Colin C. Rhodes: COLUMN: There are no perfect options to watch live sports

Sep. 9—It's college football season! Time to kick back and watch a full day's worth of colleges and universities battle it out on the gridiron every Saturday for the next four months.

Except not everyone can watch their favorite schools every week this season. Spectrum, the second-largest cable service in the nation, no longer carries ESPN and other Disney-owned channels.

Spectrum's owner, Charter Communications, began feuding with Disney over how much it pays to bring Disney owned channels to its customers, as Disney moves its programming over to its own streaming service, Disney+, amid declining cable viewership over the years.

The two sides haven't come to an agreement, leaving Disney channels off the air for Spectrum cable customers for the time being.

And who loses out? The customer, of course.

Sure, Spectrum said it tried to get its subscribers better deals to keep Disney as a viewing option, but that doesn't change the fact people can't tune into their favorite Disney program through Spectrum anymore.

For the college football fan who pays for Spectrum cable, this means no more ESPN College GameDay or ESPNU, and don't forget the countless other ESPN channels that those fans may enjoy too.

So what are the options besides going without college football this fall? The first option is to buy a TV antenna and watch the select number of college football games for free, over the air broadcast stations. It's a one-time investment far cheaper than cable or streaming services.

But this doesn't work if you can't receive any signal. And in a mountainous state like West Virginia, the large number of hills and valleys means you can find yourself in a TV deadzone in the middle of a city (like me in my apartment).

You could stick with cable, but there are two problems with that: first, cable is still expensive, and second, you may not have many options. Not every cable provider is available everywhere, meaning customers have limited options to choose from. And basic plans, which have the smallest number of channels, can be as much as $30 to $70 a month.

Then there are streaming services. As mentioned earlier, Disney has Disney+, but it also has Hulu and ESPN+, both of which carry live sports. And if you're just a big fan of sports in general, YouTubeTV, Peacock and Sling are available options too.

The nice thing about streaming services is they come through your internet, so you're not geographically bound like broadcast or cable. Unfortunately, subscribing to streaming services can quickly get expensive.

ESPN+ starts at $9.99 a month. Not bad, but for everything you can watch on it, it doesn't have all of the programming ESPN itself has.

Usually, people don't want to limit themselves to sports, and no one streaming platform has everything, so viewers will get other streaming services too or ones with more viewing options.

Peacock has plans ranging from $5.99 a month to $11.99 a month, but again, it doesn't have everything. And this is about as cheap as the top streaming services will go.

Sling costs as much as $40 a month for its cheapest plan, and Hulu sits at $69.99 a month if you want live TV. YouTubeTV costs $72.99 a month. And it's almost certain the prices will get higher over time.

There's just no easy solution for the sports fan who wants to watch live sports. It's either going to cost a lot of money or not work half the time.

And while companies try to make the most money possible off the viewing services they provide, the customer tries to just watch what they like without breaking the bank.

Reach Colin C. Rhodes at 304-367-2548