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How to watch March Madness without cable

The NCAA basketball tournament is set to tip off in the coming days, and if you don't have cable, there are still plenty of ways to tune into every single game across four different networks.

The Channels

All NCAA tournament games will air on one of four networks: CBS, TBS, TNT, or TruTV. More specifically, TBS and CBS will both air 21 games, with TBS serving as the home of the national championship game, both semifinals, and two of the four quarterfinal matchups. TruTV will air 13 games, and TNT will add 12, though both networks will be finished after the first weekend of the tournament.

Streaming Options

Hulu+ Live TV
Via Hulu+ Live TV 

Even if you don't have cable, a variety of cable-like internet streaming bundles have popped up over the last few years which are generally less expensive than cable, easier to cancel, and require little to no equipment. Most of them even offer free trials, meaning you could use the three weeks of the tournament to sample three different services, watch all of the games, and potentially not have to pay a dime.

Minor differences aside, these services all offer a trove of channels that you can stream via an app or web app on any major platform, be it Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, Roku, or Amazon Fire TV.

Hulu+ Live TV

Cost: $55/month

Free trial: One week

Networks included: CBS, TBS, TNT, TruTV

YouTube TV

Cost: $50/month

Free trial: Two weeks (sign up through March 15)

Networks included: CBS, TBS, TNT, TruTV

Fubo TV

Cost: $55/month

Free trial: One week

Networks included: CBS, TBS, TNT, TruTV

Sling TV

Cost: $20 (first month), $30 (subsequent months)

Free trial: 7 days

Networks included (Sling Blue package): TBS, TNT, TruTV

There is one streaming option that stands apart from the others: CBS All Access. For as little as $6 per month, it offers access to live CBS programming, plus on-demand access to CBS programs and CBS All Access exclusives. However, it won't get you access to TBS, TNT, or TruTV.

CBS All Access

Cost: $6/month (

Free trial: 7 days

Networks included: CBS

Over the Air

Over-the-air antenna
Via Amazon

TBS, TNT, and TruTV are all cable networks, so you'll either need cable or a cable-like service to access them. But CBS is a broadcast network, meaning you can access it for free with nothing but an antenna.

If you live in a city, an inexpensive "mudflap" style antenna like this one from AmazonBasics will probably be all you need. Just plug it into your TV, run a channel scan, and tune it into your local CBS affiliate. If you live a little further away from a major city, you could upgrade to an amplified version, or even a directional antenna that you can mount in your attic or on your roof to pull in far-away signals.

If you aren't sure how far you live from your local broadcast antennas, AntennaWeb is a great resource that'll show you exactly what kind of antenna you'll need.

Stream It Yourself

Fire TV Recast
Via Amazon

Of course, plugging an antenna into your TV won't let you stream CBS to your phone or tablet like a paid streaming service would. But Amazon makes a clever device called the Fire TV Recast which will do just that.

Rather than plugging your antenna into your TV, you'd plug it into the Recast, which would then act as a DVR, and let you stream live and recorded over-the-air content to any phone, tablet, or Fire TV. This also has the added benefit of making it much easier to hide your antenna in a closet or attic, rather than in your living room.

AirTV serves a similar purpose, but integrates your local over-the-air programming (including CBS) into the Sling TV app, which would allow you to watch every NCAA tournament game in one place, at a lower cost than other streaming services, at least over the long run.


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