaming-friendly VPN. We recommend NordVPN with SmartPlay technology
- Download and install it on your device
- Launch the VPN app or install a web browser extension
- Connect to a server in the US state with an available ESPN+ stream
- Go to the ESPN+ website and enjoy the match
*If ESPN+ still issues a blackout, you may need to clear the browser's cache. Follow these instructions and restart the browser.
Bypass ESPN+ live blackouts on Android/iOS
- Choose a mobile-friendly VPN. NordVPN has an amazing mobile app
- Download the VPN from the Apple Store or Google Play Store
- Choose a secure GPS spoofer for your smartphone
- Follow the spoofers' instructions to obfuscate the original GPS location (it might involve rooting and jailbreaking the device)
- Open the VPN app
- Connect to a server in the US state that streams ESPN+ games
- Launch the ESPN+ mobile app or visit the website via browser and enjoy the sports
How to get around ESPN blackout without a VPN
The most obvious way to watch the matches if you encounter an ESPN blackout is to use a cable TV that shows the local sports game. ESPN also has a cable TV service, but what if you don't even own a television, like many people who use the Internet instead?
There's a way to get around the ESPN blackout without a VPN, by using proxy servers. They also obfuscate your original IP address and issue an alternative so you can connect to a proxy server in the US to access the ESPN+ stream. However, proxies do not encrypt your traffic or provide streaming-friendly features, so there are good chances that ESPN+ will detect them and deny sports stream access.
Do we recommend a free VPN to get around an ESPN blackout?
We don’t recommend free VPNs to get around ESPN blackout for a few reasons. Firstly, sports streams require excellent connection speed to avoid lag during crucial moments, and even the best free VPN services cannot ensure that all the time. More so, they may lack a vast US server network, failing to unblock local ESPN+ streams.
Some free VPNs also function as honey pots to lure users and collect browsing activities. It violates your online privacy and may lead to more serious harm, like hacking attempts. Instead, we recommend using a paid service with a free trial or money-back guarantee to avoid unnecessary issues.
Here are our top choices:
- NordVPN – comes with a 7-day free mobile device trial and a 30-day money-back guarantee.
- Surfshark – offers a 7-day free trial for mobile and macOS devices. In addition, there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee.
ESPN+ is a great platform to watch NBA, NFL, MLB, MLS, and other popular sports leagues. However, even paid users can sometimes miss a match due to broadcasting rights agreements, as ESPN often issues a broadcast blackout for local games.
Luckily, you can bypass the blackout restrictions using a streaming-optimized VPN service. NordVPN is the best VPN to watch ESPN+ because it has an impressive number of fast US servers using SmartPlay technology for enhanced streaming, excellent performance results for a lag-free streaming experience, and security online.
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How do I bypass ESPN blackout?
You can easily get around ESPN blackout by using a streaming-friendly VPN service, like NordVPN. Use the VPN to connect to a server in the US state that broadcasts the desired sports match and then head over to the ESPN+ website to watch it.
Why is there a blackout on ESPN+?
ESPN+ issues streaming blackout to abide by broadcasting rights. Each sports league negotiates deals with streaming services and cable TV for the rights to stream their games. You will encounter a streaming blackout when over-the-top streaming services like ESPN+ do not obtain the broadcast rights.
Is it legal to get around ESPN blackouts using a VPN?
Yes, using a VPN to access ESPN streams in countries that do not have explicit anti-VPN laws is perfectly legal. Although ESPN attempts to restrict VPN users, commonly, they ban a VPN IP address, leaving the account intact. Connecting to a different VPN server often solves the issue.
Why is ESPN blacked out in my area?
You may encounter an ESPN blackout in your area because the streaming service does not have the rights to broadcast a specific sports match locally. You can use a VPN like NordVPN to connect to a different US state that streams the game and still enjoy the show.