ESPN recently launched its new streaming service, ESPN+.
The service is available on a variety of devices, but unfortunately for South Africans is not streaming outside of the US.
That is, if you are on a “South African” Internet connection.
Firing up a VPN and accessing ESPN+ via a web browser overcame this geographic restriction when tested, with streaming smooth and clear.
ESPN+ was launched by Walt Disney as the company’s first multi-sport direct-to-consumer premium subscription streaming service.
Since the rise of Netflix, users have been calling for a sports version of streaming services – which sells at low prices.
ESPN+ is a step towards this request, and provides thousands of live sports events, original series, films, and studio shows – many of which are on-demand – for $4.99 per month.
It offers HD streaming at 60fps, limited advertising, live pause, and a recording function.
The amount of content on the platform is substantial, said ESPN, and includes:
- Live MLB, NHL, MLS, and US college sports.
- Live boxing, PGA golf, tennis, English Football League, UEFA Nations League.
- Live New Zealand and Irish test, ODI, and T20 cricket.
- Live rugby from SANZAAR tournaments, World Rugby Sevens, and Major League Rugby.
On-demand original programming offers features on teams and players, and includes 30 for 30 documentaries, Draft Academy, and Quest for the Stanley Cup.
The ESPN+ service is available on the ESPN app, iPhone, iPad, tvOS, Android, Chromecast, FireTV, and web browsers.
To see if ESPN+ was really blocked outside of the US, I accessed its website via a PC browser on standard Telkom DSL line.
While the big “Start free trial” button showed when the page loaded, clicking it took me to the “red card” page shown below – stating ESPN+ is not available outside the US.
I then opened Nord VPN, installed as an app on a MacBook Pro, and turned the VPN service on.
It was set to automatically select a United States server, and once the connection was established, I visited the ESPN+ page again.
This time the site let me register. It offers a 30-day free trial, requiring you to sign up with an email and password – or via Facebook – and submit a payment method for when the trial ends.
I used my South African credit card, suspecting it may be rejected, but the details were accepted.
I then received an SMS from my bank that ESPN PLUS had returned R60.15 ($4.99) to my account, which was likely debited to test that the credit card was valid.
Chrome vs Safari
The journey to signing up to ESPN+, and ultimately watching Wolves vs Birmingham in the English Championship, hit a few speed bumps along the way.
I signed up for ESPN+ using Chrome, but when the service’s page presented me with the “Start Watching” button, clicking on it directed me to the ESPN Player page.
The site offers IndyCar, college sports, and ESPN Select content, but using my new ESPN+ credentials did not work when attempting to sign in.
I then typed in espn.com to access ESPN’s home page – to look for ESPN+ – but doing this in Chrome, with the VPN on, redirected me to kwese.espn.com.
The page was a combination of Kwese and ESPN branding, but did not feature an ESPN+ option.
Accessing espn.com via an Incognito Chrome window worked perfectly, however, which means the Kwese redirect may be a result of having signed up for Kwese Play using Chrome or its associated email address.
I then accessed the “Start Watching” button on ESPN+ in Safari, which redirected me to ESPN’s home page (espn.com).
On the home page, there is an ESPN+ button, which takes you to espn.com/watch/espnplus – the streaming service’s web presence.
From there, I was able to access live streams, on-demand documentaries and shows, and team and players stats.
It all worked as advertised.
Fine for now
While accessing ESPN+ using a VPN was simple at the time of writing, it may not last.
Fans of Netflix outside the US, including many South Africans, enjoyed the streaming service before it launched globally using similar methods.
Netflix was not fazed by the use of VPNs to access its service, but when it rolled out worldwide, this quickly changed.
The company started cracking down on VPNs and blocking users who used them.
A battle of technical know-how then ensued, with VPN providers working around the clock to overcome Netflix blocks.
Netflix ultimately won this battle, and many VPNs stated they could not beat the company’s systems.
The result: South Africans signed up for the South African version of Netflix.