Watch College Football Games
College football games air on a variety of TV channels and streaming-only services, primarily on Saturday mornings, afternoons and nights, with a few games on Thursday and Friday night.
Where and how to watch depends entirely on the broadcasting deals conferences have with networks and service providers, and how high profile they consider the game to be. High profile games tend to air nationally while smaller market teams (or games with less playoff implications) tend to be streaming-only.
In our current era of traditional television mixed with digital TV, college football games now air across all these channels and internet-only platforms -- local channels FOX, ABC, NBC and CBS, cable channels like ESPN and FS1, conference-specific networks ACC Network, SEC Network, Big Ten Network and Pac-12 Networks, streaming-only services ESPN+, ACCNE, SEC+ and BTN+, and regional sports networks from FOX and NBC.
This guide includes sections on each with all the cable options and how to watch on-the-go, as well as the broadcasting deals between all the NCAA conferences and networks.
TV Broadcasting Rights Per Conference
Every conference has a broadcast deal with one or more major networks. Rights give networks first choice on airing games but they don't have to air them - networks can sell or give rights to other networks during the season if need be.
It's important to note that rights only apply to home games. So rule of thumb is see which team is hosting then check their conference's broadcast partners. That's the quickest way to narrow down where a game is airing.
Here's the breakdown of each conference and the network(s) they have deals with; all teams within that conference will air their home games on channels or streaming services owned by these networks.
ACC - ESPN
SEC - ESPN, SEC Network, CBS (ends 2023)
Big Ten - FOX, Big Ten Network
Big XII - ESPN, FOX
Pac-12 - Pac-12 Networks, FOX, ESPN
All Other Division 1 NCAA Conferences
AAC - ESPN
Conference USA - ESPN, CBS, Stadium, NFL Network
Mid-American - ESPN, CBS
Mountain West - FOX, CBS
Sun Belt - ESPN
Note: Most networks own multiple channels and/or streaming-only services. So if a conference has an agreement with ESPN and ESPN chooses to broadcast that game, it can air on ESPN or it could air on ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPNU, ESPNews or even ABC, their sister station. Or they can chose to only live stream it on ESPN+. ESPN also owns ACC Network, ACCNE, SEC Network and SEC+. And jointly owns Longhorn Network. Lots of choices.
FOX has the same thing with FS1, FS2 and FOX Sports regional channels; NBC has NBCSN, NBC Regional Sports channels and USA Network, CBS has CBSSN. And the Pac-12 Network has a main channel and six regional channels across the country.
Local TV Coverage
Look for many of the biggest match-ups in college football to air nationally on FOX, NBC, CBS and ABC. Luckily these channels are all 100% free to watch with a digital antenna hooked up to your television, as they all broadcast via local affiliates. But if you live too far away to get the signal, or otherwise have or want cable, most every basic cable package includes these networks as part of the local lineup, whether it be cable, satellite or internet TV.
*NBC has exclusive rights to all Notre Dame home games.
ESPN is the main cable network that'll air college football games. They have first dibs to air games from many conferences and the ability to broadcast on a number of stations: ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPNU and ESPNews. Look for primetime games with the biggest national appeal or playoff implications to air on ESPN or ESPN2. All ESPN channels require a basic cable plan or higher to watch. And all their stations can be watched live online or on your mobile device once you login with your cable credentials via WatchESPN or the ESPN app.
FOX Sports airs the second most college football games, between all their stations. Beyond FOX, that would be FS1, FS2, their many Fox Sports regional networks and their three regional Fox College Sports networks - FCS Pacific, FCS Atlantic and FCS Central (these channels carry Big 12 and Pac-12 games). Look for a provider that carries at least FS1, but if you are a fan of the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, Mountain West or the Oklahoma Sooners, you'll want a cable plan that includes their regional networks. Live stream once subscribed with the Fox Sports website or app.
Other Cable Networks
NBC owned stations NBCSN and USA Network rarely get games, but if scheduling conflicts arise, NBC can opt to air games there, even Notre Dame games.
CBS Sports only has CBSSN as a cable channel, and its rare a game is exclusive to this network. On top of that you can watch these games for free online at CBSSports.com.
Stadium is considered a cable channel, included with many basic cable packages. But its also free to watch online and you can even get it for free over-the-air in some markets with a digital antenna.
NFL Network inked a deal with Conference USA to air 10 of their regular season games each season. A cable plan is required to watch - many providers carry this network in their base plans or higher, or as an add-on. Watch the live stream once signed in on the NFL app.
Conference Specific Networks
Four out of the five top conferences in college football have their very own TV networks that air many exclusive games, all featuring teams within their conference. These channels are included in many base cable, satellite and internet TV plans or are available as add-ons depending on the provider.
The ACC has the ACC Network (ACCN). Big Ten has Big Ten Network (BTN). The SEC has SEC Network (SECN). And the Pac-12 has the Pac-12 Network and six accompanying regional networks -- Arizona, Bay Area, Los Angeles, Mountain, Oregon and Washington.
Texas is the lone school to have their very own cable network, aptly named Longhorn Network. Most cable plans carry this channel with plans that include regional sports, if you live in Texas area. It's also available as an add-on with some providers. Stream available via ESPN, as they are partial owners.
The Big XII is the only Power Five conference that does not have its own network, but they do have a partnership with ESPN and make use of ESPN+, detailed next.
ESPN+. Live streams many college football games from multiple conferences. It's a standalone streaming service, owned and operated by ESPN. Also offers on-demand games as well as other college and pro sports content.
Conferences: Big XII, Sun Belt, Conference USA, American
Cost: $5.99/month or $49.99/yr
Stream: WatchESPN / ESPN app (login required for both options)
ACCNE. ACC Network Extra is also owned and operated by ESPN, and is streaming-only. Home games featuring ACC teams can air live exclusively on this digital channel if ESPN stations and ACC Network are already booked up.
Cost: Free but you need cable plan that includes ACC Network
Stream: WatchESPN / ESPN app (login required for both)
SEC+. The streaming-only companion to the SEC Network, also partially owned by ESPN. Many games featuring SEC teams exclusively air on SEC+.
Cost: Free but you need cable plan that includes SEC Network
Stream: WatchESPN / ESPN app (login required for both)
BTN+. Over 40 college football games featuring Big Ten schools stream on BTN+ during the regular season, along with next day on-demand games and classic Big Ten games from previous seasons.
Cost: $9.95/month, $79.95/yr for single school. $14.95/month, $119.95/yr to watch all Big Ten schools.
Stream: BTN Plus / BTN+ app (login required for both)