Here's a game plan that any fan can embrace: football everywhere.
Offseason advances in mobile video have set up the 2012 season as one in which fans have unprecedented access to live video and other content. With more than half of U.S. consumers cradling a smartphone and nearly one-third with tablets, the NFL, TV networks, pay-TV services, wireless providers and colleges are scrambling to cater to football fans wherever they huddle.
Folks with Web-enabled "smart" TVs — about 10% of U.S. homes, Nielsen says — use sports apps about 25 times a month, reports the Diffusion Group. "That's almost once a day," says Colin Dixon, an analyst at the market strategy firm. "Sports is a big driver. They are among the most popular applications."
With college football starting tonight and the NFL kicking off next week, some answers to how to track your teams:
Q: Where can I watch NFL games other than on broadcast networks, ESPN and the NFL Network?
A: The big kahuna is the NFL Sunday Ticket package from DirecTV, which lets its subscribers watch every Sunday game — except those in your market — for $199.95. They can also watch eight at one time on NFL Mix, a DirecTV channel.
Subscribers can take their Sunday Ticket mobile by opting for the NFL Sunday Ticket Max package ($299.95), which lets you stream the live games to a computer and to Apple iOS and Android tablets and smartphones.
Often, fans have a game on their big screen with another flowing to a tablet or smartphone. "We always try to put ourselves in the shoes of the NFL fan," says Tom Brady, director of production and programming for NFL Digital Media.
Q: Does the NFL offer any other pay-per-view or online/mobile subscription for live games?
A: Those who cannot get DirecTV service can subscribe to the Sunday Ticket from DirecTV and get it via the PlayStation Network on Sony's PlayStation 3 ($299.95). For customers outside the U.S., NFL also sells live games online, called NFL Game Pass.
Monday Night Football can also be viewed on WatchESPN.com and on tablets using the WatchESPN app. The site and app require a subscription to Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks, Verizon FiOS TV or Comcast Xfinity TV.
NBC will stream NFL Sunday Night Football games on NBCSports.com.
Q: Are there options for watching highlights and key parts of games?
A: NFL Network offers NFL RedZone, which shows every touchdown on Sunday afternoons. ESPN's Goal Line channel broadcasts live look-ins and highlights of college games. These are available only on some cable providers.
Q: Is there a way to watch NFL games after they've been played?
A: NFL's Game Rewind, available online and on a mobile app, lets you watch replays of games on your computer or tablet (starts at $34.99 for the season). Sunday games are available after the Sunday Night Football game telecast. The Monday Night Football games are available 24 hours after telecasts.
Q: What are some streaming options for live college football games?
A: CBSSports.com and the CBS Sports mobile app (only on Apple devices, for now) offer free streams of Saturday games, including this week's Navy-Notre Dame matchup, weekly SEC games and the SEC Championship.
ABC and the ESPN networks have more than 450 games on the schedule this year, many of which can be streamed live on WatchESPN.com and through the WatchESPN app.