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How to catch March Madness without paying for cable TV

Michael Ansaldo | March 15, 2016
Our cord-cutter's guide will show you how you can watch every game in the tournament for free.

For millions of sports fans, brackets, not baseball, herald the arrival of spring. With its big upsets, Cinderella stories, and weird mascots, the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Championship has transcended sports to become a cultural event.

But it’s a bittersweet time for cord cutters. If the logistics of following 68 teams through a month-long tournament aren’t arduous enough, nearly 70 percent of games are televised on cable channels. That includes the championship game, which for the first time in its 78-year history will air on a pay network.

This year all 67 games will be broadcast across four networks: CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV. Based on the current schedule, we’ve put together a strategy that will allow you to watch every minute of March Madness live without a cable subscription. The options below will take you although the way through to the title game on April 4.

Catch CBS games over the air

The network will broadcast 21 games in the first and second rounds, the Sweet 16, and the Elite 8. CBS is splitting the last over that weekend with TBS, with its games beginning on Saturday, March 26, at 3 p.m. ET.

The good news is all you need to watch these games is a good antenna. Don’t have one? RCA has teamed with Sling TV on a promotion that gives you 10 days of free Sling TV service when you buy a new antenna. That’s worth considering because…

Sling is the thing for Turner telecasts

Turner Sports will air 46 games this year: 21 on TBS, 13 on TruTV and 12 on TNT. Most of the action is on the flagship station, including Sweet Sixteen, Elite 8 (which it's splitting over a weekend with CBS), Final Four, and the National Championship. It will also televise select first and second round contests.

TruTV and TNT will televise earlier round matchups. Each will also provide “Team Stream” coverage of the Final Four and National Championship. These original telecasts, sponsored by Bleacher Report, are tailored for each of the competing teams, with separate broadcasters, alternate viewing angles, and school specific content.

Sling TV helped fill in the postseason gaps for cord-cutting NBA fans, and it’s just as essential for college-hoops lovers. As part of the $20-per-month Best of Live TV package, you get TNT and TBS. Sling TV is also throwing in TruTV—normally only available as part of the $5 Lifestyle Extra package—free for the duration of the tournament. If that’s not enough to satisfy your basketball jones, you can add the Sports Extra package for an additional $5 a month and get more college coverage via ESNPU and SEC Network.


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