Mr. T’s Ultimate Guide to Finding Sports to Watch on TV

By 03.19.12

It’s a given that the ESPN family of networks are a known commodity. They own the rights to nearly every sport in the Western Hemisphere and even the casual sports fan knows what they can provide. The one thing I will remind people of is how many different college sports actually appear on ESPNU. College football is usually covered on the other networks, but The U is really useful for college baseball, basketball, hockey, and lacrosse, especially during their tournament times. It’s good to know you can catch your college team play long after you’ve left the school, even if it’s trying to catch a James Madison D-I FCS college football playoff game.

  • Carriers: Most satellite and cable providers.

ESPN3 & the Watch ESPN App
Since the ESPN networks air many sporting events and own the rights to numerous others, they’ve made those games available on the Internet and through mobile devices. ESPN has now negotiated these rights into most of their carrier agreements with the cable and satellite companies, allowing you to watch with your cable or satellite company’s login information. allows sports fans to access all that content on their computers, subject to local blackouts. This provides a couple major positives: First, it allows you to watch games that aren’t being aired in your region of the country. Second, you can turn your living room into your very own sports bar by having games showing on multiple screens. It got even better when ESPN brought all this to mobile devices via their App. Airport delays and long car rides became a little more tolerable now that you can watch some sports to kill the time.

  • Carriers: All computers and most mobile devices with cable or satellite company login information.

ESPN Goal Line
Two seasons ago ESPN created an extra channel that was their version of NFL Red Zone, but for college football. Every Saturday during college football season, ESPN Goal Line flips through all the games in the ESPN family of networks as well as the ABC games and a few others (mostly Big 12 and ACC) that they have content rights for. If you’ve only got one TV, it’s a nice way to keep track of all the action.

  • Carriers: Time Warner and Verizon Fios.

ESPN Buzzer Beater
With the success of ESPN Goal Line, ESPN decided to launch a college basketball version with the same concept. Airing on Wednesdays and Saturdays over the last two regular seasons, ESPN Buzzer Beater usually airs on the same channel that ESPN Goal Line aired on in the fall. And like ESPN Goal Line, it flips through all the games ESPN has content rights for on a given day.

  • Carriers: Time Warner and Verizon Fios.

Known mostly for its night-time comedies and dramas like “The League” and “American Horror Story,” FX also shows a couple different sports properties. The FX “College Football Game of the Week” is shown every Saturday throughout football season. It’s one of the places to find Gus Johnson these days since he’s no longer doing the NFL and college basketball for CBS. The games usually include teams from the Big 12 or Pac 12. FX also carries European Champions League games, so soccer fans need to be aware of that. And The Ultimate Fighter Live just premiered last week and airs each Friday at 10 p.m. on FX.

  • Carriers: Most satellite and cable providers.

TNT, TBS, and TruTV
It’s a well-known fact that TNT covers the NBA. They’ve been around for years and have shown no sign of every wanting to give up the property. If anything, they’ve increased their NBA coverage by combining forces with the NBA to maximize resources. They also show six NASCAR races a year and a few golf tournaments. Since 2011, TNT and its Turner siblings TBS and TruTV have aired NCAA Tournament games, ensuring that every game of the tournament is airing on some network, no matter what part of the country you're watching in. (In 2016, these networks will begin airing late-tournament games, including the Final Four.) TBS, meanwhile, national home of the Atlanta Braves until 2007, now airs some MLB post-season games.

  • Carriers: Most satellite and cable providers. and App
We'll take the opportunity to once again mention the incredible ability to watch every single NCAA Tournament game on your computer or mobile phone. Sure, the games usually lag by anywhere between 15 and 45 seconds, but if you're stuck at work or out somewhere and don't want to miss a minute of action, sign up asap. (They're charging $3.99 for anyone who doesn't have a home cable account, but read this for info on how to bypass that charge without your cable bill.)

  • Carriers: The Internet.

CBS Sports Network
Formerly named the CBS College Sports Network, CBS Sports Network does focus mostly on college sports, but it changed its name for better brand recognition. The majority of the content you’d care to see is college basketball from the Mountain West Conference, the Atlantic 10 Conference, and Conference USA. For the college hockey fans out there, this is usually the best place to catch a few different games each weekend featuring the best teams in the country, including Minnesota, Boston University, Boston College, Wisconsin, and Michigan. There are a bunch of non-event college sports on their as well if you’re into that.

  • Carriers: Most satellite and cable providers.

NBC Sports Network
It was once OLN and then Versus, but now NBCUniversal has finally decided it was time to brand the network in line with their other properties. The calling card for the network is its NHL coverage. It’s got a few games every week and plenty of games in the playoffs. They’ve recently added the MLS and a Friday night College Hockey game to go along build their portfolio. Horse Racing and the Olympics are shown as well since those tie into the NBC coverage.

  • Carriers: Most satellite and cable providers.

Fox Soccer and Fox Soccer Plus
As the popularity of soccer grows in the United States, so too does the amount of soccer available on television. Fox Soccer recently added Fox Soccer Plus because they’ve continued to expand their soccer content and needed another channel to bring it to the masses. The real flag bearer on the network is the English Premier League action. It’s the most well-known soccer league in the world and there are at least five EPL games a weekend shown live on Fox Soccer and Fox Soccer Plus, with a few more being shown on tape delay. Fox’s rights to the European Champions League give fans the opportunity to watch the best Club teams in the world on these two networks. There’s also a pretty strong following of Serie A (Italian League) soccer in the U.S. and that can also be found on GolTV. The two channels also show the two major English cup tournaments along with Ligue 1 (French League), U.S. National team games, European international games, and a few other soccer properties. It’s a soccer fan’s dream.

  • Carriers: Most satellite and cable providers.

Not to be outdone by Fox Soccer, GolTV is on the rise, specifically because they own the U.S. rights to La Liga (Spanish League) soccer. The two best players in the world (Messi and Ronaldo) now play on opposing teams in Spain, and Barcelona is widely viewed as the best Club team in the world. La Liga may not be as deep as the EPL, but one can get plenty of enjoyment out of watching Barcelona or Real Madrid play. While the Bundesliga (German League) may only be the fourth biggest league in the world, it’s a nice complementary product as well.

  • Carriers: Most satellite and cable providers.{pagebreak}

The Big Ten Network
The Big Ten was the first college conference to create their own network and it seems to be rather successful. The primary focus of the network for sports fans are the college football and basketball games that are hosted on the actual Big Ten Network channel. While the BTN doesn’t get the most exciting college football games because those are swallowed up by ESPN, Wisconsin fans still know where to turn to watch the Badgers beat the piss out of someone like UNLV. The college basketball games are better because ESPN doesn’t have the bandwidth to eat up all the games. You can obviously catch other Big Ten sports on BTN if you care to do so.

  • Carriers: Most satellite and cable providers.

The MTN (Mountain West Sports Network)
Pac 12 basketball is rather irrelevant these days, so this is the West Coast basketball you should have been focusing on these past few weeks to get ready for tournament time. There are numerous games a week, so it’s one of the few places you’ll be able to catch UNLV, San Diego State, or New Mexico. It also carries 30 football games a year, but the future of the network is in doubt. The Mountain West Conference is merging with Conference USA, so it hasn’t been determined whether the network will continue to exist.

  • Carriers: DirectTV and most Western cable companies.

Regional Sports Networks (Comcast, Fox Sports, Raycon, MSG, YES, etc.)
Every location in the good old US of A has its own regional sports networks. Those networks show your local professional and college teams in a variety of sports. The real beauty lies in having DirecTV because you get every area’s regional sports networks. The professional sports teams are blacked out, but it comes in handy when you’re trying to find college baseball, basketball, football, hockey, and lacrosse games. For a college hoops junkie like myself, nothing beats knowing you have the ability to catch a George Mason vs. VCU encounter on a mid-Atlantic Comcast Sports Network. Some cable providers actually sneak a few regional sports channels in their sports package, so you should make sure to see what’s available in your area. (For example, Time Warner provides its NYC customers with three Fox College Sports regional channels.)

  • Carriers: Most satellite and cable providers

The Golf Channel, The Tennis Channel, and The Speed Channel
Looking for some professional sports action outside of the four major ones? Want to see Tiger tee off in Australia, the Davis Cup match between Roger Federer and Mardy Fish, or how the Craftsman truck series is handling the turns at Daytona? These sports channels don’t carry the same weight as the big four, but they’re the place to go for less-followed sports action. They offer the 24-hour coverage and also plenty of live events for the diehard fans out there.

  • Carriers: Most satellite and cable providers.

NBA TV, NFL Network, NHL Network, MLB Network
The four major sports all have their own channels these days. It’s the best place to go at night when you don’t want to deal with the potpourri that SportsCenter provides and instead get bathed in the sport of your choice. They’re not necessarily news-breaking networks, but the half-hour- or hour-long highlight shows each night give you the best way to absorb video of your favorite sports. They all also show live games. The NFL network just added more games, so they’ll be showing 13 Thursday night games this season. NBA TV shows at least 90 games a year, MLB Network shows four live games a week, and the NHL Network shows 75 games a year. One of the other benefits is that these networks all show game replays too in case you missed some of the action. NFL Replay is great because it takes a full NFL game and condenses three-plus hours of action into just 90 minutes.

  • Carriers: Most satellite and cable providers.

NFL Sunday Ticket, NFL Red Zone, & NFL Mobile
NFL Sunday Ticket was the game changer. It allowed fantasy football and gambling addicts to be able to be able to watch games outside their local market and more than one game at the same time. Who knows what Sunday bar business would be today without NFL Sunday Ticket. They also increased their viewership by making their package available on the PS3 this year. NFL Red Zone took things to the next level when the NFL created a channel that cycled through every live game to show you the most important plays as they happened. NFL Mobile is only available on Verizon phones and comes with a cost unless you picked up the application before they started charging for it. Like the Watch ESPN app, it’s a great way to consume the NFL when you’re not in front of a TV or computer. You can watch the NFL Network and NFL Red Zone as well as any live game being shown on NFL Network and NBC. Grandma’s 70th birthday Sunday barbecue just became a little more exciting.

  • Carriers: Most satellite, cable, and Verizon.

MLB Extra Innings & MLB.TV
Baseball junkies rejoice at the beginning of every baseball season because of the free one-week trial of MLB Extra Innings usually offered by the satellite and cable providers. Next thing you know, you’re staying up 'til 1 a.m. watching Clayton Kershaw take you to fantasy glory with a three-hit shutout against the Padres. The online and mobile products offer the usual array of out-of-local-area games although the stats integration seems to be better than the others'. The fantasy tracker really helps you keep tabs on your fantasy team. Like NFL Sunday Ticket, MLB.TV is available through your PS3. You can also pick up radio feeds on your mobile device, which helps you keep up with things when you’re behind the wheel of a car.

  • Carriers: Most satellite, cable, and mobile providers.

NBA League Pass
If any year is the year for NBA League Pass, this is it. The NBA hasn’t exactly suffered from the lockout, due to the ridiculous amount of stars around the league these days and the condensed NBA schedule makes for fine viewing. If Larry Bird makes sure to catch every Ricky Rubio game (pre-ACL tear), why shouldn’t you? The only knock on NBA League Pass is that it’s the only major sports package not available through PS3 that I’m aware of.

  • Carriers: Most satellite, cable, and mobile providers.

NHL Center Ice & NHL GameCenter Live
Here we have the NHL’s way of letting fans watch all the games not covered in their local area. NHL Center Ice has existed for years, but the NHL GameCenter Live product is changing the game. You can watch it through the website on your computer, but you can also download the application for your mobile device or tablet. (It looks rather great on an iPad.) If you’ve got AppleTV you can even connect the feed from your iPad to your TV and the quality of the stream is pretty impressive. GameCenter Live can be picked up through your PS3 with an Internet connection.

  • Carriers: Most satellite, cable, and mobile providers.

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