5 Best VPNs for ESPN that work in 2017

Stephen Cooper

Stephen Cooper

October 17, 2017

ESPN is a sports broadcaster owned by Disney. It is Disney’s most profitable asset. ESPN generates more income for the company than all of its other divisions put together. The broadcaster runs a range of TV channels that show live events, catch-up TV, and commentary shows. ESPN is particularly well known for its college football live broadcasts and the NFL draft.

The regular form of access to ESPN programming is through a cable or satellite TV bundle. The ESPN website also offers a player, called WatchESPN. This facility allows you to watch live broadcasts, and also check out a library of news items, debate shows, and recorded sporting events. However, there is a catch. You can only watch the online service if you already have ESPN in a home entertainment package. It’s not possible to just sign up for ESPN online without having that home package. ESPN has channels all over the world, but you can only watch online in your home country.

When you try to turn on the player, it prompts you to log in through your home entertainment package provider. However, if you’re in another country, it will present you with the list of providers for the country that you’re in and not your home country. That step in the access process makes it impossible to get into the player from abroad. If you’ve travelled to a country where there is no local ESPN service, you’ll see a blocking screen that tells you that you can’t watch from your location.

You can get around these access hurdles with a Virtual Private Network (VPN). However, you’ll still only be able to watch the service if you subscribe to ESPN as part of a cable or satellite bundle at home.

You can read more about ESPN’s access restrictions later on in this review. Firstly, take a look at our list of the five best VPNs for ESPN.

Best VPNs for ESPN: Summary

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  • Gets past VPN detection at streaming sites
  • Fast network for streaming
  • Servers in 94 countries, including the US
  • No logs
  • Only allows three simultaneous connections

ExpressVPN is a very comprehensive VPN service that is great at getting around the regional access restrictions at video streaming sites. This VPN has servers in nine US cities, plus server locations in 93 other countries. This wide network gives you plenty of scope to sample video services from all over the world, not just ESPN.

This VPN can support other online activities, not just access to ESPN. The headquarters of ExpressVPN are in the British Virgin Islands. In addition, the company keeps no activity logs, so this is a good service for protecting your identity if you like to download copyrighted material through peer-to-peer (P2P) networks.

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2. Best VPN for ESPN: NordVPN

NordVPN Homepage
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Servers in 61 countries, including 447 in the US
  • Gets past VPN detection at streaming sites
  • Allowance of six simultaneous connections
  • Account sharing allowed
  • Customer support can be slow

NordVPN has a total of 447 servers in the US, plus servers in 60 other countries. This is a great service for getting around access restrictions at video streaming services, including ESPN. The app of this VPN is very easy to use. The main screen shows a map of the world with markers where NordVPN has servers. You just double-click on a marker to connect. You can install this VPN on routers. Doing so will cover all of the devices in your home, including TV set top boxes.

A router install counts as one of an allowed six simultaneous connections. It will cover all of the devices in your home. This generous allowance opens up the option to save money by sharing an account with a friend - NordVPN is fine with that.

3. Best VPN for ESPN: VPNArea

VPNArea Homepage
  • Seven-day money-back guarantee
  • Servers in 68 countries, including 42 in the US
  • Gets past VPN detection systems at video sites
  • Allowance of six simultaneous connections
  • Automatic WiFi protection
  • Not the fastest VPN on the list

VPNArea has a server network that covers 68 countries, including 42 servers in the US. This company is very good at getting around the access restrictions at streaming services. It can get past some of the toughest blocks, including those at Netflix.

The VPN app has some great security features, including very strong session establishment encryption. Other connection control utilities include a kill switch, to prevent the apps on your computer from connecting to the internet if the VPN isn't engaged, and automatic WiFi protection.

4. Best VPN for ESPN: CyberGhost

CyberGhost Homepage
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Free version available
  • Servers in 29 countries, including 216 in the US
  • System-wide and per-app kill switch
  • Fast transfer speeds
  • Can't get into Netflix

CyberGhost operates in 29 countries. It has 216 servers in the US. The app for this VPN has a very cool design and it has some great features. These include an activity selection screen, which adjusts the VPN's settings according to your chosen online activity. Streaming is among those options. Other features include a kill switch and automatic WiFi protection.

There is a great free version of CyberGhost, which is on the BestVPN list of the five best free VPNs. The free version gives you unlimited data usage. However, there are limitations to this service. You only get access to servers in 13 countries and you get slower throughput speeds than the paid version offers.

5. Best VPN for ESPN: PrivateVPN

PrivateVPN Homepage
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Servers in 55 countries, including the US
  • Automatic WiFi protection
  • P2P allowed
  • Allowance of six simultaneous connections
  • Can't get into all video streaming services

PrivateVPN has servers in 55 countries, including seven server locations in the US. This service is based in Sweden. It keeps no logs, so it offers good protection for those who want to download files with a BitTorrent client. The technical support team is good and can use remote control software to fix problems on your computer.

The service allows you six simultaneous connections, and security features include a kill switch and automatic WiFi protection.

Best VPNs for ESPN: Considerations

ESPN Location Detection

Most video streaming services try to prevent people from accessing their content from overseas. This is because broadcasters pay for the rights to show live sporting events in specific territories. Other companies pay for those rights in other countries. As such, if the copyright holder, team, or league didn’t enforce the territorial restrictions in its contract, one broadcaster could damage the value of the rights held by other companies in the world.

ESPN has to restrict your access so you can only watch in the country where you have a home entertainment package that includes it. If you have ESPN at home in the US, then travel to the UK, you don’t have the right to watch the service  there. This is because BT has paid ESPN a lot of money for the rights to show that content in the UK. ESPN can’t take BT’s money and then undercut the contract by showing that live coverage itself as well. The requirement to log in through your home TV provider is a pretty effective block on access to WatchESPN.

When you access the player from a different country, you’ll see a list of the TV carriers for ESPN in that country. The website can tell where you are in order to do this. When you access any website, your browser goes to the host computer for that site and asks it to send the code for the page. The request has to include a return address, otherwise the host wouldn’t know where to send the page. Every computer that is connected to the internet has to have a unique identifier. This is called an IP address. It reveals your geographical location.

Using a VPN with ESPN

If you travel abroad, you’re expected to take out a TV package in that country that includes ESPN if you want to access the online player at the ESPN website. If you’re abroad for a long time, the probability is that you’ll rent a place to live over there. You can then seek out your local ESPN provider and subscribe. This action will get you access to the ESPN online player from your new location.

However, if you don’t cancel your TV package back home, you’ll end up paying for ESPN twice. If you’re only overseas for vacation, it won’t be possible to sign up for a new TV package. In these instances, you can use a VPN to continue accessing ESPN programming over the web.

A VPN carries your internet traffic over a secure connection to a nominated server. Once those messages arrive, the server decrypts them and forwards them to their intended destinations. The responses to the requests that your browser sends out need to be sent back down the secure connection, so the VPN server replaces your computer’s identifier with its own in the return address field.

If you have access to ESPN at home in the US, you have the right to watch the service through WatchESPN. If you access that site through a VPN server in the US, you’ll appear to be in the US. Thus the ESPN host computer will send back the list of US ESPN carriers. You can select yours and log in. Then you’ll have access to all of the ESPN content that is available for the US, even though you’re really abroad.

Best VPN for ESPN: Conclusion

If you move abroad long term, you have the option of giving up your home and setting up a new life in your new country, including a new cable or satellite TV package. In this instance, if you’re happy with the TV in your new home, you don’t need to do anything. However, if you’re only abroad for a short time and you don’t like the local TV, you can install a VPN to access a large number of TV stations back home – not just ESPN.

The providers in this list of the best VPNs for ESPN will get you into the carrier selection screen for your home country at the WatchESPN site. They’ll also help you access plenty of other TV from home. You don’t have to give up home comforts when you travel. Keep in touch with ESPN by installing a VPN.

Best ESPN VPN: Side-by-Side Summary

Image Credit: aradaphotography/

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