As you’ve likely read on this website, the content available on most streaming services are restricted to a certain country or region.
Sports streaming services, like ESPN+, MLB.tv and other sports streaming services also restrict their content. However, sports services are even more restrictive than movie and TV streaming services, limiting their content access to viewers in certain states or cities.
Nearly all major sports leagues – be they professional like the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL or MLS, or college, like the NCAA, SEC, AAC and numerous other conferences – limit access to their content. They do so by implementing blackout restrictions on local viewers.
This means that if you’re a soccer fan living in Los Angeles, you might not be allowed to view LA Galaxy games on the ESPN+ website or app, but instead may be required to view it on a local television outlet. The same goes for the Dodgers and Rams in baseball and football, respectively.
Luckily, there is a tool available that provides a way to bypass ESPN blackouts, as well as blackouts by other popular sports channels.
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) can temporarily assign your device a new IP address, making it appear as if your connection is originating from a location outside the blackout area.
By connecting to a server outside the blackout area, you can unblock a region-blocked game. If you’re in Los Angeles and can’t stream the Dodgers game on ESPN+, all you need to do is connect to a VPN server in Chicago (or any other server outside the Los Angeles viewing area), and you should regain access to the game on the ESPN+ app or website.
This also works great for when you’re traveling abroad and want to watch your favorite local team play.
My recommendation for the best VPN for unblocking regionally-blocked sporting events online is ExpressVPN. In this article, I’ll show you how to bypass the ESPN+ live blackout restrictions and tell you about ExpressVPN’s impressive features.
The ESPN+ Blackout Policy
The ESPN+ blackout policy is as follows:
“Certain live sporting events and other content available through the ESPN+ service subscription may be subject to blackouts. For example, if you are in the home television territory of a team participating in a game, then the game may be blacked-out for viewing or live viewing as part of your ESPN+ service subscription (or other applicable third-party services). Blackouts will be enforced according to the location from which you are accessing the ESPN+ service or the applicable third-party services, and we may use different technologies and methods to verify your geographic location. If you do not enable location access on your device, you will not be able to access the ESPN+ service.”
How to Bypass ESPN’s Sporting Event Blackouts by Using a VPN
If a game is blacked out in your area, you’ll likely see a message that informs you that you’re blacked out due to regional restrictions by the league.
In some cases, national sports channels, like ESPN, may simply display a notice that the content is unavailable, with no other explanation.
Keep in mind that each league has their own blackout policies. You can usually find each league’s policy by looking it up on the leagues’ websites.
Here’s a quick step-by-step guide on how to bypass regional blackouts on ESPN and other services:
- Subscribe to a reliable VPN service that offers plenty of servers, delivers fast connection speeds and offers reliable access to blacked-out games. (In my testing, I’ve found ExpressVPN to be the most reliable VPN for this purpose.)
- Install the VPN app on your device of choice. (Note: While these steps will work on computers and most tablets, you may have some issues on smartphones, where ESPN and other services can check your true location using the device’s built-in GPS capabilities. More about how to deal with this later.)
- Log into a VPN server located in the same country as the desired sporting event, but in a location where the game is not blacked out. For example, to watch a Chicago Cubs game, you’ll likely have good luck by connecting to a server in Los Angeles.
- Go to the ESPN website or load the ESPN app. Log into your account and select the previously blacked-out game. You should now have access to the live game and its replays that are normally blacked out.
Resolving Live Blackouts: Mobile vs. Desktop
When a streaming sports service like ESPN+ blocks your access to a particular sporting event, they likely do it by detecting your location. The service does this on desktop and laptop computers by detecting your location via your IP address.
However, for many mobile devices, such as smartphones and many tablets, a streaming provider can detect your location using your device’s built-in GPS radio.
That’s right, the same helpful little GPS radio that helps you navigate through traffic can also act as a snitch and tell ESPN where you’re really located, even if your VPN app is telling the streaming service a different location.
While mobile apps will ask for permission before using your location information (on iOS devices, as well as Android devices), apps might not perform correctly if you don’t grant permission. A VPN can hide your real IP address, but not your GPS location.
Streaming services like ESPN+ may require you to have location services enabled so they can detect your location (as seen below). Detecting your location via GPS may defeat the VPN’s ability to spoof your location.
If the mobile version of ESPN+ continues to deny you access to your favorite local team’s live action, you might want to try the blackout-bypassing suggestions for Android and iOS devices that I outline in my “How to Bypass MLB Blackouts With a VPN” article.
If none of the above works for mobile viewing, you may be forced to view ESPN+ on your desktop or laptop computer, or on devices like Apple TV, Roku, Xbox One, or other streaming devices that are not equipped with GPS.
Bypassing ESPN+ Live Blackouts in a Browser
Using a VPN with your favorite browser will allow you to enjoy your favorite team in action, with no worries about having the action blacked out on your area.
Bypassing local blackouts with a browser and a VPN is simple. Load the app from your VPN provider of choice, select a VPN server outside of the blacked out area, load your browser of choice, and visit the ESPN website. Enjoy the show. (Told you it was simple!)
If you still have an issue accessing the blacked-out game, try clearing your browser’s cache and tracking cookies. ESPN could be accessing this information to determine your location.
The Best VPN for Avoiding ESPN+ Blackouts
While there are numerous VPN providers that may be capable of unblocking local market games on ESPN+, only one VPN has proven itself to provide the most reliable unblocking power, as well as optimal protection and enhancement for all of your online activities.
Below, you’ll find my mini-review of ExpressVPN.
ExpressVPN provides optimal unblocking for blacked-out games in your area.
The provider’s extensive global server network provides optimal access to blocked content around the globe, while its fast connection speeds mean you’ll never have to wait long for the action to begin.
1. Connection Speed
ExpressVPN’s connections speeds were the tops in our most recent speed tests, providing enough speeds for both HD and 4K video streams. (ESPN and other sports networks are testing 4K streams.)
The provider never restricts your viewing enjoyment by imposing data caps or bandwidth limitations on your usage.
The provider’s connections are well protected by banking-grade encryption, kill switch, IPv6 and DNS leak protection.
2. Multi-Platform Support
ESPN+ is available on most popular device platforms, making comprehensive multi-platform app support an important consideration. ExpressVPN has most connected device platforms covered.
The provider offers native apps for the Android, iOS, macOS, Windows, Linux, Chromebook and Amazon Fire TV device platforms. Browser extensions are also available for the Chrome and Firefox extensions.
If you prefer to view the action on an Apple TV, Xbox One, PS4, or other streaming or gaming box, you can take advantage of the provider’s MediaStreamer DNS service to access your local games.
Keep in mind, though, that the MediaStreamer service doesn’t encrypt your connection like the provider’s VPN service does.
Users can simultaneously connect up to 5 devices to the service on a single set of login credentials. If you need to protect more than 5 devices, or if you need VPN protections for devices not on the above list, the provider offers compatibility with numerous makes and models of routers.
3. Customer Support
While ExpressVPN is one of the most reliable providers I’ve had the pleasure to use, it stands to reason that you may occasionally have an issue arise or you may have a question or two. When that time comes, you’ll appreciate ExpressVPN’s comprehensive customer support.
You’ll have help around the clock thanks to 24/7 live support chat, a support ticket tracking system, email support and a searchable support database.
4. Global Server Coverage
ExpressVPN has a server network that covers most of the globe, with over 3,000 servers stationed in 94 countries. Coverage like that means you’ll be able to view your favorite team’s games, no matter where they’re located.
You’ll find that ExpressVPN is priced a bit higher than many of its competitors. However, you will also find that the provider delivers an excellent return on investment. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
A Virtual Private Network offers the most reliable way to unblock blacked out sporting events in your area.
Using a VPN – like my #1 choice, ExpressVPN – allows you to unblock all types of online content, including sporting events, movies, TV shows, and other types of services and websites. In addition, a VPN also prevents third-parties from detecting and monitoring your online activities, while also preventing your ISP from throttling your connection speeds.