Image credit: ESPN's Kris Budden interviews Vanderbilt outfielder Stephen Scott (Photo courtesy of Phil Ellsworth/ESPN Images)
We’re spoiled as college baseball fans these days, as it has never been easier to find live games on television or our streaming devices. On ESPN’s various platforms alone, for example, more than 1,600 games will be shown during the 2020 season.
But it can also be a bit overwhelming to keep up with what games are available on which platform, and the best streaming options are different depending on what your goals are for watching college baseball in 2020.
Our streaming guide is here to help.
We’ll break down your options for watching games on TV and online for each of the five biggest conferences in the country, and then we’ll go over additional options if your goal is to maximize the volume of baseball games available to you.
There is a lot of good news to go around if you’re an SEC baseball fan trying to watch your favorite team’s games. Thanks to the league’s partnership with ESPN via the SEC Network, virtually every game that takes place in an SEC ballpark is either on television or on ESPN’s WatchESPN platform under the SEC Network+ banner.
If you are weighing options for streaming services that show live TV programming, SEC Network isn’t available on all of them, but is available on enough of them that you can comparison shop. YouTube TV and Hulu with Live TV offer the channel as part of their base package, while Sling TV’s Orange package and AT&T TV Now offer it as a paid add-on.
Purchasing a package that includes SEC Network will provide you with access to the SEC Network+ games streamed on WatchESPN.
Atlantic Coast Conference
The ACC hasn’t been far behind the SEC in terms of streaming its games, as most of the games taking place in its ballparks have long been available somewhere on an ESPN platform. The ubiquity of ACC baseball has only increased, however, with the creation of the ACC Network, first as an online entity and for the 2020 season, a traditional television network.
Because the ACC Network is also a partnership with ESPN, its carriage is pretty similar to that of the SEC Network. YouTube TV and Hulu with Live TV offer it, and Sling TV has it as a paid add-on with the Orange package. Access to ACC Network proper will grant you access to those games under the ACC Network+ umbrella on WatchESPN.
Big Ten Conference
Thanks to the presence of the Big Ten Network, which beat the other conference networks to market, Big Ten baseball has had a pretty large platform for a while. Each year, dozens of games will be televised on the network itself.
With BTN+, formerly known as BTN2Go, the league also has a streaming component, but it’s a bit different than the way SEC and ACC games are streamed. Unlike those two conferences, BTN+ is a paid over-the-top service completely separate from BTN proper that gives you access to many midweek games taking place in Big Ten parks, plus conference games not airing on BTN.
The other distinction to make is that the production quality on BTN+ is more variable than it is on SEC Network+ and ACC Network+. Games on BTN+ are often run by students at the host institution, and while that’s a fantastic opportunity for those students and a way in which the network is adding value to the schools, it does leave you not knowing what to expect from game to game.
Things get a little messier with the Pac-12. It has its own television network, but it is famously difficult to get. Their offerings are also a little convoluted, as they have the Pac-12 Network itself and then six regional networks that cover specific portions of the league’s footprint.
As far as carriage goes, Fubo TV offers it, as does Sling TV, but in the latter case, it is a paid add-on to either of their existing packages. And while Fubo TV is a viable option, it does not currently carry any of the ESPN networks, including SEC and ACC Network. That might not matter to you if you just want your Pac-12 team’s games, but might matter if you want to maximize how much college baseball you can consume.
Many Pac-12 teams also stream their non-conference games for free on their own sites, with varying production quality. Many, if not most, conference games will be unavailable for free streaming, as they will be picked up by one of the Pac-12 Network channels. One big exception to this is perennial power UCLA, which does not currently stream any of its games. ESPN also televises the odd Pac-12 game here or there, so those games will also be available through WatchESPN with a subscription to a paid service.
If you can get Pac-12 Network, it likely doesn’t feel much different than the experience of having SEC or ACC Network, especially during conference play. But the carriage issues and the inconsistency of streaming options from the individual schools puts this league a step behind the SEC, ACC and Big Ten in this regard.
Big 12 Conference
The Big 12 has stepped its streaming game up, but at times, you are still left feeling that you have to chase down where, exactly, you can find the games. And with a lack of its own network and just nine regular-season games appearing on a traditional network, the programming tonnage just isn’t there, either.
If you are a Texas fan, the path forward is fairly simple. If you can get Longhorn Network, you will, at the very least, have access to more than 30 Texas games, plus the ability to stream them on WatchESPN. But even that’s not altogether simple as a cord-cutter. Sling TV is the only live TV streaming provider to carry LHN, and it’s as part of a sports add-on package. Although that’s an upgrade over where things stood in the fall, when Playstation Vue’s shuttering left LHN without a home among streaming options.
New to the fray in the Big 12 is the launch of a new vertical through ESPN+ called Big 12 Now. More than 100 Big 12 games will be available on ESPN+ that were previously spread out elsewhere, usually siloed on a given athletic department’s site as part of a proprietary streaming service.
The drawback, at least initially, is that Big 12 Now is not universal. For the 2020 season, most home games for Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State and Oklahoma State will be on the platform. In 2021, the same will be true of Texas Christian, Texas Tech and West Virginia.
This is a huge step forward for the league’s visibility in a world where more games are watched online, but with Texas remaining with LHN, Oklahoma continuing its partnership with Fox Sports Oklahoma and the two-year rollout of getting everyone else on Big 12 Now, the league still lacks the ability to drive its fans to one single entity to maximize the number of games they watch.
Other Streaming Considerations
- ESPN+ has quickly become a college baseball streaming behemoth, with more than 450 games from 18 different conferences slated for the service in 2020. Certainly it’s a great option if your favorite team plays in one of those conferences, but even if that’s not the case, it’s probably the single best way one can maximize the number of college baseball games available to them in any given week.
- FloSports has an agreement to provide streaming for the Colonial Athletic Association, so if that’s your conference, that’s an option to consider. Subscribing to FloSports also gets you some non-conference tournament video here and there, such as every game of the Frisco College Baseball Classic and Round Rock Classic, among others.
- Stadium is a player on this scene as well, what with conference-specific deals, including the Mountain West Conference.
- At this time, the American Athletic Conference is all over the map on broadcasting, with each program in the league taking a different approach, from using a traditional service, like Sidearm, to taking advantage of emerging services in the space, like Central Florida’s use of Twitch.
- The Big West Conference, Conference USA and the Sun Belt Conference are all a part of the college baseball coverage that will come from ESPN+, but each also has their own conference-specific streaming service through Sidearm, with C-USA’s marketed under the banner of CUSA.tv, a subscription service that has a companion app for smartphones and smart TVs.