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When I was a kid, the first day of the NCCA Basketball Tournament was a mandatory “sick day.” There is nothing better than feasting on all the first round action, which starts early on a Thursday in March and extends all month as the tournament progresses.
What is the best way to watch NCAA Tournament games without cable TV?
Depending on who you ask, the NCAA’s extension of its TV contract for the rights to broadcast NCAA Tournament games with CBS and Turner Sports through 2032 was either the worst deal ever made, or a major win for sports fans.
Regardless of whether you think the NCAA made a good deal, and the jury is very much still out, the contract extension, with exclusive rights remaining with CBS and Turner, offers nice stability for cord cutters looking to watch all of the 67 men’s college basketball games on the streaming device of their choice.
The channels that carry March Madness won’t be changing anytime soon. The only thing subject to change are the contracts between the corporate owners of the channels and the major live TV streaming providers.
Only 4 channels carry March Madness
The good news for NCAAB fans is that only 4 channels have rights to broadcast NCAA Tournament games, and all the games are nationally televised. This comes as welcome news for those of us tasked with helping fans find the best way stream leagues like the NBA and NFL, with all their regional coverage an in-market vs. out-of-market rules.
Streaming the NCAA Tournament is easy and straightforward. The 4 channels that have rights to stream the games are:
When looking for the best options to stream March Madness, our first task is to find which live TV streaming providers carry both CBS and Turner channels, TNT and TBS.
We also need to account for truTV, which has rights to broadcast the First Four games along with the first two rounds.
TBS will carry the 2022 Final Four
The 2022 Final Four games will be carried on TBS.
Why Fubo TV & Sling TV are not good options for streaming March Madness
Interestingly, of the 7 major live TV streaming services we cover, 4 can be excluded right away for streaming March Madness as they don’t offer complete coverage.
Although many anticipate that this could change in the near future, at present, Fubo TV does not carry either TNT or TBS, which means Fubo TV is not currently a viable option for watching all of March Madness, including the Final Four. You can get some March Madness coverage through Fubo TV as they do carry CBS, but most fans who want to watch March Madness will also want to see the finals.
Similarly, we can also rule out Sling TV as a good option for streaming March Madness since, without adding an antenna, the popular budget live TV streaming service does not carry CBS. Sling Orange and Blue both carry TNT and TBS, but only Sling Blue carries TruTV, so again, you can get partial coverage with Sling.
Paramount+ is out because although they cover CBS, they do not carry TBS or TNT.
ESPN+ is out because they don’t carry any of March Madness.
The 3 best options for streaming March Madness
This leaves 3 core options for streaming all of the March Madness games every year:
Each of these services carries CBS, TNT, TBS and TruTV.
YouTube TV: Overall winner
Regular readers know that I love YouTube TV as a platform for watching live sports. In a crowded and competitive marketplace, YouTube TV has is the only live TV streaming service that has truly innovated. With its 4K Plus package, and Key Plays and Stats View features, there is no live TV streaming service that can match YouTube TV for overall user experience. Now that they have managed to keep ESPN in the channel lineup, YouTube TV is hard to beat for streaming sports.
For March Madness, the Key Plays feature, which allows sports fans to catch up on a game by watching just key plays, or by watching key plays sorted by type of play, or player, is a fantastic way to catch up on March Madness action you may have missed. Especially in the first two rounds, we can’t be watching all the action at the same time, so the ability to see Key Plays from all the games is a major plus, and will extend the fun for many hoops fans. Just be sure to save the March Madness games to your library, which is the YouTube TV DVR, in order to enjoy Key Plays.
If you’re in a hurry to get YouTube TV setup, be aware that things will go faster with an existing Google account.
Hulu + Live TV for March Madness
Hulu + Live TV is also a viable option for streaming March Madness. It won’t come with the bells and whistles of YouTube TV, but due to Disney’s ownership of ESPN, cord cutting sports fans can get access to all of the ESPN+ sports lineup direct from the Hulu interface. If you don’t have a Google account yet, this also might be a simpler option if you’re looking for a quick setup process.
DirecTV for March Madness
I am personally not a huge fan of DirecTV. It’s a boring platform compared to most of its competitors, with an out-dated interface, however, DirecTV does boast the largest lineup of regional sports networks, so if you’re also an NBA fan, and want to catch regular season action for your local in-market team, DirecTV could be the way to got for watching March Madness this year.
The bottom line
The bottom line for cord cutter who want to watch all 67 March Madness games without cable is straightforward: you don’t have to deal with regional coverage, but at a minimum, you’re looking for a live TV streaming service that features both CBS and Turner stations, TBS and TNT.