By Chris Brantner
Major League Baseball fans love October, because it means weeks of playoff baseball — all starting with the first Wild Card game on Tuesday. Even if your team doesn’t make the postseason, October baseball brings fans some of the best games of the year, as teams take their play to a whole new level in the crisp fall air, and really seem to step up their games under the spotlight.
And if your hometown team does make the postseason, you want to see every pitch. This is the big crescendo, the grand finale you’ve been waiting for after a six-month, 162-game season.
Normally when you think of watching baseball, you picture watching it through your cable subscription. This makes sense, since most games are broadcast on FOX, Fox Sports 1, TBS, and ESPN, as well as team-specific cable networks such as YES (Yankees) or NESN (Red Sox). Almost all of these are channels you’d usually only watch through a cable TV package.
While cable packages are synonymous with paying lots of money and getting terrible customer service, you don’t have to deal with either to get your postseason baseball fix. You can watch every MLB playoff game for cheap — without a cable bill looming over you.
There are a couple of different options out there, and the best one for you likely depends on how many games you want to watch and whether you’re more concerned with seeing the American League or National League games en route to the World Series. Here are some details on all of your choices.
A Digital Antenna
One of the easiest and cheapest tools for any cord cutter is a digital antenna. These are nothing like the old rabbit-ear antennas of old — they’re much more high-tech and powerful, allowing you to receive free high-definition signals over the air. Most locations get strong over-the-air reception of broadcasts from the four major networks: FOX, NBC, CBS, and ABC.
A decent portion of the National League playoff games will be broadcast on FOX, so an antenna will be key to watching. And, the entirety of the World Series will be broadcast on FOX as well.
One of the best parts is, purchasing the antenna is the only cost included in this process. Once you’ve got a digital antenna hooked up, watching live, over-the-air TV is absolutely free.
How much will you actually spend on an antenna? Well, it depends on how far away you live from a city (and its broadcast stations) and what model you choose, but you’ll likely end up spending somewhere around $50. You can check out how strong reception will be in your location using this tool.
What quality of picture can you expect from your antenna? For those concerned about missing out on the quality of a cable broadcast, worry no more. The TV you watch with an antenna is a perfectly crisp, high-definition picture. Many people even insist the HD quality from their antenna is much better than any HD picture they’ve ever received through cable.
Sling TV is an online streaming service that lets you watch many popular cable channels live for a monthly fee. If you subscribe to Sling TV to watch the MLB playoffs, it will either cost you $20 or $25 for a monthly subscription. The difference in cost depends on which package you choose: Sling Blue or Sling Orange.
Sling Orange costs $20 per month and would let you watch the National League Wild Card Game on ESPN and the entire American League playoff lineup on TBS. The Blue bundle costs $25 per month, and would let you watch TBS and a solid amount of National League games on FS1. In certain locations, subscribers even get access to FOX on the Blue package. This would give you the remainder of the National League games and the World Series all on Sling TV.
The monthly cost isn’t very steep — certainly less than even a standard cable package — but the best part is you can give it a test run with a seven-day free trial. You can time it right and watch some of the playoffs for free, or just test it out ahead of time to see if the service is the right fit for you.
The PlayStation Vue service from Sony is set up very similarly to Sling TV. Anyone can subscribe, not just PlayStation users, and you can watch on a variety of devices. The starting cost is $29.99 per month and TBS, FS1, and ESPN are all included in the one package.
Certain locations will get access to FOX as well. But, in those locations the starting package costs $10 more per month. As with Sling TV, the service does have a free trial. You can either put these two back-to-back and watch two weeks of the playoffs for free, or compare them to each other and cancel the less preferred service.
If you want to compare PlayStation Vue with Sling TV to find out which is a better option for you, you can check out this article for a breakdown of the two services.
Compared to the NFL season, figuring out how to watch the MLB playoffs without cable is pretty simple. The best bet would likely be combining an HD antenna with one of the above streaming services. This will let you watch as much of the playoffs as possible, while still avoiding those huge cable bills.
Chris Brantner runs CutCableToday.com, a site dedicated to helping people find better options for watching TV without cable.