ESPN is a popular sports streaming broadcaster where you can stream all major sporting events like MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, MLS, Wimbledon and more. If you’re a sports buff, you probably know what ESPN is and also that you can’t watch certain events on ESPN blackout dates.
Sports teams typically have two broadcast tiers — national and local broadcasts. Events where a team is playing outside its home area are typically broadcast nationally. On the other hand, teams playing in their home area are subject to agreements with the Regional Sports Network (RSN) or local networks like FOX.
- ESPN blackouts can stand in the way of enjoying your favorite sporting events, even when you have access to ESPN.
- Fortunately, bypassing ESPN blackouts isn’t all that difficult when you use a VPN.
- We recommend ExpressVPN because it’s fast and reliable. However, NordVPN is a pocket-friendly VPN that offers similar performance.
- If you’re looking for a free VPN, you should consider Windscribe.
However, the blackout restrictions or geoblocks shouldn’t stand in your way. That’s where a VPN can help. A VPN (virtual private network) allows you to connect to a VPN server in another geographic region, so you can bypass ESPN blackout dates.
If you’re in a blackout area, a VPN can help you conceal your real IP address and assign a new IP address for a location where ESPN is not geoblocked, and that’s how a VPN will help you access ESPN sports events. ExpressVPN is our favorite here, but NordVPN and Windscribe are also good options.
When telecasts are sold regionally or locally per league, rights holder agreements or conference, those telecasts may be subject to a blackout policy. Blackouts apply to specific locations where the telecast won’t be available. The reason for blackouts is to protect the rights of primary rights holders, which in most cases are sports leagues.
It can be difficult to get around ESPN blackouts without a VPN. While you can proxy websites to hide your true location, they probably won’t be able to get past ESPN’s geoblocks. Also, if you’re using a mobile device, you’ll need a GPS location spoofer to conceal your device’s GPS location, so you can get past ESPN’s geoblocks.
When ESPN tells you that “this content is subject to blackout,” it’s because ESPN doesn’t have the rights to allow users in your location to access the game. The reason is because sports leagues often have their own blackout policies that restrict ESPN from making a certain game available in your specific region.
You can bypass ESPN blackouts using a VPN. Since the ESPN website determines your location based on your IP address, you can use a VPN to conceal your real IP address. For instance, connecting to a server in New York assigns you a New York–based IP address. This makes ESPN think you’re physically located there and allows you to access blacked-out live sporting events.
What Are ESPN Blackout Dates and Why Do They Exist?
Some sporting events aren’t available in all regions. If you have an ESPN subscription, but can’t seem to access a specific sporting event, it’s probably because it’s blacked out in your geographic location. Plus, you also must enable location access on your mobile device to be able to stream games, so ESPN will always know where you’re located.
The reason is that ESPN might not be the primary rights holder for that sporting event. The rights may be reserved by a TV station, local cable provider, or the league itself. For instance, if you’re streaming ESPN from LA, you might not be able to view a Dodgers home game on ESPN.
Is There a Way to Get Around Blackout Restrictions on ESPN?
Using a reliable VPN service can help you stream certain live sporting events that may be inaccessible to you because of blackout restrictions. You can just connect to a VPN server in a different U.S. state and get past blackout restrictions on live games.
However, when you use a mobile device to stream sporting events, the ESPN app will look at your GPS location. A VPN can help change your IP address, but not your GPS location. If you want to bypass ESPN blackout restrictions on a mobile device, you’ll need to use a GPS spoofer like Fake GPS location.
How to Bypass ESPN Blackout Dates With a VPN
Bypassing ESPN blackout restrictions is fairly straightforward. However, if you haven’t used a VPN to bypass geo-restrictions to access streaming services, we illustrate the process below.
- Download and Install a VPN
Start by signing up for a VPN service. Once you’re done, download and install the VPN on your device.
- Connect to a U.S. Server
Connect to a U.S. VPN server by browsing the server locations on your VPN. Make sure the server location is different from your physical location.
- Access Blacked-Out Game
Once you’re connected to a U.S. server, you should be able to access the blacked-out game on ESPN.
Mobile vs Desktop: Can I Bypass ESPN Blackouts on Mobile?
Yes, you can also bypass ESPN blackouts on mobile devices. However, unlike on desktops, VPNs alone can’t help you bypass regional ESPN blackouts. The ESPN app makes it compulsory for you to turn on location services on the mobile phone. If your location services aren’t enabled, you won’t be able to access ESPN events.
When you turn on location services, ESPN will use your phone’s built-in GPS to find your true location. Since your IP address doesn’t play a role here, a VPN can’t help. You’ll need to instead install a GPS spoofer. In most cases, using a GPS spoofer involves rooting your Android device or jailbreaking your iOS device.
Even when you have a GPS spoofer, you’ll need a VPN to change your IP address. VPN apps are available for almost all popular mobile operating systems. If you’re using other devices like Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV or Android TV and the VPN service you chose doesn’t have a native app for those systems, you can install the VPN on your router.
The 3 Best VPNs for Bypassing ESPN Blackouts
When you’re unable to access a live game, ESPN will show you a message indicating that you can’t access it because of regional restrictions. In some cases, ESPN will just say the content is unavailable. If you see either of these errors, try using a VPN app to change your IP address and see if that helps. Following are the best ESPN VPNs you might want to check out.
- Unblocks ESPN & other streaming services
- Blazing-fast speeds
- Easy-to-use VPN app
ExpressVPN isn’t just the best VPN for ESPN, it’s also the best VPN overall. It’s a fast VPN service that unblocks almost all streaming services out there, including ESPN. With ExpressVPN, you get access to 160 server locations across 94 countries, so you’ll always have enough servers to connect to for streaming on the ESPN website.
You also get blazing-fast connection speeds with ExpressVPN. In fact, it’s one of our fastest VPNs, so you’ll never need to worry about waiting for the video to buffer. We talk more about ExpressVPN in our ExpressVPN review.
However, given the quality of service and features, ExpressVPN comes at a premium price. If you’re open to spending a little extra for top-notch service, try ExpressVPN out with its 30-day money-back guarantee. If you don’t like it, you can get a full refund.
- Large server network
- Fast connection speeds
- No phone support
NordVPN comes in at a close second to ExpressVPN in terms of service quality. It unblocks ESPN and other popular streaming services, just as well as ExpressVPN. It also offers similar connection speeds, so you’ll never need to worry about a poor streaming experience.
One of the most appealing aspects of NordVPN is its massive server network. It has over 5,000 servers in 60 countries, with 15 server locations in the United States. Regardless of which major sports leagues you’re a fan of, NordVPN has a server to get you access to their local games. Find out more about NordVPN in our NordVPN review.
You can get NordVPN for almost half the price of ExpressVPN. Given the similar feature set and performance, the pricing looks excellent. You can still use NordVPN’s 30-day money-back guarantee if you want to take it for a spin before committing.
- Generous free plan
- Buffer-free streaming
- Flexible build-a-plan option
- Small network of servers
Windscribe is a free VPN provider that can get past ESPN’s local blackouts. We typically don’t recommend using free VPN services. They can be insecure, unreliable and in many cases can’t get past the geo-restrictions when you want to stream ESPN events.
However, Windscribe is one of the best free VPNs — it’s secure, reliable, and effectively bypasses ESPN blackouts. With Windscribe, you get fast enough speeds for a smooth streaming experience.
The free plan comes with a 10GB data cap and only provides access to servers in 10 countries, but you can also use the build-a-plan option to add server locations and unlimited data for $1 each per month (with a minimum checkout value of $2). You can select Pro servers and edit the plan in the middle of the month without incurring extra fees.
You can read more about Windscribe in our Windscribe review, or you can try out the free plan yourself. Since there’s already a free plan, Windscribe only offers a three-day money-back guarantee.
ESPN is a great platform for sports fans to watch a live game to support their favorite local team. Unfortunately, live blackout restrictions can sometimes get in the way. If you’re unable to view a game because of live blackout restrictions, you can use a virtual private network.
Not all VPNs can bypass ESPN’s blackout restrictions though. You should select a VPN that helps you view livestreams on ESPN even from a blackout region. ExpressVPN, NordVPN and Windscribe are your best bets.
Have you used a VPN to bypass live blackouts before? If you have, which VPN did you use and how was your experience? Let us know in the comments below, and as always, thanks for reading.