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How to get around ESPN blackout in 2024


If you see the error message 'This content is subject to blackout' on ESPN or 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 blackouts on ESPN+. 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

Get around ESPN blackout with a VPN
  1. Subscribe to a VPN with speedy US servers. We recommend NordVPN, now 74% OFF!
  2. Download and install the app on your device
  3. Connect to a server in a state where the ESPN+ stream is available
  4. Visit the ESPN+ website and enjoy the matches

Best VPNs to get around ESPN blackout in 2024

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 getting around ESPN blackout restrictions. For example, you can use one to avoid ESPN NHL blackout wherever you reside. ESPN+ only enforces anti-VPN rules a little, 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 42 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

NordVPN banner
Based in:Panama
Servers/countries:
6300+ servers in countries
Bypass ESPN blackout:
Yes
Current deal:Get NordVPN, now up to 74% 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 $3.09/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

Surfshark banner
Based in:The Netherlands
Servers/countries:
3200+ servers in 100 countries
Bypass ESPN blackout:
Yes
Current deal:
Get 83% OFF Surfshark + 3 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 $2.19/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. IPVanish – versatile streaming VPN for bypassing ESPN+ blackouts

IPVanish banner
Based in:United States
Servers/countries:
2400+ servers in 55 countries
Bypass ESPN blackout:Yes
Current deal:Get 83% OFF IPVanish + 3 months FREE!

IPVanish is a well-rounded VPN service capable of removing ESPN+ blackouts with ease. It offers a massive 2400 server fleet, most of which is located in North America, giving customers plenty of US IP address options.

This VPN is an excellent choice for households with many sports fans because the service supports unlimited device connections per account. You can install IPVanish on PC, smartphones, Android TV, Apple TV, and other entertainment devices. Most importantly, you won’t encounter any lagging issues because the VPN utilizes the powerful WireGuard protocol for conducting connections.

When testing IPVanish, we had no trouble accessing ESPN+ and other US-based streaming services like Max and Hulu. Connection speeds were excellent throughout, retaining around 80% of our initial speed on average.

You can get a taste of this service for as little as $2.19/month. Also, remember about the 30-day money-back guarantee if the IPVanish doesn’t meet your expectations.

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: browser vs mobile

Bypassing ESPN+ blackout on browsers is as simple as the four-step process outlined at the top. 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

  1. Subscribe to a streaming-friendly VPN. We recommend NordVPN with SmartPlay technology
  2. Download and install it on your device
  3. Launch the VPN app or install a web browser extension
  4. Connect to a server in the US state with an available ESPN+ stream
  5. 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

  1. Choose a mobile-friendly VPN. NordVPN has an amazing mobile app
  2. Download the VPN from the Apple Store or Google Play Store
  3. Choose a secure GPS spoofer for your smartphone
  4. Follow the spoofers' instructions to obfuscate the original GPS location (it might involve rooting and jailbreaking the device)
  5. Open the VPN app
  6. Connect to a server in the US state that streams ESPN+ games
  7. Launch the ESPN+ mobile app or visit the website via browser and enjoy the sports live

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 is a good chance that ESPN+ will detect them and deny access to sports streams.

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:

Conclusion

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 get around 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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