Do you care about March Madness? Of course you do, or you wouldn't be reading this, our handy guide to streaming the NCAA tournament. Just a few years ago, the only way to watch the bulk of the annual college basketball free-for-all was to park yourself in front of a TV playing a cable, satellite, or over-the-air broadcast.
But like all televised entertainment, the future of sports is increasingly online, in video streams that don't care if you're using a Roku or a smartphone, and where commercials can't be DVR-delayed and then zipped past. Just as the Super Bowl has fully embraced the Internet as a delivery vehicle for its ad-supported broadcasts, March Madness is now easier than ever to watch without a traditional pay TV account, or a seat at the nearest sports bar. Here are the services that let you stream as much college basketball as you can take. And we're talking about full games here, not real-time scores or packaged highlights.
Apple TV March Madness App
Works With: You guessed it, Apple TV.
The Catch: Only streams games that air on TBS, TNT, and TruTV (not on CBS, in other words). New for this year, Apple TV has its own March Madness app, with an exclusive feature — you can split-screen two live-streams at once. And the app doesn't ask you to enter log-in credentials for an existing pay TV subscription. The downside is a pretty big one, though: The app's streams are limited to games that air anywhere but CBS.
College Sports Live
Works With: Android/iOS devices, desktops, and laptops
The Catch: If teams aren't signed up with the service, their games can't be streamed. In theory, this subscription service from CBS lets you watch a wide variety of college sports games around the year. But chances are, most of its users are going to skip the $100 annual fee, and pay $10 for a single month, right around March. The service streams games based on who's playing, with deals to broadcast matchups between over 100 NCAA teams. Unfortunately, that means there are occasional gaps, like whenever Duke is on the court.
March Madness Live App
Works With: Amazon, Android, iOS, and Windows devices, plus the Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, and Roku-dedicated streamers
The Catch: You need a cable or satellite subscription to watch games on TBS, TNT, and TruTV. This app runs on just about every mobile device and streaming box or stick, and live-streams every March Madness game that airs on CBS. It's also completely free, with no need to prove that you already pay for cable or satellite. Existing customers have no such restriction, and get to watch all of the games, a stipulation that we expect to disappear relatively soon (but not in time for this year's tournament).
March Madness Live
Works With: Anything with a Web browser.
The Catch: Like with the app, only CBS games are available. There's nothing to download or install. Just head to this link during any March Madness game airing on CBS, and start watching. But similar to the March Madness Live app, you're shut out of non-CBS games unless you already pay for cable or satellite.
Works With: Amazon, Android, and iOS devices, desktops and laptops, and the Amazon TV, Apple TV, and Roku streamers
The Catch: Can't stream CBS games. Also, Sling TV isn't the most stable of services. For $25 per month (that's $20 for the base service and $5 for additional channels), you can watch ESPN, TBS, TNT, and TruTV with Sling TV. Naturally, that includes the March Madness games that air on those channels. Once again, CBS is not on the menu, because none of Sling TV's packages include the option to watch that network. However, Sling TV also comes with a running caveat — sometimes, the service just ups and quits. That includes an infamous crash last April, during both March Madness semi-final games. Though it's safe to say that the service is better prepared for high traffic this year, Sling TV has been consistently hit and miss since its much-anticipated launch. Streamer beware.
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