Watching the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament without cable used to be easy. As long as you had an internet connection, CBS and Turner (TBS, TNT, and TruTV), which co-broadcast March Madness, let you watch all 67 games online free of charge.
Even though restrictions have tightened a bit since 2013 (the last year that all of the games were streamed online for free), 2015 still saw a 10% rise in online viewership. With such high demand, it only makes sense that CBS, Turner, and the NCAA would stop giving the games away for free.
So the bad news is, you're out of luck if you want to watch all of this year's March Madness games online for free. The worse news is, the Final Four and title games will only be broadcast on one of the Turner networks (it hasn't been decided which one yet), so you're going to need some sort of subscription if you want to watch it.
Luckily, there are still a few lesser known ways to watch March Madness, the Final Four, and championship games for free.
To watch the Final Four and championship games for free, use Sling TV. They'll give you a 7-day trial when you sign up, so you can start the service on April 2nd when the Final Four games are played, then cancel it on April 4th after the title game.
If you're okay with spending a little money, you can sign up for Sling at the beginning of the tournament and give yourself access to most of the games. Get the "Best of TV" package for $20 per month, which includes TBS and TNT, and Sling is also adding TruTV to the lineup through the duration of the tournament (note: CBS is not available on Sling). There's no contract with Sling, so you can cancel right after the tournament ends.
Sling doesn't carry local channels, but you'll be able to watch all of the games that CBS is broadcasting on CBSsports.com on your desktop or mobile device, or on the CBS Sports app for Android, iOS, or Windows. You can also get the app on Amazon Fire tablets and Fire TV, Apple TV (tvOS), Roku, and Xbox One. Also, you can watch a stream on the big screen using a Chromecast or by connecting your TV to an output on your computer.
Tip: use the CBS Sports app to check all the scores during March Madness.
The app claims to let you watch all 67 games in the tournament, but there's a caveat—only the games that CBS itself are airing are truly free. You'll need to log in with a valid cable or satellite subscription to stream the games shown on the Turner Networks, which are airing 46 of the games, including the Final Four and the championship game. This is the first time in the tournament's 78-year history that the title game will be broadcast on a pay network.
Just like with the CBS Sports apps, you will only be able to stream the games on CBS for free; Turner stations will require a subscription. However, the NCAA March Madness Live apps will be giving away 3 hours free of truTV, TNT, and TBS before asking to authenticate. So you could possibly use a VPN service to switch servers every 3 hours to keep getting that free airtime.
If you have a PlayStation 3 or 4, you can also use the Playstation Vue service, which carries CBS and all three Turner channels. There's also a 7-day free trial when you sign up, so you can use that to watch the Final Four and championship game for free. Be careful though, because it will automatically switch to a $40 per month subscription if you forget to cancel before the trial ends.
Note that you'll only have access to Vue's live streaming for March Madness if you live in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, Chicago, Miami, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston.
If you have a shaky internet connection at your house, or don't want to stream the games for some other reason, you'll also be able to watch the CBS broadcasts over-the-air with an antenna, allowing you to watch the games in high definition if you have an HD antenna.
If you don't have one yet, you can build one yourself, or you can get $50 off select RCA models when you prepay for three months on Sling. This will run you about $90 for the cheaper model (the only difference is that there isn't a mount for the antenna). Or if you have $40, this antenna is a top pick.
Want to master Microsoft Excel and take your work-from-home job prospects to the next level? Jump-start your career with our Premium A-to-Z Microsoft Excel Training Bundle from the new Gadget Hacks Shop and get lifetime access to more than 40 hours of Basic to Advanced instruction on functions, formula, tools, and more.