UPDATE: On February 1st, 2018 I can confirm this solution still works. The tool I use in this guide is called ExpressVPN. Feel free to comment below, or go check it out by clicking here. I use ExpressVPN because it is the only one I've found that still currently works to get WatchESPN Canada unblocked.
To get WatchESPN in Canada right now, do the following steps:
- 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
Total time to do this: 5 Minutes
How to watchESPN in Canada
in more detail:
Believe it or not, some sport fans in Canada are not that into ice hockey. Right? I couldn't believe it either. 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 Canada, 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 WatchESPN 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. Go ahead and do this, as you will need the software downloaded and installed onto the device(s) you want to watchESPN in Canada on.
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.
The great thing about ExpressVPN is that you can use it on basically any device that can connect to the internet. This means you can unblock and watchESPN Canada on multiple devices like your laptop, smartphone and smartTV easily.
So, go ahead and download the software onto the device (or devices!) you plan to watchESPN in Canada from. The download time is literally just a few seconds (the software is super light and small). Once the app is downloaded to your device, go ahead and install it.
Installing is even easier than downloading -- mainly because it happens automatically. So just click through the installation steps when it automatically launches and once that's done you will be able to open up the software immediately.
Step 3: Connect to US-based Server on VPN
This step is where the magic happens. You will want to change your IP address to make your location "appear" as the US - so this is the point in the process that you want to get right.
Luckily, it's incredibly hard to mess this part up!
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.
To give a visual example of how the sofware actually looks, here is a screenshot from my Macbook I took, which is literally how the VPN interface looks the moment you open it and have logged into your account. As you can see, it is a super clean and minimalistic piece of software that is really intuitive to use and requires little-to-zero "technical expertise":
In my case, I wanted to be able to watchESPN in Canada (and also watchESPN UK!) on both my Macbook and my Android smartphone, so I went ahead and downloaded the software onto both of those.
To give you an idea of how the VPN software looks on my Android device, here's a couple screenshots that show me connecting to it:
Of course you will not be connecting to a London-based connection, as I am doing in the above example. You will want to connect to one of the many US-based server locations available. To do this you simply just click on the "choose another location" option, which is literally the only other main option on the software. I cannot stress enough just how easy this VPN is to use.
As you can see, the software interface is basically the same across Apple and Android computers/devices, which is awesome. The simple "choose a location then hit connect" 2-step process is consistent on whichever device you are using the VPN on.
After you have successfully connected to a US-based location server on the VPN software... congratulations! You will have just effectively changed your IP address to make your actual physical Canadian location "appear" within the US.
So all that is left for you to do at this stage is - if you have not already - get yourself a watchESPN account setup, to create your own "watchESPN Canada" version for you to enjoy happily from your home.
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.
Having rigorously reviewed each of these VPN service providers (along with 50 additional providers), I can say with confidence that the 4 additional suggestions I list below are definitely your best options to unblock and access watchESPN in Canada successfully on a strong, fast and secure connection:
So should you want to try out another VPN service provider, then I would highly recommend you try one of the other 4 suggested companies listed above.
I personally reviewed all the best (and not so good!) VPN providers on the market today, grading them across all features that matter for both your privacy and for accessing media streaming services from around the globe affectively. ExpressVPN is definitely my top recommendation for watchESPN Canada, as my firsthand experience with it was brilliant.
OK, but why specifically ExpressVPN?
The reason ExpressVPN is my preferred choice to unblocking watchESPN Canada-style, is because of the following defining factors:
When you use a VPN, you are going to lose some of your internet speed. This means how fast websites load, your apps work, how fast-loading your media will be across the board once connected to the software.
ExpressVPN has proven to me for over 2 years now, that the developers behind it are clearly putting serious priority on keeping the speed-loss down to an absolute minimum.
Why does this matter for you, who just wants to watchESPN in Canada? Well, you will be streaming media, many times live-streaming, right? Then the last thing you want is to be dealing with slow speeds, which will cause your feed to either not load at all, or be very pixelated - so that game you're watching will look like a computer game from the 1980s. You don't want that!
This factor is equally as top a priority for you, dear watchESPN unblocker, with the VPN speed.
What does "connection drop-off" mean? Exactly what you think it means: when you connect to the VPN, you are essentially re-routing your internet connection through the physical location of the server you chose (which in this case will be through the US).
So in addition to wanting as little speed reduction on your connection as possible, the last thing you will want is for that VPN connection to drop off completely.
Why? Well, if your VPN connection drops (which unfortunately happens with many VPN service providers regularly) then whatever intensive, entertaining thing you're watching on watchESPN will stop immediately. Either the stream will literally stop dead, or watchESPN will realise in a few seconds that your IP address has changed; that you're located not in the US but Canada, and will kick you off the service immediately.
That would suck, right? Right.
So huge reason number two to go with ExpressVPN is that I have literally experienced zero drop-offs of the connection for the 2+ years that I've been using it. And I jump around different countries a lot, regularly. So you can imagine how many services I have unblocked - watchESPN being one such service.
Alternative Ways to WatchESPN in Canada
With all my hard-recommending to use a VPN, and ExpressVPN specifically, in order to watchESPN Canada easily and effectively without any issues -- there are alternative methods to successfully change you IP address and maybe get around the ESPN block. Let's take a quick look at these now:
→ DNS (or SmartDNS)
So by this point you know that the reason a VPN allows you to watchESPN Canada is the IP address changing feature that such software allows you control over.
A smartDNS service works in the exact same way. By using a smartDNS service provider, you go through essentially the very same steps laid out in this guide (signing up for a smartDNS provider, setup your account, download the software, install it, choose a server location in the US, then connect) and you will potentially be able to unblock and watch ESPN in Canada.
So what is the difference between a smartDNS service and a VPN service?
Well, rather than writing out a long-winded explanation, I just put a comparative table below for you to see for yourself:
IP address control
Pretty simple difference, right?
The difference comes down to how a smartDNS service forms a connection with its servers, compared with how a VPN does this.
When you connect through a smartDNS service, the connection has zero encryption placed on the data. This results in two things:
1. A faster connection (good for streaming media)
2. An insecure connection (bad for protecting your online data)
So at the end of the day, I am a huge advocate of taking control of your online privacy protection as much as you can, especially in today's internet that has so many governments monitoring and restricting their entire nation's world wide web activity. This is why I will always recommend choosing a VPN over a smartDNS if you want to unblock anything online -- because why not give yourself the military-grade level encryption at the same time, for only a $1 difference in price? No brainer for me.
Anyway, with that said, let's look at the other alternative method that is sometimes recommended as an effective way to unblock online services:
For a quick and clear explanation of what a proxy is, check out this solid definition.
Essentially though, a proxy is a service most commonly provided through your internet browser (Chrome, Firefox, IE, Safari, or whatever browser you use to surf the web) and is the most basic way to 'mask' your online identity.
The way a proxy browser functions is theoretically the same as how both VPNs and smartDNS services work - they provide a "middle man" server for you to pass all your online activity through, thus providing a layer of "anonymity" to whatever you are doing online.
As a result of how a proxy functions, naturally some proxy services have allowed the user to have the choice of which server location they want to browse the web via. This is where you can, in theory, choose a US-based proxy server and thus unblock watchESPN Canada.
With all that said though, using a proxy browser to access watchESPN in Canada is basically impossible for two main reasons:
1. 99% of proxy browser services are completely free, which is great, but means that the people/person behind the service is not making any cash from it. This means they do not update the proxy at all - resulting in 99% of proxies not even working. In addition, some ethically immoral proxy providers allow their service for free and end up making a quick buck by collecting your data/activity and selling it to third parties like advertisers.
2. 99% of proxies (especially free ones) do not allow you to control you IP address, so you won't even have the option to select the necessary US-based server location to connect through, which is the whole solution to actually unblocked watchESPN Canada.
SO to give you a recap and overview of both smartDNS and proxy services compared against a VPN service, here's a quick comparative overview:
IP address control
So there you have it. Ultimately, at the end of the day, it comes down to choosing between a VPN and a smartDNS service provider to unblock watchESPN in Canada effectively. You just need to consider whether you want to also protect your online data and activity (go with a VPN) or are happy to access watchESPN outside the US without protecting your identity (then a smartDNS is for you).
I would highly recommend against trying to use a proxy to achieve this fix. It simply will not work, or it will - for 5 seconds - and you'll experience a terrible connection and won't be able to enjoy your watchESPN viewing at all. In addition, you will most likely be unable to even access the ESPN service and create/login to your account on a proxy, since will have no control over your IP address location choice.
Regardless of whether you choose to use a VPN or smartDNS, the steps in this guide remain the same. You will get full access to watchEPSN Canada based or any from any other non-US based location in less than 3 minutes.
So go ahead - fly through these steps and enjoy watching ESPN from the comfort of your Canada-based location without ever having to worry about missing your favourite sporting event ever again 🙂
And if you're wondering - yes - this solution also works to unblock other services unavailable in Canada, like to unblock Sling TV in Canada, for example.
If you have any questions or feedback on this guide then definitely let me know by commenting below. I love to hear from my readers and always respond to every comment.
Happy streaming in Canada!