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Best Ways to Watch March Madness 2020

Wanna watch March Madness from Selection Sunday to the Final Four? These TV providers are slam dunks.

Best Overall for March Madness

  • $44.99–$89.99/mo. for 12 mos.
  • 5/5 March Madness channels
  • Premium channels included in Silver and Gold plans

Best Value for March Madness

Sling TV | 2019’s Best Live TV Streaming Services

  • $30–$45/mo.
  • 4/5 March Madness channels
  • Free Amazon Fire Stick offer

Cheapest for March Madness

  • $5.99–$9.99/mo. (or $59.99–$99.99+/yr.)
  • CBS live coverage of March Madness
  • March Madness replays from CBS Sports Network

Tipoff: how to watch March Madness 

Pretty much every cable, satellite, and streaming provider carries the four to five channels you need to watch March Madness. We’re gonna get more specific regarding on the best options for each type of provider, but here’s a sneak peek at our recommendations:

  • Best cable or satellite provider: Spectrum’s TV Silver package ($69.99/mo.)
  • Best cable bundle: Xfinity’s X1 Preferred Double Play with Performance Pro Internet ($89.99/mo.)
  • Best streaming provider: Sling TV’s Orange & Blue package ($45/mo.)
  • Best (almost) free options: CBS All Access (starting at $5.99/mo.) or an over-the-air (OTA) antenna (one-time payment as low as $25).

Starters: What TV channels do I need to watch March Madness?

If you want to know how to catch every minute of March Madness on live TV, you’re in the right place.

You need only four channels to catch every moment of the Big Dance—CBS, TBS, TNT, and truTV. If you’re interested in replays, you might also want CBS Sports Network (but you don’t need it). Almost every cable, satellite, and streaming TV service carries all five of these channels.

The two most important channels, though, are CBS and TBS. Both show a ton of March Madness action every year, and the two networks alternate years as the exclusive broadcasters of the Final Four and NCAA Championship games. TBS gets the even years. CBS has the odd ones.

Best TV channels for watching March Madness 2020 live

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EventDate1Channel(s)2
Selection SundayMar. 15TBS
First FourMar. 17–18truTV
1st RoundMar. 19–20CBS, TBS, TNT, and truTV
2nd RoundMar. 21–22CBS, TBS, TNT, and truTV
Sweet SixteenMar. 26–27CBS and TBS
Elite 8Mar. 28–29CBS and TBS
Final FourApr. 4TBS
2020 NCAA Championship GameApr. 6TBS

Besides these channels, you can also catch every live game plus highlights and replays with the NCAA March Madness Live app by logging in with your cable, satellite, or streaming service credentials. We’ll give you the deets on this later on.

Best cable and satellite TV providers for March Madness

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Best Overall
Spectrum
DISHOptimumDIRECTVRCNAT&T U-verseCoxXfinity
Price range$44.99–$89.99/mo.§$59.99–$94.99/mo.˚$64.99–$119.99/mo.•$59.99–$134.99–.¶$59.99–$64.99/mo.**$59.99–$134.99/mo.††$25–$69.99/mo.‡‡$49.99–$84.99/mo.§§
CBS

CBS Sports Network

TBS

TNT

truTV

Data as of 1/28/20. Channel availability may vary by plan. Plan availability may vary by location and is subject to change.
§ For the first 12 mos.
˚ For 24 months with a 2-year agreement and eAutoPay.
• For 24 months. Plus taxes, fees, and other charges. Price for Life available on select plans. Customer must remain in good standing an up to date on bill payments to remain on Price for Life.
¶ For 12 months with a 2-year contract, paperless bill, & autopay. Price increases for months 13-24.
** For the first 12 mos.
†† for 12 mos. Plus taxes.
‡‡ For the first 12 mos.
§ For the first 12 mos.

Among cable and satellite providers, we recommend Spectrum’s TV Silver package ($69.99 a month). It has 175+ channels, including all five March Madness channels and the premium channels HBO®, SHOWTIME®, and NFL Network. Other cable and satellite providers have similarly priced plans with more total channels—but not those juicy premiums.

If you’re looking to bundle, Xfinity’s X1 Preferred Double Play with Performance Pro Internet ($89.99 a month) gives you 220+ channels, including the five March Madness channels, and internet speeds up to 200 Mbps.

But, again, you can find all the channels you need for March Madness with almost all of the cable and satellite TV providers we researched for this piece. Here’s what they all offer in terms of TV packages and bundle-able services.

 

Stats: cable and satellite TV providers

  • AT&T U-verse ($59.99–$134.99/mo.††): 550+ channels (5/5 March Madness channels); bundles with internet and phone service
  • Cox ($25–$69.99/mo.‡‡ ): 140+ channels (5/5 March Madness channels); bundles with internet and phone
  • DIRECTV ($59.99–$134.99/mo.): 330+ channels (5/5 March Madness channels); nearly 100% availability; free NBA League Pass promotion
  • DISH ($59.99–$89.99/mo.˚): 290+ channels (4/5 March Madness channels—no CBS); nearly 100% availability
  • Optimum ($64.95–$119.99./mo.): 420+ channels (5/5 March Madness channels); offers TV only when bundled with internet and/or phone service
  • RCN ($59.99–$64.99/mo.**): 295+ channels (5/5 March Madness channels); bundles with internet and phone service
  • Spectrum ($44.99–$89.99/mo.§): 200+ channels (5/5 March Madness channels); bundles with internet and phone service
  • Xfinity ($49.99–$84.99/mo.§§): 260+ channels (5/5 March Madness channels); bundles with internet and phone service

†† For 12 mos. Plus taxes.
‡‡ For the first 12 mos.
¶ For 12 months with a 2-year contract, paperless bill, & autopay. Price increases for months 13-24.
˚ For 24 months with a 2-year agreement and eAutoPay.
• For 24 months. Plus taxes, fees, and other charges. Price for Life available on select plans. Customer must remain in good standing and up-to-date on bill payments to remain on Price for Life.
** For the first 12 mos.
§ For the first 12 mos.
§§ For the first 12 mos.

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March Madness? There’s an app for that. 

If you already have cable, satellite, or streaming TV service, you can use your login credentials (from most providers) to watch every game on the NCAA March Madness Live app.

If you don’t have TV service, you can still take advantage of the app’s free three-hour preview. That’s enough to watch at least one game for nothin’.

We should mention, though, that the app’s reviews on the Google Play Store weren’t so stellar last year—lots of one-star complaints popped up due to technical difficulties. So you might want to avoid it unless you want a peek at the action while you’re on-the-go. The rest of the time, stick with your provider.

Best streaming TV services for watching March Madness

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Best Value
Sling TV
Cheapest
CBS All Access
fuboTVAT&T TV NOWYouTube TVHulu + Live TV
Price$30–$45/mo.$5.99–$9.99/mo. or $59.99–$99.99/yr.$54.99–$74.99/mo.‡$65–$135/mo.$49.99/mo.$54.99–$60.99/mo.
CBS

CBS Sports Network

TBS

TNT

truTV

Channel availability may vary by plan. Plan availability may vary by location and is subject to change.
Some providers require an OTA antenna to receive local channels.
† Premium add-on ($15/mo.)
‡ For the first three months ($79.99 thereafter)

Sling TV is CableTV.com’s 2020 overall Best for Sports pick for streaming because you get tons of sports in the affordable base packages, along with reasonably-priced sports add-on packs that yield tons more sportsball channels.

We also think Sling TV is the best value for March Madness. You can get TBS, TNT, and truTV in Sling’s Orange & Blue plan ($45 a month) gives you TBS, TNT, and truTV. That’ll cover you for most of March Madness in even years. In odd years, you’ll need an OTA antenna for CBS to watch the Final Four and the NCAA championship game. (And, again, you don’t really need CBS Sports Network unless you want to watch March Madness reruns.)

Another service we dig for March Madness is fuboTV. Its Ultra package ($74.99 a month‡) has 168+ channels with tons of sports, including all five of our March Madness channels. The plan also includes nine SHOWTIME® channels, 500 hours of cloud DVR space, and three streams.

A really cheap way to watch some of March Madness is to sign up for CBS All Access (starting at $5.99 a month). It’ll have all of the live CBS games plus the replays from CBS Sports Network.

In the next section, we’ll tell you how to watch March Madness for free—or close to it.

Stats: streaming TV providers

  • AT&T TV NOW ($65–$135/mo.): 125+ channels (5/5 March Madness channels); free HBO in base package
  • CBS All Access ($5.99–$9.99/mo. or $59.99–$99.99/yr.): Live and on-demand CBS content (2/5 March Madness channels)
  • fuboTV ($54.99–$74.99/mo.): 168+ channels (5/5 March Madness channels); 9 SHOWTIME® channels and 500 hours of cloud DVR space in the top package
  • Hulu + Live TV ($54.99–$60.99/mo.): 60+ channels (5/5 March Madness channels); unlimited streams and 200 hrs. of cloud DVR for an additional $14.99/mo.
  • Sling TV ($30–$45/mo.): 50+ channels (4/5 March Madness channels); excellent sports add-on packs
  • YouTubeTV ($49.99/mo.): 70+ channels (5/5 March Madness channels); unlimited cloud DVR

Channel availability may vary by plan. Plan availability may vary by location and is subject to change.
Some providers require an OTA antenna to receive local channels.
† Premium add-on ($15/mo.)
‡ For the first three months ($79.99 thereafter)

Best streaming devices

Are you a newbie cord-cutter and wondering what’s the deal with these “streaming devices” we keep bringing up? We’ve broken it all down for you with CableTV.com’s guide to the best streaming devices.

Here’s another hot tip: our top streaming service for sports, Sling TV, has an awesome offer for new customers. When you sign up for Sling TV and prepay for two months of service, you can get a free Amazon Fire Stick.

Free throws: how to watch March Madness at no charge

Are you strapped for cash? We have a few ways to watch March Madness without paying one red cent (to TV providers, anyway):

Streaming free trials

With careful planning and discipline, you could watch March Madness 2020 from Selection Sunday through the NCAA Championship Game by signing up for free seven-day trials of 3 to 4 streaming services. Just don’t forget to cancel before the trial expires, or that’ll totally blow up the free-ness.

OTA antennas

Over-the-air (OTA) TV antennas like the Mohu ReLeaf give you a bunch of free channels, including your local network affiliates, for a one-time payment of as little as $25.

Only one of those network channels, CBS, has March Madness action—but it’s one of the best. You’ll be able to watch the first and second rounds, the Sweet 16, and the Elite 8 every year, and the Final Four and NCAA Championship games in odd years, free. Free-free-free-free-free!

In even years, you can still catch most of the action on CBS, then mooch off of a TBS-having buddy (watch it at their place, or borrow their credentials and watch on the TBS app) for the finals and the championship.

Buzzer-beater: our final shot

It’s pretty easy to find every channel you need for March Madness (CBS, CBS Sports Network, TBS, TNT, and truTV) with almost any cable, satellite, and streaming TV provider.

Cable provider Spectrum’s affordable packages include all five of the abovementioned channels, plus premium channels. Streaming provider Sling TV has excellent prices, lots of sports channels, and that sweet Amazon Fire Stick deal for new customers. You can also watch a lot of March Madness free by exploiting streaming-service trials or using an OTA antenna to get CBS.

But which way to watch all that college-level slamma-jamma is best? That’s for you to decide. Set your pick and roll with it.

P.s. Good luck with your brackets!

Bonus basketball

March Madness ends in early April. The regular NBA season doesn’t start until October. What are you gonna do to satisfy your basketball jones in the downtime?

  • The WNBA: Catch women’s pro basketball on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, CBS Sports Network, NBA TV, and Twitter from May to October. YouTube TV ($49.99/mo.) and fuboTV’s Ultra package ($74.99/mo.) have all of these channels.
  • Basketball movies: There are dozens of great b-ball flicks out there like Hoosiers, Space Jam, Love & Basketball, He Got Game, and White Men Can’t Jump. See what’s streaming on Amazon Prime Video and Netflix.

IRL: It’s spring—and summer’s comin’. Get out there and shoot some hoops.

Best ways to watch March Madness FAQ

 

Can I watch March Madness for free? 

You can watch March Madness for free. Here’s what you do: Sign up for a free (typically seven-day) trial offered by streaming TV services like AT&T TV NOW, CBS All Access, fuboTV, Hulu, Sling TV, and YouTube TV. When that one’s done, cancel it—then sign up for another (rinse, repeat). Three or four trials will carry you through the entire Big Dance.

Another idea, which is close enough to free, is using an over-the-air (OTA) TV antenna like the Mohu ReLeaf. These devices run as cheap as $25 and are ridiculously easy to install. You’ll get a ton of free local channels, including CBS—one of the main March Madness broadcasters.

Can I watch the NCAA tournament on Hulu? 

You can watch the NCAA tournament on CBS if you subscribe to Hulu + Live TV (starts at $54.99 a month).

Is there an app to watch March Madness? 

Yes, the NCAA March Madness Live app has every single game plus replays. After a free three-hour preview, you’ll need to log in with your credentials from a cable, satellite, or streaming TV provider.

Can I stream the NCAA tournament? 

Yes, you can stream the NCAA tournament by subscribing to streaming TV services such as AT&T TV NOW, CBS All Access, fuboTV, Hulu, Sling TV, and YouTube TV. Another way would be to use your existing login credentials from a cable, satellite, or streaming TV provider to log in to the NCAA March Madness Live app.

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