It’s March again, which means it’s time to watch March Madness! The NCAA basketball tournament is here to torpedo your productivity at work and dominate your evenings at home. But if you don’t have cable, you may find that your bracket isn’t the only thing frustrating you this March. Don’t get mad: get one of the services or devices that will allow you watch March Madness without cable. You don’t need to pay for old-school satellite or cable service to watch the NCAA tournament online! Just read on and follow our guide to learn how to watch March Madness without cable.
When Is March Madness? What Channel Is March Madness On?
March Madness begins, as you might expect, in March. The Selection Show is on Sunday, March 11, and the tournament begins two days later. Things wrap up on Monday, April 2.
CBS and the Turner networks are the home of March Madness this year, so when we talk about how to watch the NCAA tournament without cable, we’re talking about finding ways to watch CBS, TBS, TNT, and TruTV.
Here’s your cheat sheet to air times and channels for some of the biggest moments:
- The Selection Show: March 11, 6 p.m. on TBS
- First Round: March 15-16 on CBS, TBS, TNT, and TruTV
- Sweet 16: March 22-23 on CBS and TBS
- Elite Eight: March 24-25 on CBS and TBS
- Final Four: March 31, 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. on TBS (team feeds on TNT and TruTV)
- National Championship: April 2, 9 p.m. on TBS (team feeds on TNT and TruTV)
How to Watch March Madness Online and Over the Air Without Cable
As we just covered above, learning how to watch March Madness without cable means learning how to watch a few particular channels without cable. Those channels are CBS, TBS, TNT, and TruTV.
As it happens, we’ve written articles on how to watch those channels without cable. Click on the respective channels for an in-depth dive into how to watch CBS, TBS, TNT, and TruTV without cable – or simply read on, because we’ll cover all of them together below.
Most of the services we’re about to talk about are live TV streaming services, or “skinny bundles.” They are pay TV services, sort of like cable and satellite, only they’re designed with cord cutters in mind. That means that they offer a slimmed-down selection of channels at a much more appealing price point, and that they stream online on a whole bunch of different devices.
We’ll also cover free over-the-air TV, which makes a great way to watch CBS (CBS doesn’t have the championship game this year, but it will still have some big moments).
Not all of these solutions offer every channel we need, but we’ll be sure to make it clear which ones offer which channels.
That’s enough of an introduction! Let’s learn how to watch the NCAA basketball tournament without cable.
First alphabetically among the skinny bundles is DIRECTV NOW, and it makes a strong case for being first in the hearts of NCAA fans as well. TBS, TNT, and TruTV are all included in DIRECTV NOW’s cheapest package, the “Live a Little” bundle ($35/month). So is CBS, though live streaming of local CBS stations varies by region. You can check out availability in your area by looking at DIRECTV NOW’s website or simply signing up for its free trial via the link below.
fuboTV markets itself as a skinny bundle aimed at cord cutters, but it comes up a bit short in its NCAA tournament coverage. fuboTV takes a spot on our list of ways to watch March Madness without cable because it offers a live feed of CBS in select markets, but note that it does not offer TNT, TBS, or TruTV, so you’ll have to look elsewhere for ways to watch the National Championship and Final Four games. fuboTV is a solid service, though, so you still might want to check out its free trial. After that, fuboTV costs either $39.99 per month or $44.99 per month, depending on your market.
Hulu with Live TV is a simple and solid skinny bundle. It costs $39.99 per month and offers CBS, TBS, TNT, and TruTV. The CBS live stream is available only in select markets, as is typical of skinny bundles, but the coverage is pretty solid. You can read our review of Hulu with Live TV here, or you can sign up right now and grab your NCAA tournament live stream by taking advantage of Hulu with Live TV’s seven-day free trial – the link is below.
PlayStation Vue is Sony’s take on the live TV streaming service, which is why its branding is shared with Sony’s video game console. But PlayStation Vue works on all sorts of devices, and it’s a great way to get a March Madness live stream. “Access,” which at $39.99 per month is PlayStation Vue’s cheapest bundle, offers live streams of CBS (in select markets), TBS, TNT, and TruTV. PlayStation Vue offers a five-day long free trial.
Sling TV is missing CBS, but that’s not as big of a problem this year, because the Final Four and National Championship games are on the Turner networks instead. TBS and TNT are easy to come by with Sling TV: you can find them in either of Sling TV’s base packages, which are Sling Orange ($20 per month) and Sling Blue ($25 per month). Sling Blue also features TruTV, but you’ll need to invest in the $5 per month “Comedy Extra” add-on bundle to snag the network if you start with Sling Orange instead. Sling TV offers a week-long free trial.
Free Over-the-Air TV
CBS is a broadcast television network, and experienced cord cutters know that this means you can get it for free in many areas with an over-the-air antenna. That’s a little less exciting this year, since the National Championship and Final Four games are on network TV, but there will still be plenty that’s worth watching on CBS. This is the most affordable way to watch March Madness without cable, so don’t neglect it!
CBS may not have the National Championship or Final Four games this year, but they still have lots of good stuff, and that means that CBS All Access belongs in any article telling you how to watch March Madness without cable. CBS All Access costs $5.99 per month and features a CBS live stream – and therefore an NCAA tournament live stream – in select markets. The service starts things off with a nice week-long free trial.
NCAA March Madness Live offers a March Madness live stream – but it also asks for a cable login. So why is it on a list of ways to watch the NCAA basketball tournament without cable? Well, for two reasons. For one, you can use a PlayStation Vue account to authenticate the app this year, which means this app is no longer strictly for cord-havers. And second, NCAA March Madness Live has, in past years, allowed you to watch an hour or two before you have to cough up those credentials. Assuming that offer holds this year, use your free period wisely!
Can I Watch March Madness on Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV, or Chromecast?
When it comes to big basketball action, you need a big screen. And we wouldn’t have dreamed of showing you how to stream the NCAA tournament if you weren’t able to do so on your TV.
DIRECTV NOW, fuboTV, Hulu with Live TV, PlayStation Vue, Sling TV, CBS All Access, and NCAA March Madness Live all offer apps that work on or with Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV, and Chromecast apps. They also all work on computers and on Android and iOS mobile devices. fuboTV, Hulu with Live TV, PlayStation Vue, Sling TV, and CBS All Access also work on Android TV devices; DIRECTV NOW and NCAA March Madness Live, at the time of this writing, do not.
As for free over-the-air TV, it’s on your big screen by default. But if you want to turn that OTA content into streaming content, use an OTA DVR.
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