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How to stream college football online: A complete guide to the 2018 season
Here’s everything you need to know.
It’s never been easier to find a college football live stream or watch college football without cable. No matter what school you root for, with the right live TV streaming package and apps, you never have to miss a game. But there’s a lot to consider when you’re trying to plan for the entire season, simply because of how many different channels your team will likely appear on.
Looking at the Week 3 schedule for NCAA football, games will be live streaming on local channels (ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox), cable channels (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPNU, FS1, CBSSN), conference channels (Pac-12 Network, Big Ten Network, SEC Network, ACC Network), and the ESPN+ app. With that in mind, we’ve created a comprehensive guide to how to watch college football games online so that you can cheer on your favorite teams no matter where they’re games are streaming. It’s a lot to take in, which is why we’ve broken it up into sections and close with our top pick for the best way to stream college football in 2018.
How to stream college football games: Live games and local channels
Let’s get one thing clear before we get started: There’s not really a bad option when it comes to live TV streaming services for college football. All of them will allow you to live stream the vast majority of games you want to see. It’s really a matter of deciding how much you’re willing to pay, what channels you absolutely need to have, and what features matter most to you. We’ve done our best to break down each service into the factors you should be considering, but it’s worth stressing that you should check availability in your area (links provided below) to see exactly what you can expect for your local channels, since that’s where most of the week’s biggest college games will be broadcast. (You might want to invest in an HD antenna just to be on the safe side.) And be sure to look at the compatible devices for each service. That might narrow down your options.
1) Sling TV
- Cost: $25-$40 per month (after a 7-day free trial)
- Sling TV devices: Amazon Fire TVs, Android Fire Stick, Apple TV, Android TV, Roku, Xbox One, Google Chromecast, Oculus Go, and iOS and Android devices
- Sling TV local channels: NBC, Fox (check your local availability here)
In trying to provide you with the ability to pick and choose the channels you want, Sling TV makes it needlessly complicated to stream college football games. As you can see below, Sling TV offers almost everything you need to watch games—and it’s the only service to provide ESPN3, which may come in handy—but you’ll likely want to save yourself some hassle and just get the Sling Orange + Blue package, which basically combines its two starter packs. If you want SEC Network or Pac-12 Network, you’ll need to invest in some add-ons. Important to note: Local channels are Sling TV’s Achilles heel. Make sure you know how you’ll watch ABC and CBS if they’re not included in your package.
College football channels: ACC Network Extra (Sling Orange, Sling Orange + Blue), ESPN (Sling Orange, Sling Orange + Blue), ESPN2 (Sling Orange, Sling Orange + Blue), ESPN3 (Sling Orange, Sling Orange + Blue), ESPNU (Sling Orange Sports Extra), FS1 (Sling Blue, Sling Orange + Blue), FS2 (Sling Blue, Sling Orange + Blue), NBCSN (Sling Blue, Sling Orange + Blue), Pac-12 Network (both Sports Extra packages), SEC Network (Sling Orange Sports Extra)
What’s missing: ABC, Big Ten Network, CBS, CBSSN
Local channels: Only Fox and NBC
Game-changing feature: Price. Sling TV offers the most college football for the least amount of money.
- Cost: $40 per month (after a 7-day free trial)
- Hulu devices: Roku, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire Stick and Fire TV, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Nintendo Switch, and iOS and Android devices
- Hulu local channels: ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, the CW (check your local availability here)
Hulu with Live TV has just about everything you could ask for streaming college football, as you can tell by looking at the full Hulu Live TV channel lineup. While most live TV streaming services offer local channels, Hulu Live TV is one of the only ones to offer both CBS Sports Network and NBCSN, which helps ensure you’ll be able to watch the week’s biggest games. Hulu Live TV also keeps things simple: There’s only one tier of service (plus some premium channels like HBO and Showtime), and it comes with free access to Hulu’s deep catalog of on-demand TV shows and movies. For extra $4 per month, you can also upgrade to Hulu with No Commercials.
That said, if you’re as interested in streaming NFL games, it’s worth noting that Hulu doesn’t offer a way to add NFL Network or NFL RedZone.
College football channels: Big Ten Network, CBS Sports Network, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPNU, ESPN Goal Line, FS1, FS2, NBCSN, SEC Network
What you’re missing: ACC Network Extra, ESPN3, Pac-12 Network
Local channels: Yes. (Check your local availability here.)
Game-changing feature: Every subscription comes with free access to Hulu’s on-demand library, meaning you can catch up on all of your favorite shows. (Here are our picks for the best movies on Hulu, Hulu documentaries, anime, and the must-see Hulu originals.)
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- Cost: $44.99-$79.99 per month (after a 7-day free trial)
- PlayStation Vue devices: PlayStation 3 and 4, Roku, Amazon Fire, Google Chromecast, Kodi, iOS and Android devices
- Local channels: NBC, Fox, ABC, CBS (enter your ZIP code here to check your availability)
There are four levels of PlayStation Vue, and its entry-level Core package is one of the most expensive on the market for what you’re getting: $44.99 for 45-plus channels. To get the most college football action, you’ll likely want one step up. The Core package ($49.99 per month) adds on Big Ten Network, CBS Sports Network, and SEC Network (and if you’re an NFL fan, the NFL Network). We’ve noted which PlayStation Vue channels are available only with premium packages below. One point in PS Vue’s favor? It’s Kodi compatible.
College football channels: Big Ten Network (Core), CBSSN (Core) ESPN, ESPN2, FS1, FS2, NBCSN, SEC Network (Core), ESPNU (Elite)
What you’re missing: ACC Network Extra, Pac-12 Network, ESPN3
Local channels: Yes, but ABC may only be on-demand in your area. (Enter your zip code here to check availability.)
Game-changing feature: You can stream on up to five devices at once, and there’s unlimited cloud DVR.
- Cost: $44.99 for your first month and $44.99-$54.99 per month thereafter (after a 7-day free trial)
- FuboTV devices: Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Android TV, iOS and Android devices
- FuboTV local channels: Fox, NBC, CBS (check local availability here)
FuboTV could be your best option for college football were it not for one glaring issue: It lacks all of the ESPN channels you’ll need. But if you’re looking for a streaming service in general for sports, it’s hard to beat FuboTV, which has the best international soccer offerings around and comes standard with NFL Network and NBA TV. FuboTV is also the only streaming service to feature FS1 in 4K.
College football channels: Big Ten Network (4 channels), CBS Sports Network, FS1 (also in 4K), FS2, NBCSN, Pac-12 Network
What you’re missing: ACC Network Extra, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPNU
Local channels: Yes, with the noted exception of ABC (check local availability here)
Game-changing feature: Three-day replay for games and 30 hours of cloud DVR
5) YouTube TV
- Cost: $49.99 per month (after a 7-day free trial)
- YouTube TV devices: Google Chromecast, Roku, Apple TV, Android TV, Xbox One, iOS and Android devices
- Local channels: NBC, CBS, Fox, ABC, the CW (enter your ZIP code here to check your availability)
YouTube TV offers a simple and well-rounded package of channels for streaming college football. You get all of the essentials and some bonus conference channels (SEC Network, Big Ten Network) for a flat $40 per month. Where YouTube TV falls short is in its compatible devices (no Amazon Fire Stick or Fire TV) and add-ons (no NFL RedZone), but there’s still a lot to love about YouTube TV. You can find the full list of YouTube TV channels here.
College football channels: Big Ten Network, CBSSN, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, FS1, FS2, NBCSN, SEC Network
What’s missing: ACC Network Extra, ESPN3, Pac-12 Network
Local channels: Yes. (Enter your zip code here to check your availability.)
Game-changing feature: You can add up to six accounts per household, and each one of those accounts gets unlimited cloud DVR. Even better: You can fast-forward through ads in recorded programs.
How to stream college football games: ESPN+
Cost: $4.99 per month or $49.99 per year
Let’s get one thing straight first: ESPN+ does not give you access to ESPN or its network of affiliated channels. (If you want to watch ESPN online, check out our guide here.) Think of ESPN+ as bonus content. It’s where you can watch college football and a bunch of other live sports that aren’t being shown on ESPN’s core channels. For example, looking at the Week 3 college football schedule, ESPN+ is streaming Central Michigan vs Northern Illinois (3:30pm ET), Eastern Michigan vs Buffalo (6pm ET), Texas State vs South Alabama (7pm ET), and Delaware State vs Western Michigan (7pm ET).
You don’t need a separate app for ESPN+. Rather, your subscription will allow you watch the content on ESPN’s site and WatchESPN app that’s marked with a “+” sign.
Arguably the best part of ESPN+ is that it lets you stream the full library of 30 for 30 documentaries, which is worth the monthly fee alone. There’s also a wide assortment of exclusive programming, including the NCAA football documentary series Draft Academy and Kobe Bryant’s Detail.
How to watch college football games online: Network channels
Five of the major NCAA football conferences have their own channels that you can watch on most of the live TV streaming services. We’ve outlined the basic details below, but you can click each network for a more detailed guide if there’s a particular university or network you want to follow. Unfortunately, there’s no Big 12 Network, which, frankly, is just embarrassing at this point (thanks, Longhorn Network!). You can find more information about how to watch college football games for the other NCAA conferences—American Athletic, Sun Belt, Conference USA, FBS Independents, and Mid-American—on their respective websites.
There are four ways to watch Pac-12 Network, but of the two live TV streaming options mentioned below, FuboTV is the only one that provides all six regional Pac-12 Network channels.
- FuboTV: $39.99 for your first month and $44.99 per month thereafter. The Sports Pack, an extra $8.99 per month, unlocks six additional Pac-12 Network channels.
- Sling TV: $30-$35 per month. Pac-12 Network is available only as part of the Sports Extra package, which costs either $5 (Sling Orange) or $10 (Sling Blue) extra per month, but that now includes all six Pac-12 Network channels. Current customers can stream Pac-12 Network channels as part of a free trial until Sept. 17.
- Pac-12 Now: Requires a subscription from a cable or live TV streaming service, available for both iOS or Android
- Pac-12.com/live: Requires a subscription from a cable or live TV streaming service
2) SEC Network
Produced by ESPN, SEC Network is a standalone cable channel. The only live TV streaming service that doesn’t carry it is FuboTV. SEC Network+ games are available exclusively through the WatchESPN app and ESPN site.
- Hulu with Live TV: $40 per month
- YouTube TV: $40 per month
- PlayStation Vue: $49.99-$79.99 per month as part of the Core package and above
- Sling TV: $30-$45 per month, available as part of the Sports Extra ($5 per month) add-on for Sling Orange ($25 per month) or Sling Orange + Blue ($40 per month)
- DirecTV Now: $55-$75 per month, available in the Just Right package and above
Arguably the most established and well-rounded conference channel, Big Ten Network live streams tons of sports and offers seven weekly shows devoted to college football.
- Hulu with Live TV: $40 per month
- FuboTV: $39.99 for your first month and $44.99 per month thereafter
- YouTube TV: $40 per month
- DirecTV Now: $55-$75 per month. Requires the Just Right package or above.
- PlayStation Vue: $49.99-$79.99 per month. Requires the Core package or above.
- BTN2Go: Cost varies depending on provider, but all of the options above will suffice.
ACC Network live streams about one football game per week. It’s part of the ESPN Network, so as long as you have a way to watch ESPN online, you can use your credentials to stream on the ESPN app or site.
- Sling TV: $25-$40 per month. ACC Network is available alongside a suite of ESPN channels in the Sling Orange ($25 per month) or Sling Orange + Blue ($40 per month) packages.
- ESPN: Cost varies depending on channel provider
- ACC Network website: No sign-in required
Mountain West Network has partnered with Stadium, a free sports network, to broadcast its live sports. You can watch Mountain West Network football games on Stadium’s website; catch games streaming on Twitter, Twitch, and even Facebook; or add Stadium on Android TV, Roku, and Apple TV. You can also download the Stadium app for iOS and Android. If all else fails, Stadium is available as a channel onFuboTV and PlutoTV, a free live TV service. You can find a complete broadcast schedule here.
Live stream college football games: Your best bet
As great as FuboTV is for live sports, the lack of ESPN channels is a deal-breaking during college football season. On the other end of the spectrum, you have to do some serious upgrading with DirecTV Now and PlayStation Vue to cover all your bases.
Sling TV is a fantastic option at a hard-to-beat price point, but the lack of ABC, CBS, and CBS Sports Network in my area makes it hard to overlook, considering how integral those channels are for college football and especially for bowl games. But if you’re also looking to stream NFL games, it’s a strong choice.
Hulu with Live TV and YouTube offer similar college football channels at an identical price point, but neither one offers Pac-12 Network or ESPN3.
Your best option will likely be determined by what university you’re most interested in and what services offers its conference channel. For my money, I’d likely go with Hulu with Live TV, because I can recoup my Hulu subscription with it, or max out Sling TV.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance. The Daily Dot may receive a payment in connection with purchases of products or services featured in this article. Click here to learn more.
The Daily Dot may receive a payment in connection with purchases of products or services featured in this article. Click here to learn more.
Austin Powell is the former managing editor of the Daily Dot. His work focuses on the intersection of entertainment and technology. He previously served as a music columnist for the Austin Chronicle and is the co-author of The Austin Chronicle Music Anthology.