Vidgo emerges as cheapest way to stream ESPN without cable

The home screen of streaming service Vidgo.
The home screen of streaming service Vidgo. (Screen capture by The Desk)

When Vidgo relaunched earlier this year with a focus on college sports and national news, the company probably didn’t imagine it would one day be the cheapest place to stream “Monday Night Football” and other sports-related programs on ESPN.

And yet, here we are.

On Saturday, Dish Network said it was unable to reach a new agreement with the Walt Disney Company to keep the ESPN suite of sports networks as well as its general entertainment and family-oriented networks on the traditional satellite platform. The lack of a new carriage deal also impacted its budget streamer Sling TV, which has carried the Disney-owned networks since the service launched in 2015.

The issue means subscribers of the $35-a-month Sling Orange package have been without ESPN, Disney Channel, Freeform and local ABC stations since early Saturday, while customers who have the Sling Blue package are missing FX, FXX, FXM and National Geographic (those channels were carried under a separate agreement with 21st Century Fox; they became owned by Disney through an acquisition of some Fox assets in 2019).

“Disney has exploited its market position to increase fees without regard for the public viewing experience,” Brian Neylon, the executive vice president of Dish TV, said on Saturday. “Clearly, Disney insists on prioritizing greed above American viewers, especially sports fans and families with children who watch their content.”

There are some signs that the dispute could go for a while: Dish Network is notorious for resisting programming deals that lead to fee increases for subscribers, and its executive leadership have said in the past that they’d be willing to drop some sports networks over the long-term if it means keeping costs down.

What’s bad for Dish Network has become good news for Vidgo: The service carries the full suite of Disney-owned stations in its base package. That package, called “Plus,” costs $60 a month, and while that may sound a bit pricey — it is about $25 more than Sling Orange subscribers are used to paying — it’s actually the least-expensive way to stream ESPN, the Disney Channel, FX and other Disney-owned networks until the Dish-Disney carriage dispute is over. The next-cheapest way to get ESPN without cable is Google-owned YouTube TV, which costs $65 a month, followed by Disney’s Hulu with Live TV, which currently costs $70 a month but will soon increase its price by $5.

For $60 a month, Vidgo promises a lot: The service not only includes ESPN, the Disney Channel and FX in its base package, it also offers channels from Paramount Global (Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, VH1), A+E Networks (A&E, History Channel, Lifetime, TLC), Discovery Networks (Discovery, Animal Planet, Science Channel, Travel Channel) and the remaining Fox Corporation networks (Fox News, Fox Business, Fox Sports 1). The service also comes with a cloud DVR feature for recording shows and movies as well as a video on-demand catalog with tens of thousands of titles (including some shows that are exclusive to the service).

To check out Vidgo, click or tap here.

Correction: An earlier version of this story erroneously said Vidgo carries Comcast-owned channels like NBC, MSNBC and Bravo. The service currently does not have an agreement to carry those channels.