Sports fans have taken to online streaming like fish to water and there’s a lot to choose from. Unless you’re a rugby or netball fan. For those sports, if you’re not going to be at the game, then you only have 2 ways of watching live: with a Sky TV subscription or through Fan Pass (which is owned by Sky). We compare these options, and cover your choices for streaming other sports such as American football and basketball.

Sky vs Fan Pass

Fan Pass is available on a range of devices (from phones to TVs) and has a simple user interface. A Fan Pass subscription gives you access to live HD broadcasts of Sky Sport channels 1 to 4 and some on-demand highlight packages, and all without a Sky TV subscription. However, recent changes have made the service less attractive to many sports fans.

Fan Pass was available as daily, weekly or monthly passes. The ability to start and stop your Fan Pass subscription appealed to those who wanted to dip in and out of sport. For example, if you timed it right, you could buy a week pass and get your team’s Saturday night game followed by their Friday night game in the next round.

But, Sky changed its Fan Pass subscription options in May 2017. It eliminated daily and weekly options, and bumped up the price for a single month. It also added a 6-month subscription option.

Let’s compare Fan Pass’s old fee structure to its new one, alongside Sky’s cheapest option for a similar service (a 6-month basic plan with sports and HD added). For the Sky TV plan, you’d pay a minimum of $539 for 6 months, but I’ve averaged that cost over a day, week and month.

 [width=20%] Fan Pass (pre-May 24, 2017) Fan Pass (post-May 24, 2017) Sky TV (averaged)
Day $15 - $3
Week $20 - $22
Month $56 $100 $90
6 months $336 $330 $539
Year $672 $660 $1078

If you want more than a few months of Fan Pass, the best value is buying a 6-month pack for $330.

Despite the price hike, Fan Pass is still the cheapest way to watch top-tier rugby in New Zealand. The initial outlay is larger than Sky (Sky bills $90 a month for a similar service) but it’s more flexible and cheaper in the long run.

How to watch other sports

Rugby isn’t the only sport streaming online. Many professional sports leagues have their own streaming service. The more popular the league, the easier it is to find an excellent streaming service at a good price.

For example, big-money American sports (NFL, MLB and NBA) all have excellent streaming services. The software behind these services are often used by other sports, so user interfaces are very similar.

We’ve compiled a short and non-exhaustive list of sports services available in New Zealand. We don't list prices for these services as they vary depending on how far through the season it is. There are also different ways of billing. For example MLB TV costs US$100 (NZ$140) a year while WWE costs NZ$15 a month.

  • NFL GamePass (American football)
    Offers live and on-demand HD streams of every game. Extra content including highlight packages, specially edited games, some historic content, and NFL network. App available on most mobile devices, browsers, and some media boxes, such as Apple TV.

  • MLB TV (baseball)
    Offers full live and on-demand HD streams and radio broadcasts of every game. When watching on-demand games you can skip between innings and scoring plays. You can choose between home and away broadcast commentary. Extra content including highlight packages and specially edited games. App available on most mobile devices, browsers, and some media boxes, such as Apple TV. Note, the service is called MLB TV, the app is called MLB At Bat.

  • NBA League Pass (basketball)
    Offers live and on-demand HD streams of every game. Extra content including highlight packages, specially edited games, some historic content, documentaries, and NBA TV. App available on most mobile devices, browsers, and some media boxes, such as Apple TV.

  • PGA Tour Live (golf)
    Offers live and on-demand HD streams of every tour event. Extra content includes behind the scenes, highlights, and early rounds. App available on most mobile devices, browsers, and Apple TV.

  • beIN Sports (soccer)
    Offers live non-HD streams and replays of some games. Covers Premier League, Champions League, Europa League, La Liga, EFL and EFL Cup. Also available as part of a Sky subscription for a higher fee. Watching via Sky is the only way to get HD coverage. App available on most mobile devices and browsers.

  • Tennis TV (tennis)
    Offers live and on-demand HD streams of most ATP tour events. Extra content including highlight packages and some historic content. Does not include Grand Slams, WTA, Davis or Fed Cup matches. Auckland Open not available to watch in New Zealand. App available on most mobile devices.

  • UFC TV (mixed martial arts)
    Offers two different packages: one screens live and on-demand single pay-per-view (PPV) events, the other offers a subscription service for live and on-demand non-PPV events. App available on most mobile devices, browsers, and some media boxes, such as Apple TV.

  • WWE Network (pro wrestling)
    Offers live and on-demand HD streams of every PPV event and weekly shows. Extra content includes exclusive shows broadcast on the network as well as historical shows. Some weekly shows are only available after a delay. App available on most mobile devices, browsers, and some media boxes, such as Apple TV.

Subscriptions can be broken down into 3 types of subscriptions: weekly/monthly; partial season; full season. Partial season subscriptions are usually deals during play-offs or finals, where you may be able to buy one game or a series.

There are other services, such as NRL Live Pass for rugby league, which are only available in certain countries. It may be possible to access these via a VPN and a non-NZ payment method.

Freeview channel Duke, also offers sports (both live and as broadcast replays). You can stream it live via the TVNZ On-Demand app or website, but you are constrained by the broadcast schedule.

Social media sites are also getting into the sports broadcast business. Twitter broadcasts selected NFL, MLB games and eSports tournaments (the latter regularly gets more than 100 million viewers) for free. YouTube has broadcast the Olympics to countries that didn’t have a national broadcaster covering the event.

Note, this is not the same as individuals broadcasting sports events on Facebook, which is a breach of copyright.

Illegal streams

This brings us to illegal online streams. Some websites offer free streaming sports events, but none of them are legal. These streams are often full of dodgy ads and can be vectors for malware on your computer. The exceptions to this rule, such as Twitter mentioned above, are few and far between.

Even if using a VPN to pretend you’re from another country, you’ll still have to pay for content. Anyone who tells you watching sport online for free is legal is lying and probably trying to sell you something.