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Sunday, August 18, 2019

2019 CFB Guide to Cord Cutting

Note:  To view this entire guide as a PDF file, click here.

I created a guide two years ago to give college football fans, like myself, all the knowledge necessary to be able to watch as much college football as they want while getting rid of their expensive cable/satellite/telco subscription.  While unfortunately, this may not be possible for everyone, if you’re a fan of a Power 5 team, more options exist than ever to be able to watch your favorite team/conference on Saturdays this fall (or Thursday or Friday as well).  The guide has been revamped to be easier to read & updated for the 2019 College Football (CFB) season, so go below for the various options that exist to get your college football fix for as cheap as possible.

DISCLAIMER: This work was put together using data from various sources.  As such, if you come across something that is inaccurate, please feel free to reach out to me to correct it via email realcordcutters@outlook.com or Twitter: @RealCordCutters or by leaving a comment below.  My goal is to make a comprehensive and accurate guide that can help people quickly & easily decide how to watch as much college football as they want for the cheapest possible method.  Unlike other cord cutting websites, we welcome and encourage reader feedback, both positive and negative.  For updates, please look for the ► sign (alt + 16 to type it) with a date following it; these indicate changes, additions, corrections, etc.

First, I’m going to give a brief summary of some of the changes for the upcoming 2019 season.  Then I’ll give an overview of the various options that currently exist regarding CFB broadcasts including defining some terms.  Please note that this guide will focus primarily on the Power 5 conferences (ACC, B1G, Big 12, Pac-12 & SEC).  If you’re already familiar with these terms, services, etc. please feel free to jump down below to the conferences section.

CHANGES FOR THE 2019 SEASON
*The ACC Network debuts as a linear tv channel (Note that ACC teams will still have games on RSNs & ACC Network Extra)
*Related to the above, ACC Network Extra games will now require a subscription to ACC Network (rather than just an ESPN subscription) in order to view them
*All the major streaming providers have raised their prices since last season, including DIRECTV NOW which also cut back from 4 packages to 2
*ESPN+ now has more CFB than previously as it will air Big 12 & American Athletic Conference games
*NFL Network will now air CFB games as Conference USA signed a deal to air some games after dropping beIN Sports as a tv provider
*Games on FOX/FS1/FS2/BTN need to be viewed through the FOX Sports App; the Fox Sports Go app is only for Fox Sports RSNs and the BTN2GO app has been changed to the BTNPlus App


KEY TERMS TO KNOW
Designated Market Area (DMA) – a geographic region, defined by Nielsen Media Research that receives the same (or similar) television stations.  The DMA that you are located in determines which local broadcast stations you receive, although cable companies are free to carry channels from outside the DMA without any type of waiver.  To see a map of all US DMAs from 2015-16, click here.

Regional & National Broadcasts – College football games can either be a regional or national broadcast.  A national broadcast shows one game over the entire country on a given channel while a regional broadcast will have different games showing on a given channel in different parts of the country.  For most, but not all, regional broadcasts, the game not shown on the primary channel is aired on an alternate TV channel.  The most common example of a regional broadcast is the 3:30 PM ET ABC/ESPN2 broadcast window.  Some part of the country receives Game A on ABC and Game B on ESPN2 while the rest of the country receives Game B on ABC and Game A on ESPN2.  Some of the conference networks (BTN, SECN, etc.) also do this when there are multiple games airing at the same time by using alternate overflow channels.  When there is a regional broadcast and the alternate game is not shown on another TV channel or the provider does not carry the alternate channels, the extra game(s) will then be streamed online.

Tier 1/2/3 Media Rights – Tier 1 media rights generally refer to games broadcast on over-the-air (OTA) broadcast networks such as FOX, ABC, CBS, etc.  Tier 2 media rights generally refer to games aired on cable television stations such as ESPN/2, FOX Sports 1, etc.  Tier 3 media rights are the rights to games that are institutionally controlled.  The Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC control these Tier 3 rights for all their member institutions and air these games on their respective conference networks.  The ACC has sold these rights to Raycom for syndication but is re-purchasing them in advanced of the launch of the ACC Network in 2019.  The Big 12 allows each member institution to control one home game and the institution can then choose how & who to sell the broadcast rights to that game to.

Regional Sports Networks – FOX (FOX Sports <channel>), Comcast (NBC Sports <channel> and NBC Sports <channel>), and AT&T (AT&T SportsNet <channel> own the most common regional sports networks (RSNs) that air college football games.  Currently, they air games featuring ACC & Big 12 teams in addition to games featuring teams outside of the Power 5 conferences and FCS teams.  The coverage can vary by channel due to other programming commitments such as professional baseball, basketball and hockey; thus, even if a game is designated to be carried by FOX Sports RSNs, your local FOX Sports RSN may not carry it.  Note that FOX sold their RSNs to Disney but Disney was forced to sell them as approval for their acquisition of other FOX assets.  Sinclair has agreed to purchase the FOX Sports RSNs but so far nothing has changed in terms of names or branding for them.

Conference Networks – Several conferences (Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC, ACC) have created conference networks to exclusively air Tier 3 content in addition to other college sports programming.  These conference networks vary in their structure and also in the number of subscribers each has.  The Big Ten conference launched the Big Ten Network (BTN) back in 2007 while the Pac-12 started the Pac-12 Network (P12N) in 2011 and the SEC started the SEC Network (SECN) in 2014.  The ACC Network (ACCN) will debut as a linear television channel on August 22, 2019.

TV CHANNELS
ABC/ESPN/ESPN2/ESPNU/ESPNEWS/ESPN GOAL LINE – The Disney family of channels (ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNEWS) carry games multiple days a week.  In addition to Saturdays, these stations also carry games on Thursday & Friday nights (most weeks), Tuesday & Wednesday nights (usually only October-November) and the first Sunday of the season.  They also carry most of the bowl games, including the College Football Playoff, except for a handful.  ESPN GOAL LINE runs only on Saturdays and switches between various games on the ESPN networks similar to how the Red Zone channel works for the NFL.

ESPN3 – ESPN3 is an online streaming channel that airs many sporting events, including college football games, and does not require login authentication.  To view ESPN3 events, one must either have a participating Internet Service Provider or a cable/satellite/streaming service subscription which includes it though.  For example, Sling TV & PlayStation Vue both include ESPN3 access with their subscriptions.  The list of ESPN3 participating providers can be found here.  All games aired on ABC in your region are also available to watch online via ESPN3. ESPN3 also airs additional camera views for important games although mostly for bowl and College Football Playoff (CFP) games.  For example, the most recent CFP National Championship Game had 8 different feeds available on ESPN3 including Sounds of the Game, Pylon Cam, Hometown Radio feeds, Spider Cam and others.  Thus, some games that are aired on ESPN cable channels can also be viewed via ESPN3 and do not require a subscription to ESPN, ESPN2, etc. in order to watch them.  One other thing to be aware of regarding ESPN3 is that the ESPN app requires an ESPN video subscription (i.e. credentials) in order to view ESPN3 content via a connected device such as Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV, Chromecast, or PlayStation 4.  In other words, if you do not have a subscription to a service that includes ESPN (but do have ESPN3 access through your ISP) and try to watch ESPN3 content through the ESPN app on a Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV, etc., you will receive an error.  The only way to watch ESPN3 content without an ESPN video subscription is via a computer web browser (www.watchespn.com) or the ESPN app on mobile devices such as phones and tablets.  For more information on this, please see here.

ESPN+ – ESPN+ is an online streaming service which launched in April 2018 and will air college football games from the AAC, Big 12, Conference USA, the MAC, and Sun Belt this season.  For more information on it, see the section on ESPN+ below under “STREAMING SERVICES”.

FOX/FOX SPORTS 1/FOX SPORTS 2 – FOX Sports carries games on the FOX broadcast channel, FOX Sports 1 (FS1), and FOX Sports Regional Sports Networks (for more information on these see Regional Sports Networks below).  Fox Sports 2 (FS2) traditionally has only been used as an overflow channel when games run late but it has aired Big 12 games in their entirety the past two years.  FS1 has games every Saturday, most Thursdays, and occasional Fridays.  FOX generally has games on Saturdays only but not every Saturday due to other sports commitments (NASCAR, MLB Playoffs, etc.).  One bowl game will be broadcast on FOX and one game will be broadcast on FS1 this season.

CBS/CBS SPORTS NETWORK – CBS Sports carries games on both the CBS broadcast channel and CBS Sports Network (CBSSN).  The CBS broadcast channel typically carries one game involving an SEC team per week on Saturdays while also having several doubleheader days where it carries two games.  CBSSN typically carries multiple games on Saturdays in addition to games on Thursdays & Fridays most weeks.  CBS will carry one bowl game and CBSSN will carry two bowl games this season.

NBC/NBC SPORTS NETWORK – NBC Sports carries games on the NBC broadcast channel, NBC Sports Network (NBCSN), and regional sports networks such as NBC Sports (NBCS) <channel (for more information on these see Regional Sports Networks below).  NBC usually only broadcasts Notre Dame home games on Saturdays while NBCSN carries FCS games; it also broadcast one Notre Dame game in 2017 but does not have any scheduled for 2019.

Regional Sports Networks – The two most common types of Regional Sports Networks (RSNs) are FOX Sports RSNs and NBCS RSNs.  There are also four RSNs owned by AT&T called AT&T SportsNet <channel> and one RSN owned primarily by the Seattle Mariners, Root Sports Northwest, that carry the FOX Sports RSN games, in addition to some other games.  However, none of these channels are currently available on any national streaming service except for AT&T SportsNet Southwest which is carried by FuboTV.  Additionally, some other RSNs like NESN, Prime Ticket, SportsTime Ohio and MASN carry games as well.

Big Ten Network – BTN is a conference network owned by FOX and the Big Ten Conference that airs programming from all sports featuring Big Ten teams.  It usually shows 2-5 games featuring Big Ten teams each Saturday with occasional games on the first Thursday & Friday of the season.  It owns the Tier 3 rights to all games that Big Ten teams own the rights to.  BTN Plus is online streaming network offered by BTN for an additional cost, but it does NOT air any CFB games on it.  Starting this year, BTN content is only able to be viewed via FOX Sports app.

SEC Network – SECN is a conference network owned exclusively by ESPN (Disney) which shows all sports of SEC teams.  It usually airs 2-5 SEC games on Saturdays in addition to games on the first Thursday & Friday of the season.  SECN owns the Tier 3 rights to all games that SEC teams have the rights to.  SECN+ is an online channel that airs extra events and can only be viewed with authenticated credentials (i.e. it requires a subscription to SECN) via the ESPN app and the ESPN website.  SECN+ generally does not air any CFB games except for rare circumstances.

Pac-12 Network – P12N is a conference network owned exclusively by the Pac-12 conferences that airs Pac-12 sporting events.  It usually shows 2-5 Pac-12 games on Saturdays only.  P12N owns the Tier 3 rights to all games that Pac-12 teams own the rights to.  The network has 1 national feed and 6 regional feeds (Arizona, Bay Area, Los Angeles, Mountain, Oregon, and Washington) with each regional feed covering two teams.  Most CFB games are aired on the national feed and the regional feed(s) of the team(s) participating in the game. 

ACC Network/ACC Network Extra – The linear ACCN cable channel is scheduled to launch on August 22, 2019.  The ACC also usually one airs RSN game each Saturday at various times, although several weeks two of these games are shown.  These RSN games are also available outside of the airing markets on ACC Network Extra (ACCNX) which is an online channel that can only be viewed with authenticated credentials (i.e. it requires a subscription to a service which has ACCN, which is new this year) via the ESPN app or the ESPN website.  What this means is that if a RSN in your DMA is airing the ACC game, you can only watch the game on that network; however, if there is no RSN airing the game within your DMA, then you are able to watch it online with proper ACCN-authenticated credentials via the ESPN app.  This is important to note because if the game is airing on an RSN that your service does not carry (ex. NESN, AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh, etc.), it means you will not be able to watch the game because you do not receive the station that is airing it in your market and it will be blacked out on the ESPN app. 

ACCNX also airs games exclusively online and will air 5 total games in 2019 (see here).  Prior to 2016 these ACCNX games were aired on ESPN3 while prior to this year all games airing on ACCNX only required an ESPN subscription.  However, going forward you must have a subscription to ACCN in order to see games that are airing online via ACCNX.  ACCNX also airs other sporting events for ACC teams that do not require authentication.

Longhorn Network –Longhorn Network (LHN) is an ESPN-owned network that focuses solely on University of Texas athletic events and programming.  It generally airs two home Texas football games per year, one non-conference game and one conference game.  The conference game also airs on additional platforms in the home market of the visiting conference team.  It is generally carried as a regional, not national, channel by most providers and is streamed via the ESPN app and the ESPN website.

Stadium – Stadium (STADIUM) is a 24/7 sports channel which airs some games on multiple venues including free Twitter & Facebook live streams and an OTA channel which was previously known as American Sports Network.  They carry games hosted by Conference USA, Mountain West Conference, and Sun Belt Conference teams.  The current list of OTA affiliates can be found here and the OTA channel can also be viewed on their website, FuboTV in the Sports Plus add-on pack, Twitch, PlutoTV, and via their app which is available for Apple & Android products.  Games airing on Twitter can be viewed here, while games airing on Facebook can be viewed here.

NFL Network – NFL Network (NFLN) is an NFL focused network that will air 10 Conference USA games on Saturdays in addition to its regular NFL programming.  It is streamed via the NFL Mobile App.

TV Everywhere Apps – Many cable channels now have a live stream of their channel available to watch online for authenticated subscribers.  ESPN makes all of its programming, including ACCN, SECN, SECN+, LHN, ESPN3 & ESPN+ events, available via the ESPN app while FOX uses the FOX Sports app for FOX broadcast channel sporting events & FOX Sports RSNs.  BTN also uses the Fox Sports App while P12N uses the Pac-12 Now app. CBS & CBSSN both streams their games through the CBS Sports App (no authentication required for CBS games while authentication is required for CBSSN) but only on phones & tablets.  NBC & NBCSN & NBCS RSNs all stream their content through the NBC Sports App.  STADIUM streams via the Stadium App while NFLN streams via the NFL Mobile App.

STREAMING SERVICES
Sling TV
·       Plans:
o   Orange ($25/month), Orange Sports Add-on ($10/month)
o   Blue ($25/month), Blue Sports Add-on ($10/month)
o   Orange + Blue ($40/month), Orange + Blue + Sports Add-on ($50/month)
·       Channels:
o   Orange - ESPN/ESPN2, STADIUM
o   Orange Sports Add-on - ESPNU,ESPNNEWS,ESPN GOAL LINE,SECN,P12N*,(► 9/4/19) ACCN
o   Blue - FOX,FS1,FS2,NBC,NBCSN,NBCS RSN,STADIUM,NFLN
o   Blue Sports Add-on - P12N*
§  *P12N includes the 6 regional feeds only; the national feed is not included
·       # of Streams: Orange (1 stream); Blue (3 streams)
·       Devices: Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV + most common devices


Summary: Sling TV (Sling) is a decent option for college football fans and still the cheapest way to get just the ESPN channels.  Plus, it is the only service that carries P12N, STADIUM & ESPN (► 9/14/19) and added ACCN on Thursday 8/29 right before the Clemson-GT game kicked off (see here).  However, it doesn’t carry BTN or CBSSN or FOX SPORTS RSNs (as of July 2019) and last year blacked out certain Big Ten games on FS1, see here for more info; while it’s Orange + Blue package ($40) is similar in price to other services that doesn’t include networks such as ESPNU or SECN.  Plus, its coverage of local channels is the smallest compared to the other services so if an antenna isn’t feasible at your location, it’s best to look elsewhere if you need to see games on FOX or NBC.  Lastly, the ESPN channels are limited to 1 simultaneous stream, which is the lowest of any service, although you can use the ESPN app to watch additional streams.

Best For:  ACC/SEC/Pac-12 Fans, Conference USA Fans, People who can get OTA stations via antenna
Worst For:  Big 10 Fans, Fans who cannot get their local OTA stations via antenna


PlayStation Vue
·       Plans: 
o   Access ($50/month), Core ($55/month), Sports Pack ($10/month), Elite ($65/month), Ultra ($85/month)
·       Channels:
o   Access - ABC,CBS,FOX,NBC,ESPN,ESPN2,FS1,FS2,NBCSN
o   Core - Access Channels + ESPNU,ESPNNEWS,SECN,BTN,CBSSN,LHN*,NBCS RSN,FOX SPORTS RSN,ACCN,NFLN
o   Elite – Core Channels + STADIUM
o   Sports Pack - Core Channels + ESPN GOAL LINE,LHN*
§  *LHN is available on the Core plan within select in-market states; other states require the Core plan + the Sports Pack add-on
·       # of Streams: 5 (3 at signup + 2 additional available, in-home only, after a home device is set)
o   Limited to a max of one PS3, one PS4, and three mobile/web-based devices at all times
·       Devices: Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV + most common devices

Summary:  The price increase that PlayStation Vue (Vue) instituted in June 2019 makes it less attractive to college football fans; the most desirable package, Core at $55/month, is now $5-10/month more than comparable packages from Sling, Hulu & YouTube TV, since those services base packages have the exact same networks as Vue except for LHN.  The inclusion of LHN (those who are out-of-market and want to receive it must order the Sports Pack as well, bringing the total to $65/month) is one positive aspect of Vue in addition to the fact that it offers the highest number of in-home streams (5), except for Hulu + Unlimited Screens, but that requires an extra $10/month. 

Best For:  People who want to have multiple (> 3) games playing at once, Texas Longhorn fans, ACC Fans
Worst For:  Pac-12 Fans

DIRECTV NOW (Note: DIRECTV NOW will be renamed AT&T TV NOW at some point in the near future – see here)
·       Plans: 
o   Plus ($50/month), Max ($70/month)
§  DIRECTV NOW introduced the above plans in March 2019 but current subscribers were able to keep the grandfathered plans (Live a Little, Just Right, Go Big, Gotta Have It)
·       Channels:
o   Plus - ABC,CBS,FOX,NBC,ESPN,ESPN2,FS1,NBCSN
o   Max – Plus Channels + ESPNU,ESPNNEWS,SECN,BTN,CBSSN,FS2,LHN*,NBCS RSN,FOX SPORTS RSN
§  *LHN is only available in select markets
·       # of Streams: 2 with the option of purchasing an additional stream for $5/month
·       Devices: Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV + most common devices

Summary: DIRECTV NOW’s (DTV NOW) package changes in March 2019 made it much less attractive than other options because its most basic plan is now priced similarly to most of the other options but lacks many networks such as ESPNU, BTN, FS2, CBSSN, SECN, and any local RSNs.  To receive those channels requires another $20/month ($70/month total!).  However, DTV NOW does offer LHN (in-market only).  Otherwise though, there’s nothing that makes DTV NOW particularly compelling given its higher price, lower number of simultaneous streams, and lack of specialty channels (i.e. no P12N or NFLN or STADIUM or ESPN GOAL LINE).

Best For:  Texas Longhorn fans (in-market only)
Worst For:  General Fans, Fans who want to watch multiple games at once, Pac-12 Fans

Hulu Live
·       Plans:
o   Base Plan ($45/month)
·       Channels:
o   ABC,CBS,FOX,NBC,ESPN,ESPN2, ESPNU,ESPNNEWS,SECN,FS1,FS2,BTN,NBCSN, NBCS RSN,FOX SPORTS RSN,CBSSN, ACCN
·       # of Streams:
o   2 with the option of purchasing “unlimited” streams for an extra $10/month
o   Unlimited streams includes unlimited streams at home and max 3 streams outside of home
·       Devices: Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV + most common devices

Summary: Hulu Live is an excellent choice for most college football fans as it offers a wide range of channels at the lowest base package price which also includes locals in most areas.  Thus, it features the best overall combination of channels, available devices, and price although YouTube TV is supposed to be returning to Fire TV devices soon.  The one main downside is the fact that its base package only includes 2 streams although the option for “unlimited streams” does exist.  Hulu Live is a good option for fans who want to want a bunch of games, including locals, for the cheapest price.

Best For: General Fan, ACC/B1G/B12/SEC Fans, Fans who want to watch >3 games at once (for an extra fee)
Worst For:  Pac-12 Fans

YouTube TV
·       Plans:
o   Base Plan ($50/month)
·       Channels:
o   ABC,CBS,FOX,NBC,ESPN,ESPN2, ESPNU,ESPNNEWS,SECN,FS1,FS2,BTN,NBCSN, NBCS RSN,FOX SPORTS RSN,CBSSN,ACCN
·       # of Streams:
o   3
·       Devices: Roku, Apple TV (not Fire TV) + some other devices

Summary: YouTube TV(YTTV) is another very good choice for most college football fans although its price increase to $50/month in March 2019 made it a bit less desirable.  It is currently not available to watch on Fire TV devices although that is supposed to change in the coming months with Google & Amazon having reached an agreement.  It’s very similar to Hulu Live but its unlimited DVR space and extra stream (3), compared to Hulu Live (2), may make it a better option for some fans even with the higher cost.

Best For: General Fans, ACC/B1G/B12/SEC Fans, Fans who plan to record many hours of college football
Worst For:  Pac-12 Fans

FuboTV
·       Plans: 
o   Base Plan ($55/month), Extra Plan ($60/month), Sports Plus ($9/month)
·       Channels:
o   Base Plan - CBS,FOX,NBC,BTN,FS1,FS2,NBCSN,CBSSN,P12N*,NBCS RSN,FOX SPORTS RSN,NFLN
§  The Extra Plan has 15 additional channels compared to the Base Plan but none are college football related
o   Sports Plus – Base Plan + STADIUM, P12N*
§  *The P12N national feed is included with the Base Plan while the 6 regionals feeds are included with the Sports Plus add-on
·       # of Streams: 2 with the option of purchasing an additional stream (Family Share Add-On) for $6/month
·       Devices: Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV + most common devices

Summary: FuboTV is an overall poor choice for most college football fans due to its lack of ESPN channels, since every single conference has a tv deal with ESPN.  However, it is the only current streaming service that offers BTN & P12N so if you are a fan of  Big Ten and Pac-12 teams that are frequently featured on their conference networks, it may be worth it.  However, it’s lack of ESPN channels makes it virtually unusable for ACC & SEC fans and its price ($55/month) coupled with only 2 streams, make it probably the least desirable option for most fans.

Best For: Certain Big Ten & Pac-12 Fans, College Football Fans who have other sports interests (soccer)
Worst For:  ACC/SEC Fans

ESPN+
·       Plans: 
o   Base Plan ($5/month or $50/year)
·       Channels:
o   Base Plan – ESPN+ only
·       # of Streams: 5
·       Devices: Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV + most common devices

Summary: ESPN+ will feature games from the AAC, Big 12, Conference USA, MAC, and Sun Belt in 2019.  The Big 12 deal is new and will feature 4 teams in 2019 with 4 additional teams joining in 2020 (Texas & Oklahoma will not have any home games aired as part of the deal).  Click here for more info.  Although the cost of ESPN+ is relatively modest, it is a bit disappointing that fans now to have pay to watch games that were previously available via ESPN3, which is generally included with your ISP and/or a cable/satellite tv subscription.  The only real reason to purchase an ESPN+ subscription is if you’re a hardcore college football fan (not that there’s anything wrong with that), a fan of one of the three specific conferences that will be on it, or there is other content (MLS, etc.) that you’re already deciding to subscribe to it for.   

Best For: Fans of certain Big 12 teams, Fans of AAC/Conference USA/MAC/Sun Belt teams, Hardcore College Football Fans
Worst For: Pretty much everyone else

THINGS TO KNOW
There are a lot of nuances and caveats regarding some of these services and channels so please read the following items before you decide to purchase anything.

Issues with local coverage
·       Local stations sometimes air a different game than is advertised
o   There are times where you may not be able to watch a game (or must use the appropriate app to view a game) even though it has been designated to be carried by one of your local channels because the local channel is instead airing other programming such as professional sports or even a different college football game.

For example, in the Pittsburgh market, WTAE ABC (4.1) is the station which has the rights to the OTA ACCN Game of the Week each Saturday @ 12:20 PM ET (Note: This issue will note exist starting in 2019 going forward because of the creation of the ACCN).  However, ABC usually airs a national or regional college football broadcast starting at 12:00 PM ET.  Thus, the ACCN Game of the Week usually ends up being shown on This TV (4.2), the digital sub channel of WTAE. However, when the ACCN Game of the Week features Pittsburgh, that game is aired on WTAE and the ABC regional/national game is bumped to This TV.  On November 5, 2016, Pitt played at Miami starting at 12:30 PM ET; this game was shown on WTAE which forced Northwestern-Wisconsin (ABC national broadcast starting at 12:00 PM ET) to be shown on This TV.  Thus, if you subscribed to a streaming service which carried ABC (WTAE), you would not have seen the Wisconsin-Northwestern game.  Instead the only way you could have watched it would have been to use the ESPN app or to use an antenna to receive This TV.  It should be noted that all ABC games are available via ESPN3 so this example would not have required a television subscription to view the game, only ESPN3 access.

Similar issues can happen with RSNs as well.  On September 24, 2016, San Jose State at Iowa State was distributed by FOX Sports RSNs starting at 12:00 PM ET.  However, FOX Sports Detroit chose to air the ACCN RSN Game of the Week, Central Michigan at Virginia, starting at 12:30 PM ET on its main channel.  Thus, the San Jose State-Iowa State game was aired on FOX Sports Detroit+.  Again, if you had a subscription to a streaming service that does not carry FOX Sports Detroit+, which is essentially an overflow channel, you would have needed to go to the FOX Sports Go app to be able to watch that game.  Please note that the issues described above are not unique to streaming services, but they are things to keep in mind.    

Overflow channels
·       Conference Networks
o   As mentioned earlier, conference networks will frequently air multiple games at the same time with the primary game for your region usually determined by geography.  This means that if you are interested in watching the secondary game, you must either find the alternate channel for the network or find the online stream of the game via the networks app. 

For example, on September 17, 2016, BTN aired both Georgia Sate at Wisconsin & Temple at Penn State starting at 12 PM ET.  If you lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the main BTN channel showed the Temple-Penn State game while Georgia State-Wisconsin was carried on one of BTN’s overflow channels.  However, not all streaming services carry the overflow channels for networks that have them.  So if you used a streaming service that did not carry all of  BTN’s overflow channels, you would have had to login to the BTN2GO app, using your provider credentials, in order to watch Georgia State-Wisconsin.  It’s similar for the SECN, except that you would use the ESPN app.  Again, this issue is not necessarily unique to streaming services, because some cable providers do not carry all the overflow channels (compared to satellite providers who generally do), but it is something to be aware of.

Game windows
·       Game running late into the start of the next game
o   Most college football games are scheduled for 3.5-hour windows; however, games frequently last longer than 3.5 hours, especially when there are weather delays, which end up delaying the start of the next scheduled game on the same channel.  It also frequently happens with the channels that air the ACCN Game of the Week since that game starts at 12:20 PM ET and thus, only has 3 hours and 10 minutes until the 3:30 PM ET games start.  When these situations happen, the next game is usually started on an alternate network, or if none is available, streamed online via the ESPN or FOX Sports apps.  For games on the ESPN channels, ESPNU & ESPNEWS are usually used as overflow channels, although the SECN alternate channel has been used occasionally as well for SEC games.  If there are no overflow channels available, the next game will usually be made available to be streamed on ESPN3. For games on the FOX channels, FOX Sports 2 and Fox Business Network are usually used as the main overflow channel, although there was once instance where a game (Oklahoma-Texas Tech) was moved to FOX News Channel because the World Series was set to air on FOX that night.  Although each network usually stays with the current game until its conclusion, there are cases where the network will leave a current game to show the start of the next game; this usually happens with networks that are located in the broadcast area for one of the teams that is playing in the next game.  For example, in 2013 there was an ACC Game of the Week between Louisiana Tech and NC State that started at 12:30 PM ET on WTAE (ABC) in Pittsburgh.  However, the game was not over by 3:30 PM ET when ABC was scheduled to air Penn State-Syracuse as part of its 3:30 PM ET regional coverage.  WTAE left the ACCN game and started airing the Penn State game on time since Pittsburgh is considered part of the Penn State viewing area.   However, for most games, especially those on cable channels, unless the game is a large blowout the network will stay with it until its conclusion.  This is something to keep in mind if you decide to subscribe to a streaming service as there may be channels you do not anticipate needing to watch but may occasionally air part of a game you’re interested in because the game before yours ran late, pushing the start of your game to an alternate channel temporarily.

Away Games
·       The TV partners of the home team determine who airs each game.  Generally, the home team has the broadcast rights to each game and thus, one of the channels of those partners will be the one that airs the game.  In the case of a neutral site game, the contract for the game usually designates one of the teams as the “home team” for both uniform and broadcasting purposes.  This is important because even if your favorite team is in a conference who home and/or conference games are only aired on certain channels, they may play a road game (or games) which is aired on other channels because the team(s) they are playing has a different media partner.  Therefore, when deciding which streaming service best fits your needs, you should make sure to research any away games for your favorite team(s) to see which channels you may need to subscribe to in order to watch those road games as there may be a game on a network such as CBSSN or P12N that your favorite team normally would not air on.

CONFERENCE & CHANNEL CHARTS
Below are several charts to assist with your decision to cut the cord and/or sign up for an online streaming service.  The first one shows the channels which have the Tier 1, 2, and 3 media (i.e. TV) rights for each of the Power 5 conferences.  The second one shows the television partners for the other 5 FBS conferences, aka the Group of 5.  The third one shows the most common channels which carry college football and the level of package (if available) on each streaming service. 

MEDIA RIGHTS BY CONFERENCE (POWER 5 CONFERENCES)

Tier 1
Tier 2
Tier 3
Conf Champ Game
ACC
ABC
ESPN/2/U/NEWS
ACCN &
RSN (RSNs vary by market)
ABC/ESPN/2
Big Ten
ABC & FOX
ESPN/2/U/NEWS & FS1/FS2
BTN
FOX
Big 12
ABC & FOX
ESPN/2/U/NEWS & FS1/FS2
*Varies by team – Longhorn Network (Texas) & ESPN+
ABC/ESPN/2
Pac-12
ABC & FOX
ESPN/2/U/NEWS & FS1/FS2
P12N
**FOX & ABC/ESPN/2
SEC
CBS
ESPN/2/U/NEWS
SECN
CBS
*Each team is given one game for institutional control which they can then sell the rights to for broadcasting although 4 of these games will air on ESPN+ in 2019 with 4 more (8 total) airing in 2020.
**This game is split between FOX (even years) and ESPN channels (odd years).

Notre Dame – NBC Sports owns the rights to all Notre Dame home games.  All 2019 home games are scheduled to be aired on the NBC broadcast channel.  Their five away games will air on networks determined by the broadcast partners of the teams they are facing.

BYU – ESPN has the rights of first selection to all BYU home games or neutral site games where BYU is the designated home team.  This includes a minimum of 3 games to air on ABC/ESPN/ESPN2 and at least one game to air on ESPNU.  Any home games that ESPN does not televise can be aired on BYUtv, which is a TV channel founded and run by the university.  BYUtv general airs one BYU football game per year and is currently not available as part of any streaming service. 
  
MEDIA RIGHTS BY CONFERENCE (GROUP OF 5 CONFERENCES)

Partner 1
Partner 2
Partner 3
Partner 4
Partner 5
AAC
ESPN
CBSSN*
ESPN+
-------------------------
--------------------
Conf USA
ESPN
CBSSN
NFLN
Stadium
ESPN+
MAC
ESPN
CBSSN*
ESPN+
-------------------------
--------------------
MWC
ESPN
CBSSN
Campus Insiders**/
Stadium
TheMWC.com**
--------------------
Sun Belt
ESPN
Stadium
ESPN+
-------------------------
--------------------
*These games are sublicensed from ESPN which controls the initial rights to them.
**These games are streamed online only.

CFB CHANNEL INPUT SPREADSHEET
Below is an Excel spreadsheet that will allow you to input up to 15 channels and will return all streaming service options which carry that group of channels, including highlighting the cheapest available option.  Please read the instructions (located on the 2nd tab in the file) before using but it is fairly straightforward.  You simply enter in the name of each channel (it has to match the name I've assigned to it in the Channel Key in the file) and the spreadsheet will automatically update to show all available packages which carry the channel(s).  There's also an Out of Market filter which is only used for receiving LHN on certain services.  
To see a PDF view-only copy of the spreadsheet, click here.
To download a copy of it (it's a zip file which you must save & unzip to access the Excel file), click here.




STREAMING SERVICE & CFB NETWORK CHART (last updated 9/04/19)

Sling TV
Vue
DTV NOW
FuboTV
Hulu Live
YouTube TV
ABC
No
Access*
(or higher)
Plus*
(or higher)
No
Yes*
Yes
ESPN
Orange
Access
(or higher)
Plus
(or higher)
No
Yes
Yes
ESPN2
Orange
Access
(or higher)
Plus
(or higher)
No
Yes
Yes
ESPNU
Sports Extra
(Orange)
Core
(or higher)
Max

No
Yes
Yes
ESPNEWS
Sports Extra
(Orange)
Core
(or higher)
Max

No
Yes
Yes
ESPN GOAL LINE
Sports Extra
(Orange)
Core +
Sports Pack
No
No
Yes
No
SECN
Sports Extra
(Orange)
Core
(or higher)
Max

No
Yes
Yes
BTN
No
Core
(or higher)
Max

Yes
Yes
Yes
FOX
Blue*
Access*
(or higher)
Plus*
(or higher)
Yes*
Yes*
Yes
FS1
Blue
Access
(or higher)
Plus
(or higher)
Yes
Yes
Yes
FS2
Blue
Access
(or higher)
Max

Yes
Yes
Yes
CBS
No
Access*
(or higher)
Plus*
(or higher)
Yes*
Yes*
Yes
CBSSN
No
Core
(or higher)
Max

Yes
Yes
Yes
NBC
Blue*
Access*
(or higher)
Plus*
(or higher)
Yes*
Yes*
Yes
NBCSN
Blue
Access
(or higher)
Plus
(or higher)
Yes
Yes
Yes
P12N
Sports Extra (Orange/Blue)**
No
No
Yes***
& Sports Plus***
No
No
ACCN
Sports Extra
(Orange)
Core
(or higher)?
No
No
Yes
Yes
LHN
No
Core****
(or higher)
Max*

No
No
No
FOX Sports RSNs
No
Core*
(or higher)
Max*

Yes*
Yes*
Yes
NBC Sports RSNs
Blue*
Core*
(or higher)
Max*

Yes*
Yes*
Yes
STADIUM
Orange or Blue
Elite
(or higher)
No
Yes
No
No
ESPN3
Orange
Access(?)
No
No
Yes
No
ESPN APP
Yes
Yes
Yes
---------
Yes
Yes
BTN2GO APP
---------
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
FOX SPORTS APP
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
PAC-12 Now APP
No
---------
---------
No
---------
---------
NBCSports.com/ NBCS App-ND FB
Yes/
Yes
Yes/
Yes
Yes/
Yes
Yes/
Yes
Yes/
Yes
No/
Yes
CBSSports.com/ CBSS App-CBSSN
---------
Yes/
Yes
Yes/
Yes
Yes/
Yes
Yes/
Yes
Yes/
Yes
*Available in select markets only
**Includes all P12N regional feeds only, does not include the national feed.
***Base & Extra packages include the P12N national feed while the Sports Plus add-on includes the 6 regional feeds
****Available in select markets as part of Core; in other markets, requires Core or higher subscription + Sports Pack ($10/month)
To see the chart above as a PDF file, click here.


POSTSEASON GAMES
All bowl games will air on ESPN except for the ones listed below. 
Game
Date
Time
Channel
Celebration Bowl
12/21/2019
12:00 PM ET
ABC
Cure Bowl
12/21/2019
2:30 PM ET
CBSSN
Boca Raton Bowl
12/21/2019
3:30 PM ET
ABC
Las Vegas Bowl
12/21/2019
7:30 PM ET
ABC
Holiday Bowl
12/27/2019
8:00 PM ET
FS1
Camping World Bowl
12/28/2019
12:00 PM ET
ABC
Redbox Bowl
12/30/2019
4:00 PM ET
FOX
Sun Bowl
12/31/2019
2:00 PM ET
CBS
Arizona Bowl
12/31/2019
4:30 PM ET
CBSSN
Citrus Bowl
1/1/2020
1:00 PM ET
ABC
*A chart (PDF) with all bowl games including the day, time, teams and services each game is available on will be published after the pairings are announced in early December.
2019-20 Postseason Bowl Game Chart (to be published in early Dec)

SOURCES & REFERENCES:
The information in the chart above and this entire post came from a variety of sources.  Some websites that are very useful for CFB TV listings are Matt Sarz Sports, FBSCHEDULES.com, and LSUFootball.net.

College Football Game Broadcast Schedules
Matt’s College Sports on TV Website - Has CFB & CBB TV listings for each week in addition to archived listings dating back to 2006-07
FBSCHEDULES.com – Has future & past schedules for every team including TV information
LSUFootball.net – Has CFB TV listings for each week for & a schedule of upcoming game replays; also includes archived TV listings back to 2004

2019 College Football TV Schedule Releases

ESPN

Sling TV

PlayStation Vue

DIRECTV NOW

FuboTV

Hulu Live

YouTube TV

MISC

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