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How to watch March Madness 2017—with or without cable

NCAA March Madness 2016
AP Photo/David J. Phillip
Whether your streaming at work, or on your TV at home.
By Ashley Rodriguez
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

It’s March Madness in the US.

Over the next three weeks, 68 college basketball teams from across the country will compete in the annual National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) tournament. The first four teams—New Orleans vs. Mount Saint Mary’s and Wake Forest vs. Kansas State—played last night. They, and the remaining teams, will battle their way through the bracket until one is named champion during the final game on Apr. 3.

The tournament, with games airing day and night, is a popular sporting event in the US and a major gambling spectacle around the world. This year, the American Gambling Association estimates that $10.4 billion will be wagered on the tournament—most of it illegally.

Whether you have a money on the line on an office pool, or are a just a fan of the sport, here are all the ways you can watch, with or without cable TV.


TV isn’t the most convenient way to watch March Madness, but it is the most common, so let’s get it out of the way first. The 67 games in the tournament will be split between four different US TV networks again this year: broadcaster CBS and Turner’s TBS, TNT, and truTV cable channels. (Here’s a handy cheat sheet of which games will air where, from the NCAA.)

These channels are available through most basic cable and satellite TV packages from pay-TV providers like Comcast, Verizon Fios, and DirecTV.

And, for those without cable, the 24 games that will air on CBS, including the semifinals and the championship game, can be accessed for free with an HD antenna.

On the internet

The easiest way to keep up with the tournament is through the March Madness live stream, which has the all games in one place. You can find the feed on the NCAA’s March Madness website and app—for iOS and Android devices, as well as others like Roku, Amazon, Windows 10, and Xbox devices.

You can also send the app streams from your phone or tablet to your TV using AirPlay and Chromecast devices. And the NCAA has a “boss button“ that will allow you to keep an eye on the games at work without tipping off your boss.

Here’s where it gets complicated.

You can only watch the games live for up to three hours on desktop and mobile before you’ll be asked to log in through a participating pay-TV provider to continue viewing the live TBS, TNT, and truTV games. (If you don’t have a pay-TV login, and can’t borrow one, you can exploit the grace period by opening the streams up in your browser’s private-browser mode, and watching each game in a different window. That has reportedly worked in the past. Or try using VPN software and changing servers after each game.)

You can still watch the live CBS games through the NCAA stream without a login on desktop and mobile. However, the live CBS games won’t be available on set-top boxes like Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV, or Xbox. There, you’ll have to turn to CBS’s $6.99-a-month app, All Access. Turner’s networks will also stream the games on their respective apps.

Most PlayStation Vue subscribers can watch the live games there, and access the NCAA live stream using their credentials, too.

PlayStation has rights deals with the Turner networks and around 100 of CBS’s stations, which reach roughly 60% of the country. SlingTV and DirecTV Now customers won’t have access to the CBS games, as neither platform carries the broadcaster. But both services will be airing the TNT, TBS, and truTV games through their respective platforms.

Outside the US

ESPN International has the rights to broadcast the NCAA games outside the US through networks like TSN in Canada. It also licenses the live digital rights to companies like Tencent in China. The schedules vary by country, so check your local listings.

To access the live streams abroad, you can also use a VPN to fool the geo-restricted sites into thinking that your computer is located in the US. The restrictions above will still apply.

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