Can I Watch March Madness Online for Free?

watch the sweet 16 online

Can I watch March Madness Online for Free


As millions of people gear up to fill out their 2016 March Madness brackets and veg out in front of some kind of screen to watch the best college basketball teams in the country compete for a national championship, a lot of them may be wondering if they can watch March Madness online for free.

As much as we would love to say, “yes,” and end this article right here, that’s not exactly the case.

This year’s tournament, in fact, features (perhaps an unfortunate?) first. After 47 years of the NCAA Div. I Men’s Basketball National Championship game being broadcast on an over-the-air network that let viewers watch it using an antenna for free, it’s moving to TBS, a cable network. The same goes for the Final Four (semi-final) games. The NCAA struck an agreement last year that will see the big dance alternate between CBS and TBS each year through 2024.

That being said, there are still plenty of opportunities for cord-cutters to watch March Madness online for free – at least select games.


Watch March Madness Free for a Week with Sling TV

Sling TV

Obviously the most exciting part of the March Madness tourney is the Final Four. Unfortunately, those games are being aired on TBS.

Don’t start panicking, though! There are options.

TBS is part of Sling TV, which is arguably the best streaming service for those without a cable subscription. For $20 and no contract, you not only get TBS, but also TNT and truTV — the other two cable networks that are airing games this year.

Sling is available on a number of devices, including Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Chromecast. (There are also some rumors bubbling right now about a dedicated app coming to the new Apple TV.) Read our Sling TV review fore more information.

Sling does offer a free 7-day trial for first-time customers, which means you could watch the first week of the tournament, or the Final Four for free, making it a great way to watch March Madness online for free. So, maybe you skip a few games in the early rounds, and sign up April 2 to watch the national semi-final, then the national championship.

If you’re satisfied with the service, pay $20 for the month and give it a full ride. Sling also offers ESPN channels, which is going to include wall-to-wall coverage of the tournament. Plus, you’ll enjoy access to 20+ channels in total, for a ton more than just sports!



Can I Watch March Madness Online for Free?


Another good way to watch March Madness online for free is with CBS. Send some love toward CBS, because they’re the only network that allows you to watch a good chunk of March Madness games for free, either online or via an old-school antenna.

Because CBS is the official over-the-air broadcast network for the tournament, you can watch all games they broadcast on their family of apps and using the official NCAA March Madness Live App. Games are also available at If you want to stream CBS games on your TV without cable TV, the only way to do so is with CBS All Access in select markets (free 7-day trial).

According to the March Madness schedule, that means you can watch select games from the first and second rounds, and the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight.


Other Options

The official NCAA March Madness Live App is also offering games to stream, but only CBS games are entirely free on mobile devices only. The games on TBS, TNT and truTV require a paid TV login. The CBS games are also available on the Web at

March Madness Live is available on most streaming players, including Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV or Roku, but without a cable login, you can’t stream any games on your TV.

Sony PlayStation Vue is similar to Sling TV in that it offers the three cable networks airing the games, but it’s more expensive at $29.99 per month. Check out our PlayStation Vue review for more info.


Anything else? For those without cable subscriptions and who don’t want to pay a dime for the content, there’s absolutely no shame in watching the games the old fashioned way: At your favorite local pub. You can also read our March Madness streaming guide and our College Basketball guide for more.

Cheers! And enjoy this year’s tournament.

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Andrew Dodson

Andrew Dodson

Andrew Dodson is a journalist from Michigan who writes for, the state's top online news source. He previously worked as the technology editor for, a trade publication that covers the broadcasting industry, where he frequently wrote about cord cutting and taking advantage of over-the-air television. He's married to his wife Erin and is a proud Mini Cooper owner.
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Andrew Dodson