You don’t need cable or satellite to watch the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and Final Four.

Duke Zion Williamson
Duke will be the heavy favorite this year if star forward Zion Williamson returns from injury.

Justin Cooper/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With less than two weeks remaining in college basketball’s regular season, it’s time to start thinking about March Madness. The 2019 NCAA tournament has some interesting storylines already.

If Zion Williamson returns from a knee injury before March Madness begins, then his Duke Blue Devils will be the prohibitive tournament favorite. Other familiar powers are in the running again this year, including Duke rivals Virginia and North Carolina from the ACC, Kentucky and Tennessee from the SEC, Michigan and Michigan State from the Big Ten, and Gonzaga from the West Coast Conference. Potential Cinderellas to look out for at this year’s dance (and in your bracket) are Buffalo, Murray State and Wofford.

This year’s tournament bracket will be revealed on Sunday, March 17. Games begin on Tuesday, March 19 with the first play-in games, but the Madness doesn’t really ensue until first full day of the tournament on Thursday, March 21, which ought be celebrated as a national holiday.

There are more ways than ever this year to watch March Madness, with or without a cable subscription.

When are the games on?

With 68 teams invited to the big dance, the NCCA holds four play-in games to get the field down to 64, at which point the math works out to have four regional tournaments of 16 teams each. The winners of the four regional tournaments then advance to the Final Four, held this year in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

  • March 19-20: First Four play-in games
  • March 21-24: Rounds 1 and 2
  • March 28-29: Sweet Sixteen
  • March 30-31: Elite Eight
  • April 6: Final Four
  • April 8: National Championship Game

Which channels are the games on?

March Madness games are shown across four channels: CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV. (Note: CNET is a division of CBS.)

How can I watch for free?

Go to the NCAA’s March Madness Live site or use its March Madness Live app and you’ll be able to watch games for free. As with most things that are free, there is a catch.

To get full access to every game you’ll need to sign in with credentials (username and password) from a pay TV provider, typically your cable, satellite or live TV streaming service.

If you don’t sign in you’ll be limited to only a three-hour preview, after which point you’ll need to log in to continue watching games on TBS, TNT and TruTV. Games on CBS, meanwhile, don’t require pay TV credentials so you can stream all of them for free.

What are my other streaming options?

Cord cutters can use a live-TV streaming service to watch March Madness. In order to watch CBS’s coverage, however, you’ll need to make sure the service carries your local CBS station. Some streaming services carry all four channels for March Madness, but others will require you to mix and match services, which can save you money but could present a challenge when frantically changing channels to catch a potential buzzer beater at the end of a close game.

Note: CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of products featured on this page.

Other stuff to know about live TV streaming services:

  • You’ll need a solid internet connection.
  • You can watch any of them on TV as long as your smart TV has the service’s app. You can also watch on your TV using a media streamer, including Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV ($179 at Walmart) and Chromecast.
  • You can also watch on iPhones ($1,000 at Amazon), Android phones and tablets and PC browsers.
  • You can sign up and cancel anytime, no contract required.
  • All of them offer free trial periods, so you can sign up to watch the Combine and then cancel.

Streaming services with all four networks

DirecTV Now ($40)

DirecTV Now’s cheapest, $40-a-month Live a Little package includes CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV. Click here to check availability of live local channels in your area.


YouTube TV ($40)

YouTube TV costs $40 a month and includes CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV. Enter your zip code here to see if you live in one of its CBS markets.


Hulu with Live TV ($45)

Hulu with Live TV costs $45 a month and includes CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV, but check to see which live channels Hulu offers in your area.


Fubo TV ($45)

Fubo costs $45 a month and includes CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV. Check to see if Fubo offers a live feed of CBS where you live.


PlayStation Vue ($45)

PlayStation Vue’s $45 Access plan includes CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV.  Check out which live, local networks you get on the PlayStation Vue Plans page.


Mix-and-match March Madness options

AT&T WatchTV ($15 or free) + CBS All Access ($6) = $21 or $6

AT&T WatchTV is a relative newcomer to the streaming game. It offers a more limited number of channels compared with its competitors but is much cheaper. It costs $15 a month for most people, but AT&T wireless customers on qualifying plans can get it for free. Among the 35 channels Watch TV offers are TBS, TNT, and truTV.

Meanwhile CBS All Access carries live CBS stations in many areas of the country (check the site to see if you’re covered) for $6 a month. Combine the two and you can watch all of the tournament games for about half the cost of a more fully-featured streaming service above.

Sling Blue ($25) + CBS All Access ($6) = $31

Neither of Sling TV’s plans offer CBS, but its $25-a-month Sling Blue plan includes TBS, TNT, and truTV. Pair it with CBS All Access to pick up the games on CBS and you are still paying less than a competing streaming services at $31 a month.

OTA antenna for CBS games = free

Another option for watching games on CBS is to use an antenna to get free, over-the-air TV. You can attach an over-the-air digital antenna to nearly any TV, and solid antennas start as little as $10.

March Madness in 4K

Subscribers to DirecTV’s satellite service are in for a treat this month. DirecTV will reportedly broadcast March Madness games from March 19-30 in both 4K and HDR.


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