Watch March Madness Online without Cable: 2018 Free Live Stream Schedule, Channels Guide

March Madness Book Cover March Madness
NCAA Basketball

It's the hottest college sports event of the year. Find out how you can watch March Madness online now.

We Recommend:

CBS All Access button (free 7-day trial)

March Madness 2018 is right around the corner, and it’s time for sports fans worldwide to kick back and enjoy some of the most exciting action of the NCAA season! Want to watch March Madness online without cable? It’s arguably the most exciting sporting event of the year, and there are more ways this year to watch than ever before. Every game has the potential to turn into an instant classic, and every team believes they have a shot at capturing the National Championship. Simply put, it’s a sporting event that can’t be missed. That’s why there were 80.7 million March Madness live streams in 2015, up 17% over 2014, and even more people are expected to watch the NCAA Tournament online in 2018.

Although the majority of the 2018 March Madness schedule airs on cable TV channels, thanks to new streaming services, you can now legally watch March Madness online without cable. That means you can watch the the NCAA Championship online free in its entirety. Read on to learn how you can enjoy a legal NCAA March Madness live stream without cable all throughout the tournament so you don’t miss a single game.


All Access Offers Most Viable Way to Stream March Madness Games from CBS to Your TV without Cable

CBS All Access

Also worth noting, All Access subscribers (review) in over 132 markets (80% of the country) will be able to live stream the CBS games through the service as well. This is important because All Access is the only widely available service that will let you stream CBS games to your TV using a streaming player without a cable TV login. You cannot stream CBS games to your TV free using the NCAA March Madness Live app, so All Access is the best choice if you want to enjoy those NCAA Tournament streaming games on the big screen. The All Access app is available on a number of streaming devices, including Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android, and Xbox gaming consoles.

This service will only be useful for the CBS-hosted games, but it is a great way to round out a DIRECTV NOW or Sling TV subscription. With both, you’ll be able to watch all of March Madness 2018!

You can click here to get a free trial of All Access to watch March Madness online free on CBS for a week.


Use DIRECTV NOW for the March Madness Live Stream without Cable

directv now review

Currently, one of the best ways to ways to stream March Madness online in 2018 is to use DIRECTV NOW. This service allows you to watch live TV from home or on-the-go, using your internet connection. It’s easy to use, legal, affordable, and provides direct access to March Madness streaming. Here are some highlights:

  • For $35 per month, you get 60+ channels to watch live
  • Get TruTV, TNT, and TBS – three channels which host around 70% of all March Madness games
  • Other key channels include ESPN, ESPN2, AMC, CNN, FOX News, HGTV, and more
  • Up to 120+ channels available in the larger packages
  • NO contract required; cancel any time
  • Stream March Madness games on your computer, tablet, smartphone, or streaming device
  • Start things off with a free 7-day trial

To learn more, check out our DIRECTV NOW review. In short, you can use this service to watch ALL NCAA March madness games that fall on either TNT, TBS or TruTV – which is about 70% of the tournament! Click here to try DIRECTV NOW free for a full week. It’s a great way to enjoy an NCAA tournament stream free for a full weekend of the tournament.


Sling TV Offers a Way to Watch March Madness Online without Cable

Sling TV

Sling TV (watch now with a free 7-day trial) is arguably the easiest way to enjoy March Madness streaming without cable. The streaming service gives subscribers live access to a number of cable TV channels, including TNT, TBS, and truTV — all for $25 a month with no contract in the Blue package. You can also add TruTV to the Sling Orange package with the Comedy Extra Add-on. Remember, the cable channels that show the NCAA tournament stream are TNT, TBS, and truTV, so Sling TV has you covered for roughly 70% of the games if you want to watch the NCAA Tournament online.

You can watch Sling TV on just about any device of your choosing. Want to watch it on your TV? If you have a streaming player, like a Roku, Apple TV Amazon Fire TV, or Chromecast, you can watch March Madness online right on your big screen. Don’t have a streaming player? That’s okay, Sling is running a great promo right now. Sign up for 3 months of service and you can get a free Roku streaming device. That’s an excellent deal and a great way to enjoy a March Madness live stream on your TV. Sling TV is also available on smartphones, tablets, and computers.

Sling TV is offering a free 7-day trial right now. That means you could sign up for a free trial the day the tournament starts and catch the entire first weekend (or a later round of the tournament if you so choose) of TNT, TBS, and truTV games at no cost. The service takes just seconds to get signed up for and start watching. This is a great way to watch March Madness online free and see what you think of the service.

If you decide you like Sling TV and want to keep it for the rest of the tournament, it’s $25 a month, and you can cancel at any time without any penalty. Check out our full Sling TV review for more details about the service.

Click here to start your free 7-day trial and watch March Madness free online for a full week.

Watch March Madness Games on CBS Free with Your Antenna, Mobile Devices, or Computer


CBS is the one station playing NCAA March Madness games that’s free for everybody. Every weekend, CBS will be showing a number of tournament games. In total, around 20 tournament games will be aired on CBS, which is about 1/3 of the tournament.

The easiest way to watch March Madness on CBS is using your antenna connected to your TV. A good OTA antenna will get you the highest quality picture and sound (side note – cable companies compress their broadcasts due to limited bandwidth and infrastructure costs, that’s why OTA channels look better). To take the experience to the next level, you can add an over-the-air DVR to your setup so you can record all the games on CBS and not miss a thing. This is just one more way to watch March Madness online.

Don’t have an antenna? In past years, has always streamed the channel’s games on their website. Expect them to once again have CBS’ March Madness streaming on their site this year.


PlayStation Vue Offers Another Way to Watch the NCAA Tournament Online without Cable

It’s also worth noting that Sony’s PlayStation Vue streaming service offers all four of the channels airing March Madness games this year (with some exceptions). Vue is similar to Sling TV in that it offers live TV channels streaming over the internet. There are, however, some important distinctions that need to be made.

First, full PlayStation Vue packages that carry live local channels (CBS is relevant in this case) are currently only available in select markets, so you may not be able to get your local CBS where live through Vue. However, Vue does offer a package nationwide that includes the other 3 channels streaming March Madness (TBS, TNT, and TruTV all have rights to the games) along with a number of other channels, starting at $29.99 a month. So, the price of Vue is a little more than that of Sling TV.

Check out our PlayStation Vue review for more details about the service.


Can You Use the March Madness Live App to Watch the NCAA Tournament Online?

As with previous years, the NCAA is really pushing their March Madness Live app as a way to stream the games online. The app will carry most games of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship for cable TV subscribers, and it can be accessed through and through all the top mobile app stores, including Apple, Android, Amazon Fire, Roku, and Windows platforms for mobile devices and streaming players (cable TV login required to watch any games on your TV).

Here’s the catch with the March Madness Live stream app, though. Without a cable TV subscription, you’ll only be able to watch the CBS games on the app on mobile devices for free. This will give you the ability to watch those CBS games on your phone, tablet, or computer from wherever you want. You won’t be able to watch the games on your TV with the March Madness Live app using a streaming player (like Roku or Apple TV) unless you have a cable login. For the other games, a subscriber login for a cable provider is needed. It is worth noting, however, that the March Madness Live stream app will offer a “temporary preview period giving users access to live game streaming before login is required.” In recent years, this temporary preview period was only 3 hours, however, which is much shorter than Sling’s 7-day free preview period.


March Madness Schedule 2018

Selection Sunday – CBS (March 11)

First Four – TruTV (March 13-14)

Round One/Two – CBS, TBS, TNT, or TruTV (March 15-18)

Sweet Sixteen – CBS or TBS (March 22-23)

Elite Eight – CBS or TBS (March 24-25)

Final Four – (March 31) TBS

Championship – (April 2) TBS

*All times listed in Eastern Time


March Madness FAQ

When does March Madness start?

Technically, NCAA March Madness starts with Selection Sunday. This is where the committee announces which teams will compete in the tournament and what their seeds will be. The first play-in games of the NCAA Tournament tip off on Tuesday, March 13, and the full first round gets under way Thursday, March 15.

How long does March Madness last?

The entire NCAA March Madness tournament runs for about 3 weeks, concluding with the National Championship game on Monday, April 2, 2018 on TBS.

What are the March Madness channels that will be showing games?

TBS, TNT, TruTV, and CBS are the only four channels that have rights for broadcasting March Madness games on TV. Both the Final Four and National Championship will air on TBS in 2018. In upcoming years, TBS and CBS will swap coverage rights every other year for the National Championship game.

How many people will stream March Madness games online?

During the first week of the tournament alone, as many as 50 million people (around 20% up the workforce, up from 11% in 2014 and 15% in 2015) will live stream games during work hours, averaging just under 2 hours of NCAA March Madness streaming time while on the clock. When you that each of these workers also spends about an hour filling out their March Madness brackets while at work, the cost of loss productivity could reach as high as $4 billion according to some estimates — and that’s just during the first week!

Can I legally watch March Madness online free?

Yes! You don’t need cable to watch 2018 March Madness streaming. This year, there are legal NCAA streaming options, including Sling TV, which gives you live access to TNT, TBS, and TruTV so you can watch games live without cable. You can get a free 7-day trial to watch March Madness free. The NCAA March Madness Live app will let you watch the games on CBS for free with no cable login required, but only on mobile devices. Remember, CBS is also a free over-the-air channel, so if you have an antenna, that’s another way you can watch those games for free.

Which devices can I use to watch March Madness online?

This year, you’ll be able to watch March Madness online on just about every platform. Sling TV is available on computers, smart phones, tablets, Xbox One, and most streaming players, including Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, Android TV, ZTE, and Channel Master devices, providing a plethora of ways to watch March Madness without cable. The March Madness Live app is now available on 12 platforms, most notably for 2016 now including Apple TV. However, you can only stream CBS games on mobile devices without a cable TV provider login. And finally, PlayStation Vue is accessible on PlayStation 3/4 consoles, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, Roku, and iPhones/iPads.

How can I watch March Madness on iPhone, iPad, and other mobile devices?

There are several easy, legal ways you can watch March Madness online on your mobile devices. Sling TV offers a mobile app for smartphones and tablets, allowing you to stream the games on TNT, TBS, and TruTV directly to your devices. The March Madness Live app is also on all mobile devices, but if you don’t have a cable TV login, you’ll only be able to stream the CBS games for free. There’s also the CBS Sports app for streaming those CBS games free.

Find this guide useful? Share it with your friends on social media by clicking our share buttons!

Facebook Comments

Mr. Cable Cutter

Disclosure: This page may contain referral links that allow us to make a bit of money at no expense to you. For more info, see our full disclosure in the footer menu.

3 Comments on "Watch March Madness Online without Cable: 2018 Free Live Stream Schedule, Channels Guide"

  1. i don’t pay for anything, for any kind of tv provider, no cable,sat, sling or anything. i get cbs over the air, and 55 other stations in the best picture you can get ( your right about the picture ) thats with an hd tv, and a good indoor antenna. if i would get an outdoor antenna it would be far greater. but with the stations i get, it is more than enough. since the final game will NOT be completely free, i just won’t watch any of the march madness games. whats the use, if i can’t watch the final game free.

  2. Your review of Sling TV’s offerings implies that subscribers can get Tru-TV with the $20 “orange” subscription, but it looks like you need the $25 “blue” subscription to get Tru-TV? Their web site is not completely clear on this point (orange subscribers need the Comedy Central extra to watch Tru-TV games???).

    • Good catch, Vee. Last year, Sling offered a free preview of TruTV during the month of March to all subscribers, but it appears they won’t be doing that this time in around. So you’ll need the blue package to get all 3 of those channels.

Comments are closed.