Updated: May 1, 2017
* This Solution STILL WORKS to watch ESPN in Canada *
- Start by getting a VPN account setup
- Then install the VPN software onto the device(s) you want to watch ESPN in Canada on
- Next, open the VPN software and connect to a US-based server
- Go to ESPN and sign in to your existing subscriptions or signup accordingly
- Enjoy ESPN in Canada
How to watch ESPN in Canada
in more detail:
Believe it or not, some sport fans in Canada are not that into ice hockey. It’s true and I know because having been forced to move north of the border for work a few months back, I am here. And whilst I like Baseball, Basketball, Soccer, Football, even golf, I am just not that hot on Ice Hockey.
I have plenty of friends both American and Canadian who feel the same way, but this message clearly is yet to reach the producers of TSN, the largest Canadian sports network which should really be renamed the ‘The Hockey Network’ as they talk about nothing else round the clock.
It didn't take me long to be pining for my ESPN fix, so you can imagine my horrow when I went to connect to WatchESPN, the network’s app which streams coverage of all ESPN’s channels to any computer, mobile device, or even X-Box games console, only to find it isn't available here.
This can't be happening! There must be a way to watch ESPN in Canada! Well fortunately there is, and whats more it simple, legal, cost-effective, and works every time.
Why is ESPN not Available in Canada?
Buying up the rights to sporting events is big business, for both the leagues that are selling them, and the networks that are buying them. Deals can reach the billions of dollars levels, and none of the parties involved are willing to put this at risk by allowing unfettered access to their product online.
Most sports events sell their broadcast rights by country, and local broadcasters tend to be the purchasers. ESPN is an American channel, and it therefore buys the US rights to the events that it shows, and the US rights alone. The rights to broadcast the majority of their events in Canada are held by other, mostly Canadian broadcasters, who are then free to use the coverage as much, or as little as they choose.
Meanwhile ESPN are obliged to restrict access to their content for viewers from over the border, and they do this using a technology called geo-blocking.
How is ESPN Blocking Access in Canada?
ESPN employ a technology known as geo-blocking, to restrict access to their content for overseas users. This means they check the ISP number (a piece of data all users send to websites that tells them various information including their location) you connect to their site on and if it shows you are located in Canada, or indeed anywhere else in the world, your access is restricted.
It is a commonly used technology with online subscription services and the only way it can be evaded, is if you can convince the site that your IP Address is located in the right place. So to be able to watch ESPN in Canada, ESPN must believe that you are located in the USA rather than Canada.
Fortunately, using a VPN makes this very easy to do.
How to Use a VPN to Watch ESPN in Canada
Step 1: Sign up for VPN
A VPN is a service which diverts all of your online activity through a remote server before reaching the websites and services you are visiting.
This means that the ISP number, which indicates where in the world you are, that the websites are receiving, is from that remote server rather than your machine. Most of the top VPN’s have numerous servers located all over the globe, especially the USA, and allow users to select which server they want to be connected to.
As I noted earlier, I chose to use ExpressVPN as in my experience it has always been the standout provider. To sign up, you need to visit their site, which you can do by clicking the link below.
Once their, you will be invited to choose the package which best suits your needs. If you are going to be using the service over a long period of time, the one year subscription offers the best value for money.
You will then be invited to process your payment using whichever methods you prefer. This whole process takes a maximum of ten minutes and there are plenty of easy to follow instructions
I have copied some screenshots of the process below to make it even easier for you to follow.
Once you have completed payment, the site will invite you to download the relevant software.
Step 2: Download & Install VPN
To download the ExpressVPN software, you will need to know which platform you are using from the list they provide, which you can see below. For most users that choice will be pretty self-explanatory, but check your system settings if you are not sure.
I use a regular PC so I clicked on the Windows option and then followed the clear instructions to install the software onto my machine.
Step 3: Connect to US-based Server on VPN
Once the software is in place you will be presented with a desktop screen which invites you to choose your server. Needless to say you should look to choose one based in the USA, but it doesn't matter which one because all of the ExpressVPN servers offer a good quality service.
Once you have clicked on your chosen server, it will take a few seconds to connect, before confirming the connection and also the average upload and download speeds available. And that's it. You are connected to the internet via a ExpressVPN server located in the USA, and are ready to go:
And now here's a quick screenshot of the connection process on my Android mobile device:
Step 4: Setup a WatchESPN Account
Finally you will need a subscription to WatchESPN, their online streaming service. For a US citizen, this is a simple process of heading over to their website and registering your details and making a payment through a US-based credit card. For someone from Canada, the process can be trickier unless you happen to have a US credit card.
Some geo-blocked subscription services refuse to accept payments from overseas credit cards. Others are not so picky. Feedback from ESPN seems to be mixed, so it is unclear whether this service will allow you to or not. I was able to use my US Credit Card.
If you have no joy with this, another option is Paypal which many subscription services are happy to accept and which can be used from anywhere in the world, including Canada.
If none of these options seem to work for you, it’s time to call on the help of a US-based friend or family member. I’m sure they will be more than happy to oblige you.
Once you have successfully negotiated the subscription process, you are all set to watch as much sport as you have time for.
Using ExpressVPN has proved a lifeline to me and I can now watch all the basketball and baseball I like, plus SportsCentre and the other great ESPN shows which TSN simply cannot compete with. I hope you get as much pleasure out of this simple process as I have.
I should note that whilst ExpressVPN is always my VPN of choice, there are others on the market which also offer a service good enough to stream WatchESPN.
Below you find links to our top 5 VPN's for watching ESPN in Canada, so if you don't fancy ExpressVPN, the others should serve you just as well.