Get ready for the big game with the right TV and Internet services

Amy Howell Hirt

If cheering on your favorite sports team has become your personal sport, then you're probably well aware of how important it is to have the right TV and Internet services to watch your games.

Perhaps that's why TV and Internet providers now offer a variety of ways to view your favorite sports teams.

"There's a lot of sports content available, and many people want to be able to watch from practically any device in their home," says Damon Phillips, vice president of ESPN3 and WatchESPN, the sports network's online streaming service and internet television network, respectively.

Whether you're gearing up to watch the Super Bowl or March Madness, check out these five digital must-haves for every sports lover.

Must-Have #1: The Right Sports Package

Do you hate missing a single basketball game? Can't get enough of college or professional football?

Good news: If you're a die-hard fan of a specific sport or league, you could find a satellite or cable provider that offers a package that can keep your dose of sports at a maximum.

For example, packages such as NFL Sunday Ticket and NBA League Pass deliver expanded coverage and access to out-of-market telecasts that typically aren't available via local broadcasting. This means that if you're a Los Angeles Lakers fan who lives in New York, you can still keep up with Kobe during all of his games.

Unfortunately, these sports packages aren't available by all providers. NFL Sunday Ticket, for example, is exclusive to Direct TV, while NBA League Pass is available through most cable providers and on satellite television through DIRECTV and DISH Network.

If your current provider doesn't offer the package you're looking for, do some research to see if you want to switch to one that does. Just keep in mind that there's usually an additional charge for these subscription-based packages, but for many fans, the 24/7 coverage is worth it.

[Find the right sports package for you. Click to compare rates from multiple providers.]

Must-Have #2: High-Definition Signal

Do you want a view that's clearer than the one from the stands? Consider upgrading to a high-definition signal, available through cable and satellite companies.

"Sports events are a big reason to go 'HD' with your TV and service. The extra detail in high-def images and the larger size of most HDTV screens make the action more lifelike and the ball easier to see," notes Consumer Reports' website.

What's more, "Many sports channels, regional sports coverage, and sports packages from the NHL and NBA are widely available in HD," according to Consumer Reports.

To receive an HD signal, you'll need a new satellite dish and/or a new receiver box, according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and a high-definition TV to translate the signal into a high-def image, Consumer Reports notes.

[Ready to upgrade to an HD signal? Click to compare rates from multiple providers now.]

Must-Have #3: Digital Video Recorder (DVR)

Have you ever missed a crucial play while refilling snacks, or worried about making it home in time for the kick-off? A digital video recorder (DVR) can answer many of these dilemmas.

How so? Well, with a DVR, you can pause live action games and pick up where you left off. And that's not all. For the ultimate sports lover who enjoys their fair share of football, basketball, baseball, etc., you can also record multiple games airing at the same time if you have a dual-tuner model, notes Consumer Reports' website. You can even watch one game and record another game at the same time, it adds.

And if you need to do some chores around the house while the game is on, don't worry: whole-home DVR systems that support multiple connected tuners - in multiple rooms - allow you to pause the game in one room and pick it up in another, providing "viewing flexibility," notes the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA).

[Ready to upgrade your TV service? Click to compare rates from multiple providers now.]

Must-Have #4: High-Speed Internet

There are hundreds of websites streaming recorded and live sports action, and nowadays, pretty much every major gaming console allows you to stream online videos to your television.

But if your internet is sluggish, you risk missing the excitement of a slam dunk or knock-out punch if the video stream stutters or the image freezes. To make sure you don't miss any of the action, the FCC recommends a minimum download speed of 0.7 megabits per second (Mbps) for watching standard streaming videos without experiencing hiccups or pauses. For HD-quality streaming, the FCC recommends a speed of 4 Mbps.

You'll also want to check the bandwidth - or processing capability - of your high-speed internet connection. This determines how much data can be transmitted (per second) to the devices in your home. Because bandwidth is "shared" by all internet-enabled devices in your home, if too many people are using the internet at the same time, the video might freeze or have a reduced quality, according to a 2012 Home Theatre magazine article on bandwidth.

So, before you miss a big play, make sure your internet speed and bandwidth are up to the standards you need.

[Watch your sports games with high-speed internet. Click to compare rates from multiple providers.]

Must-Have #5: Mobile Sports App

Are you a busy person who's always on the go? Well, just because you have a busy schedule doesn't mean your sports addiction has to come to a halt. In fact, with the right phone provider, you can stay tuned to sports games anywhere, anytime.

That's because many providers offer general or sport-specific apps for smartphones and tablets that allow subscribers to view live or recorded games wherever they are, according to Consumer Reports' website.

"It allows you to take your sports with you," Phillips says of apps like WatchESPN, which is available through most digital providers and accesses live ESPN programming.

And the bonus is that these sports apps often offer much more than video highlights of the game. You can also take in additional content, like scores or audio broadcasts, Consumer Reports notes.