How to watch NCAA March Madness without a cable subscription
You don't need to pony up for cable to catch the madness.
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March Madness is coming up fast! From the "First Four" event on March 19th to the national championship in early April, this is the time of year to get hype if you're a college basketball fan. Even if your favorite team gets knocked out early, it's easily the NCAA's most exciting event annually, and is a very good reason to pick up a new TV—check out the best big screen TVs under $1,000.
Of course, if you already have a team to root for and a TV to watch everything on, you're probably aware that March Madness is typically broadcast across multiple networks. Pretty much anything owned by CBS Sports (CBS) or Turner Sports (TBS, TNT, and truTV) is going to have various March Madness content happening in the next couple of weeks.
What if you don't have cable, though? Are you just supposed to be left out of the madness? Naw, dawg. There are actually fairly easy ways to watch March Madness without paying for cable. Here are your options.
What networks will the games be on?
As I said above, the March Madness games will be on CBS, TBS, TNT, and truTV. If you're content to watch on your smartphone, you can watch on the NCAA March Madness Live app (available on iOS or Android).
You can also watch on your laptop or desktop computer via the March Madness Live website. But let's be real, watching on a computer monitor or laptop screen isn't ideal. Stalwart fans will want to stream the games on their TV.
What services can I use to stream March Madness on my TV?
We recently did a big review of the streaming services with the best DVR, but whether you're hoping to record the games or watch them live, here are your options:
You can get fuboTV for $34.99 for the first month, so if you get it set up soon, you'll be able to watch March Madness on your Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, or so on. You can just cancel the service, so you're kind of just paying $35 up front to get access to all the games.
That might be a little steep if you're only planning to watch the last handful of games, but you could also wait until the last week of March Madness and use a 7-day free trial of fuboTV to watch everything.
Sling TV ($25/month)
You can get Sling TV for a more affordable price ($25 a month) compared to fubo, though you'll have to pay an extra $5 a month to get any DVR. If you would rather record games than try to watch them all live (which, depending on which teams you're most invested in, may be impossible), you'll be paying at least $30 with Sling TV.
Of course, you can always pay $25 for a month, watch whatever you can manage without DVR, and cancel before you're charged again. Sling TV also offers a 7-day trial. Just note that you won't get access to any CBS channels in the standard Orange or Blue Sling TV bundles.
It's also worth noting that Sling TV is 40% off for the next few months.
Hulu + Live TV ($40/month)
Hulu is one of the pricier options in the list (while Hulu by itself is cheap, getting the bundle that includes Live TV will run you around $40/month). This is a better choice if you're looking for a more holistic cable replacement, as on top of the ability to catch all the March Madness, you get access to dozens of live channels and 50 hours of DVR. As usual, you can also take advantage of a 7-day free trial.
YouTube TV ($40/month)
Yet another simple but slightly less affordable option, YouTube TV will give you access to all the March Madness channels for a base rate of $40/month.
Like fubo, Sling, and Hulu, it's available on common streaming hardware like Roku, Apple TV, Xbox One, and Amazon Fire devices. But like the Hulu + Live TV option, YouTube TV is definitely geared and priced more as a cable replacement.
Even still, it'll work as well as the others for catching March Madness. And again, you can do a 7-day free trial if you want to.
DirecTV Now (starts at $35/month)
If you recognize DirecTV as a traditional cable provider, that's because it is. The "Now" service is a new addition to the traditional DirectTV model that allows anyone to access the service for a monthly fee. You can get DirectTV Now starting at $35/month.
Though there are numerous bundles available, the cheapest will give you access TNT, TBS, and truTV.
CBS All Access (starting at $6/month)
Another good, cheap option is CBS All Access. While you'll only be able to access CBS with this service, it's definitely one of the cheapest plans that's still available via Roku, Xbox One, Apple TV, and so on.
If you're looking for a super simple solution (a la CBS All Access), ESPN+ will give you access to a lot of ESPN programming for a super cheap price.
Obviously it's not a "cable replacement" and isn't going to give you access to as many CBS/Turner channels, but it's alluringly affordable.
How do I get these services on my TV?
There are lots of different hardware options for streaming the NCAA March Madness games via the above services—you can check out our list of the best media streaming devices if you want to get an idea of the options.
But if I were you, I'd just invest in something like a Roku Streaming Stick+ (which you can get on Amazon for about $60).
The Roku Stick, while not our top pick, is a solid media investment, and whether you use it going forward to get all kinds of great content on your TV without relying on cable, or are primarily trying to watch March Madness 2019, you'll pay a lot less than you would month-to-month with most cable packages.
Prices are accurate at the time this article was published, but may change over time.