Saturdays are college football game days again, and thanks to the NCAA and ESPN, so are Thursday nights. NCAA football kicks off Thursday, August 30, with several college football live games streaming that night and dozens more being webcast on Friday and Saturday. The 2012 NCAA football season is almost underway, and fans can watch college football online, on their smartphone, or via a tablet every weekend for the rest of the college football season.
As more viewers tune-in to live games on tablets and phones, more games are being added to sites that stream college football. Even the smaller, mid-major conferences are webcasting games this season. Whether you want to see top-ranked teams on nationally televised ESPN games, or stream college football for some late-night Mountain West Conference action, ESPN and CBS Sports both offer a huge variety of NCAA games in high-definition (HD) — from the biggest schools in the country, down to your favorite Division II underdogs.
Be warned that these online NCAA football channels are not free. ESPN’s online football stream is “free” only if you have a valid and active cable TV subscription. The stream cannot be purchased separately from cable. CBS Sports ULive, which offers coverage of 130 schools around the country, requires a monthly or annual subscription whether or not you already subscribe to cable. Both streaming sites let you watch college football online in HD and also stream other major NCAA athletic sports like basketball and baseball during those unbearable non-football months.
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STREAM COLLEGE FOOTBALL LIVE ON WATCHESPN.COM
ESPN’s online streaming channel, WatchESPN.com, offers broadband HD video streams of most college football games shown on ESPN, ESPN2, ABC, and ESPNU. Games are available live or on demand afterwards. WatchESPN.com is free to current cable TV subscribers, using the same cable subscription verification process as the NBC Olympics livestream. If you’ve already set up a cable verification username and password to watch the Olympics or another cable TV broadcast online, that same username and password will still work for WatchESPN.com.
WatchESPN.com provides access to the same games that are on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPNU in your geographic region, plus the games being broadcast to other regions and markets. The package also includes popular pre-game and highlight shows like “College Game Day” and “College Football Live.” Occasional blackout restrictions will apply, but WatchESPN.com still offers a huge variety of over 350 games this college football season.
The WatchESPN.com video picture quality depends on available bandwidth, but the resolution is generally outstanding when viewed in HD. On big game days, viewers can use a picture-in-picture feature that plays up to four live games simultaneously on one screen. WatchESPN.com is also available as an app for Android and iOS (working on both smartphones and tablets), providing a second screen viewing option to your weekly college football binge. (Note: The picture above is from the WatchESPN mobile app.) ESPN additionally offers an ESPN College Football app, which offers video alerts of highlight plays, customizable scoreboards tracking your favorite games, and allows easy access to the WatchESPN.com app for watching college football live games.
WATCH COLLEGE FOOTBALL ON CBS SPORTS ULive
You might have heard that big athletic conferences like the Big Ten and the SEC have started their own regional cable channels to broadcast all their in-conference games. Wouldn’t it be great if someone created an online service that bundled all of these one-off conference TV networks into a single-purchase online package?
This year, someone has done just that. CBS Sports ULive offers live video and audio for the college football games of more than 130 schools, featuring games from the Big Ten Digital Network, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Network, and other school or conference-specific TV channels. It might be fair to classify CBS Sports ULive as covering “everything that’s not on ESPN,” with an emphasis on smaller-tier schools. Its digital college football package costs $14.95 for a one-month subscription and $119.95 for a one-year subscription.
CBS Sports ULive viewers get more than just games. Subscribers also get to stream college football live press conferences, interviews, and regular daily video updates – ideal for fans who love all the pigskin news and analysis weekly. If you want a video report on your team’s Wednesday pre-practice stretch routine, this is the streaming service to get. You’ll be disappointed to find, though, that many of the games are available as audio-only broadcasts – with no video feed. Broadcast schedules for CBS Sports ULive are not available at the beginning of the season, so you’ll have to check back weekly to see if your game of choice will be available as an audio or video feed.
There is not a standard iPhone or Android app that includes all teams for CBS Sports ULive. Instead, you’ll need to download the free, CBS-designed app for your specific college. You can then buy audio and video streaming packages through the app, the prices for which will vary. If you bought the ULive online package that purchase does not get you any streaming audio or video privileges in the mobile app. Additionally, these CBS college football apps are not optimized for tablets.
Do you want to watch college football online? Does WatchESPN.com make your cable subscription worth keeping? Who are this year’s tiny Division II underdogs to watch? Let’s hear your cheering or razzing in the comments below.