ESPN needs no introduction. Even amidst the cable-cutting trend, ESPN’s viewership stands at a massive 86 million people as of 2018. That said, the behemoth sports network isn’t keen to let its premium content out for free, demanding hefty licensing fees in countries it broadcasts in, and shutting people out in the countries it doesn’t. This process is known as geo-blocking, and it’s a massive bummer when you’re trying to catch the game from Europe. Even if you just want access to the exclusive interviews and highlights, you’ll find your access is severely limited outside the U.S.
In most cases, if you try to access ESPN or any one of its web services from a non-licensed country, you will experience a “blackout”. The good news is that a quality VPN service will help you get an American IP and, consequently, access sports content as though you were physically located in the U.S. In this article, we will cover how to pick the best VPN for unblocking and watching ESPN, give you our top recommendations, and explain why you can’t access this sports content without this service.
Choosing the best VPN for unblocking ESPN
The number of available VPN services on the market can be overwhelming, especially if you are new to this. In order to help you make a decision, we have put together a list of the most important features you’ll need in order to unblock and watch ESPN from any location in Europe:
- Servers in the U.S. – ESPN is what some people refer to as the “Netflix of Sports” since the services widest content availability is reserved for those in America. In order to bypass these regional restrictions and access all the available content, you will need a VPN provider with many servers across the U.S.. This will grant you access to all local showings, including the live ones.
- Speed – Once your VPN is downloaded, installed, and connected, the last thing you want to experience is buffering delays or low speed connection. Opt for a provider that offers speedy connections, and places no limitations on bandwidth or speed caps.
- Privacy provisions – A VPN service is only as good as its security features. A quality provider will use military-grade encryption, for example 256-bit AES, which will keep your data secure. Furthermore, a solid zero-logging policy will protect you from being tracked online.
- Device availability – In order to enjoy ESPN on any one of your devices, choose a VPN that has wide software availability and dedicated apps for all major operating systems.
Our VPN recommendations for unblocking/watching ESPN in Europe
Now that you are familiar with the most important features in a VPN provider, take a look at our top recommendations for unblocking and watching ESPN from Europe. Whether you are traveling or have permanently relocated, these VPN services will grant you top-of-the-line security and a seamless connection for streaming.
ExpressVPN, as suggested by the name, is one of the fastest VPN providers on the market. The service employs an impressive network of 2,000+ servers in 94 countries, including at least 30 in different locations across America. If one server isn’t working to unblock ESPN, just switch it over to one of your many other choices. This works for finding faster connections too–ExpressVPN even offers a built-in speed test to find the speediest server at a glance. With no limitations on bandwidth, no speed caps, and no restrictions on P2P networks or torrents, you’ll have truly free access to the open Internet.
Each ExpressVPN connection is encrypted by one of five protocols of your choice, paired with unbreakable 256-bit AES cryptography. Combined with a solid no-logging policy (covering everything from traffic and browsing history to IP addresses and DNS requests), you’ve got a reliable system of anonymizing countermeasures to safeguard your privacy at all times. Other important security features include an automatic kill switch, which shuts down your internet should it ever get disconnected, and an in-built DNS leak test, which protects you from browsing with an unencrypted protection without noticing. ExpressVPN is available for most major devices and operating systems, including Windows and Mac.
Learn more in our full ExpressVPN review.
NordVPN is best known in the industry as one of the largest VPN networks on the market. With 5,000+ servers in 62 countries, you can be certain that you will get the fastest available connection no matter which country you want to connect to, including (and especially) the U.S. NordVPN also offers a variety of speciality servers, which are particularly useful for advanced users. These include ‘Onion over VPN’, ‘anti-DDoS’, and ‘double VPN’, which routes your data through two proxy servers, adding an extra layer of protection. These advanced features make NordVPN ideal for bypassing VPN blocks and, in turn, unblocking streaming services like Netflix and ESPN from anywhere in the world.
With 256-bit AES encryption, even the world’s strongest supercomputer couldn’t crack the code to uncover your data. Encryption protocols include OpenVPN’s UDP and TCP, as well as SSTP, which helps beat hardcore censorship blocks over HTTPS port 443. NordVPN’s logging policy is also considered to be one of the most complete in the industry, ensuring that no logs are kept on traffic, IP addresses, timestamps, and even bandwidth and traffic history. These security features, as well as the automatic kill switch and DNS leak protection, are also included in the mobile version of the service, making it ideal for those on the move. Furthermore, you can connect up to six devices at once, so your entire family can enjoy ESPN wherever you are located in Europe.
Want to know more? Check out our full review of NordVPN.
If you’re looking for hard-hitting privacy protection but are intimidated by advanced settings, CyberGhost is a solid choice for you. This provider appeals to VPN newbies and veterans alike, with all primary functions neatly encompassed in a handful of configuration presets (profiles include “surf anonymously”, “unblock streaming”, “unblock basic websites” and more), each of which can be customized by those who prefer to do so. It’s rare to see both use-cases so well catered for, making CyberGhost a solid investment for just about anyone.
With 3,100+ proxy servers in 59 countries, including 500 servers in the United States, you’ll be able to unblock and enjoy ESPN in Europe or anywhere else you travel. Each connection is locked down by unbreakable 256-bit AES encryption, while your identity and activity remain out of the hands of third parties courtesy of CyberGhost’s best-in-class logging policy (seriously, they don’t even keep a record of the email you use to sign up, much less your DNS requests, traffic, etc.)
Learn more in our full review of CyberGhost.
On first glance, you might be tempted to pass on PrivateVPN. However, the design of their otherwise modest server network of 100+ nodes in 59 countries forgoes total numbers for quality. As a result, PrivateVPN boasts some of the most reliable connections for bypassing VPN bans and geo-blocks you’ll find anywhere. Practically tailored to unblocking sites like Netflix and ESPN, you’ll be amazed at how speedy, stable, and consistently you’re able to stream your favorite programming, no matter where you go. PrivateVPN is available on most major platforms, including Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android
PrivateVPN lives up to its name with impressive security features. Firstly, 256-bit AES encryption will keep your data protected and make sure you don’t leave any traces of important information online. If your top priority is speed, you also have the option to step down to 128 bits, which will still provide you with powerful security while enabling lower-latency connections. Zero limitations on bandwidth, speed, or server switching make PrivateVPN ideal for everyday use. Furthermore, their no-logging policy ensures that no one, from your ISP to the government to cybercriminals, can get their hands on your information or activity logs.
Learn more in our full PrivateVPN review.
PureVPN is a highly reliable, user-friendly service that does not compromise on speed or security. Dedicated software is available on numerous operating systems and devices, including iOS and Android for smartphones, and even some game consoles and routers. This means that you can enjoy streaming ESPN whether you are in your office, on the commute, or even outdoors. With a server network consisting of 2,000+ servers in a mind-boggling 140 countries, PureVPN is virtually everywhere, including numerous locations in the United States. This will allow you to choose the exact location you’d like to connect to, so you can watch any local match without experiencing blackouts.
PureVPN is just as good with its security. The provider uses 256-bit AES encryption which is virtually unbreakable, even with the toughest supercomputer. Encryption protocols include UDP and TCP, including L2TP/IPSec, which allows for faster streaming and gaming. Additional security features include an internet kill switch, which is a fail-safe button that maintains your privacy at all times, and DDoS protection, which defeats even the most complex DDoS attacks. Whether you want to connect with an app or browser extension, PureVPN ensures ultimate speed and reliability.
Why is ESPN blocked in Europe?
ESPN ensures that you don’t miss a single important match or important highlight. Whether it’s the Super Bowl or college football, the channel (and by extension the entire cable network) has become an essential tool for staying up to date with current sporting events. Having said that, though ESPN broadcasts in over 200 countries, the majority of the content is restricted to locations in the United States. The network’s broadcasting rights are very strict in terms of audiences and their locations, and for a lot of the content (particularly live showings), the network doesn’t have much say in where the content is broadcasted.
There are several reasons for these restrictions (formally known as blackouts). Firstly, ESPN has made content distribution agreements with team owners, ensuring that audiences outside of the US, or even in certain locations in the US, are limited to the content they see. With national teams, this is done because advertising slots are meant for specific viewerships, and advertisers have no interest in promoting products that are not available abroad. The reason local match showings are limited to states that the teams are playing is to encourage people to actually attend matches, gaining team owners and local cable networks plenty of profit.
How does a VPN help?
Despite the factors standing between you and your favorite sports broadcasts, there is good news. Instead of waiting for a long-term changes from the side of cable networks and sports team owners, you can start unlocking a wider range of content already now. By choosing any one of our recommended VPN providers, you can not only bypass regional blocks on channels like ESPN, but start enjoying countless other benefits.
Make yourself anonymous
As is clear at this point of the article, increased security is one of the main advantages of using a VPN. Depending on the server you choose, you will be assigned a foreign IP address. This will allow you to overcome regional blocks because ESPN grants full access to users who are in (or look like they are in by way of a spoofed IP) the U.S. In other words, getting an American IP address will allow you to ‘change’ your computer’s location without having to leave the comfort of your home, office, or hotel room.
Bypass censorship blocks
Depending on where you are located in the world, censorship blocks can be quite harsh. For example, in China, some of the most popular websites and services, including Google, Facebook, and Wikipedia, are blocked. This means that if you want to access any of these websites, or even your personal bank accounts, from abroad, you will need a VPN. With a quality VPN service, you’ll be able to forget about regional restrictions and access any content wherever you are located in the world. This includes ESPN in Europe or anywhere else you may be located at the time.
Overcome regional limitations
Even if the website is not blocked in your country, regional limitations tend to be problematic. For example, if you are trying to view Netflix from England, your library will be completely different than if you were accessing the service from United States. Furthermore, with ESPN, live blackouts, for example, are also the product of geo-based restrictions. ESPN tends to block matches to local audiences even if you are located in America but not in the specific state.
How can you avoid being tied down to one team, one match, and one location? As we mentioned earlier, a VPN service will hide your IP address and, most importantly, get you a new one depending on the content you’d like to access. Furthermore, it will provide you with even more security than usual, so not only can you now be remote in your online activity, but feel like everything you do while surfing the web will remain private.
Can I use a free VPN?
For people just starting with a VPN, this is a common question. It only makes sense, since choosing a quality free VPN provider saves you money every month (or at least that’s the way it seems). In reality, however, what you save upon signing up for a free subscription you will lose in quality and, most importantly, security.
Just like any other business, free VPN providers need to make money. Since they don’t make any profit from users signing up to their service, they must make keep their company afloat in other aspects. Firstly, free VPNs don’t employ strong security features, which means that your information and identity are at constant risk of being exposed. These kinds of services are known for selling user information to the highest bidder if there are interested third parties involved. This is why we suggest you invest a small fee into your VPN – it may seem like a hassle at first, but you will be confident that your online activity will never be traced back to you.
Secondly, since what you’re looking for is unblocking ESPN and enjoying a seamless connection, free VPNs are no good. In order to achieve high video quality and avoid streaming delays, it’s best to choose a VPN provider with features that will grant you fast connections and unlimited bandwidth.
Using your VPN to unblock ESPN in Europe
Now that you are familiar with how to unblock and enjoy ESPN content from Europe, and you have picked your VPN provider, you are ready to get started. We have provided you with step-by-step instructions. They will walk you through signing up for a subscription, downloading and installing your VPN app, and verifying your connection prior to using the service.
- Open your web browser and visit your VPN provider’s website. Sign up for a subscription, or simply click one of the VPN deal links in this article to get our exclusive deals, available for a limited time only.
- Once you have your account credentials, find and download and install the right app for your device and operating system. For example, if you are using an Android smartphone, make sure the app you select is compatible with these specifications.
- Upon download, launch the app and sign in with your account credentials from step 1. As soon as you log in, the VPN will automatically assign you with the fastest available server. If you wish to select a server manually, you can do so by picking a location from the list, available in the “selected location” section on the default display. For users trying to access ESPN from Europe, you will need to pick a server from within the United States.
- Before you start enjoying your favourite sports content, it’s important to verify your connection and ensure there are no IP leaks, which you put your security in jeopardy. Visit ipleak.net – this page runs an automatic IP address lookup test, or put simply, shows you where your device is ‘located’ at the time. Once the page is done loading, have a look at the “your IP address” section. If you see your manually selected location, you are ready to browse! If, however, you see your physical location in Europe as opposed to the United States, there may be a leak and you need to contact your VPN provider to resolve the issue.
To conclude, gaining access to ESPN from outside the US may sound like it’s a hassle, but truth be told, you can start streaming and enjoying all your favourite showings within minutes after reading this article. By choosing one of our recommended VPN providers, you’ll be able to enjoy a wide range of games, interviews, documentaries, and more, without having to buy a ticket and fly back home.
Have you ever used a VPN to bypass regional blocks and gain access to ESPN from abroad? Leave us your comments and tips down below!