Welcome to college basketball and March Madness. If you’re a fan, no other sporting event comes close. Fortunately, you won’t have to watch a snowy image on a black-and-white TV getting its signal over the air (OTA) via rabbit-ear antennas like I did as a kid. Instead, you can watch it on a high-end 4K TV over a top internet TV streaming system.
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March Madness basics
- March Madness begins on March 14 with the men’s First Four on truTV and the women’s First Four on ESPNU and ESPN2.
- In these tournaments, the lowest-seeded team battle for the “privilege” of facing the top seed. But, remember, the University of Maryland Baltimore Country (UMBC) upset Virginia in the 2018 tournament. It can happen!
- CBS, TNT, TBS, and truTV will air the men’s tournament. You’ll find the women’s tournament on the ESPN networks.
- You can watch a few of the games OTA. But, to really follow the games, you’ll need satellite, cable, or streaming TV.
- If you follow several teams, as I do, you’ll also need DVR services since it’s a sure thing that two or more of my teams will be playing at the same time.
All your streaming options
With Paramount+, you can watch some, but not all, of March Madness. Only the CBS games are available on this streaming service.
Paramount+, formerly CBS All Access, offers two plans. The first is an ad-supported Essential plan for $5 per month and an ad-free Premium plan for $10 per month. You can’t, however, see the men’s games on TBS, TNT, or truTV, or any of the women’s games on it. Still, if you like CBS shows, and for some reason, you can’t get CBS on your main streaming services, or you’re a serious Star Trek fan, it’s worth the money.
Also: The beginner’s guide to Star Trek: What to watch first
One thing you should know going in is that Paramount Plus doesn’t have a cloud DVR service. You’ll need to watch the games in real time.
Hulu with Live TV’s combination of on-demand video and live TV is nice, and it also comes with Disney+ and ESPN+ bundled. For $83 a month, you’ll get your local CBS channel, TBS, TNT, and truTV. With the ESPN+ bundle, you can get all of the 2023 March Madness games.
Another plus is you can store an unlimited number of videos in your cloud DVR archive for up to nine months.
DirecTV Stream has gone through a number of name changes. In the past, it’s been AT&T TV, AT&T TV Now, and DirecTV Now. Whatever you call it, you’ll get CBS, TBS, TNT, and truTV on even its cheapest level, the $75 Entertainment package.
For the women’s games, this package includes ESPN and ESPN2. But, if your favorite team isn’t one of the top teams, its games may be on ESPNU or ESPNews. To get those, you’ll need to upgrade to the $100 DirecTV Stream Choice package.
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On the plus side, DirecTV Stream now comes with generous unlimited Cloud DVR storage. At home, you can watch the game, or any other show, on up to two streaming devices at once. Away from home, you can share your stream with three other devices.
Sling TV’s à la carte approach to channels separates it from its competitors.
While the others tend to offer only two to four packages, Sling TV offers two basic packages — Blue and Orange — and a wide variety of packages bundling up to a dozen-related channels. However, CBS isn’t in any of them. For those games, you’ll need an antenna for your local CBS channel or a Paramount+ subscription.
Sling TV’s $40-a-month Blue plan includes TBS, TNT, and truTV. If you want the women’s tournament as well, you’ll need Sling TV’s Orange plan. You can get this paired package at $20 for your first month and $40 monthly thereafter. Sling Orange and Blue will enable you to watch games on TBS, TNT, truTV, and the main ESPN channels. For the less well-known ESPN channels, you’ll need the Sports Extra package for $11 a month.
To watch these games later, Sling TV’s default cloud DVR offers 50 hours for free. If you need more — and who doesn’t? — you can upgrade to 200 hours for $5 a month.
With over 100 channels, YouTube TV offers more of the most popular channels than its competitors. YouTube TV costs $65 monthly and includes all the relevant ESPN channels, CBS, TBS, TNT, and truTV.
By CNET’s count, out of the top 100 networks, YouTube TV offers the most — 79 — of any streaming service.
Also: Did your TV streaming bill just go up again? Here’s why I chose YouTube TV
YouTubeTV also has unlimited cloud storage. And you get six accounts to share with your household. For this, you’ll pay $55 for your first three months and then $65 monthly. You can use this service on three screens at once.
FuboTV is all about sports. But it’s not, I’m sorry to say, a great choice for March Madness.
While its starter plan, Pro, has over 100 channels and 1,000 hours of cloud DVR storage for $75 a month, it only includes CBS and ESPN. It doesn’t offer TBS, TNT, and truTV. You may have heard rumors that these Turner Network channels would be returning, but there turned out to be nothing to those tales.
For NCAA Women March Madness watchers, to catch every game, you’ll need to get the Fubo Elite package, which includes ESPNews and ESPNU, for $85 a month.
To watch these games later, FuboTV’s cloud DVR service comes with a free 1,000 hours.
Can I stream the game from outside the US with a VPN?
If you’re in Canada, you’re in luck. TSN will be carrying all the NCAA men and women’s games. In the UK, BT Sport and ESPN Player will broadcast March Madness 2023’s games. If you are a current BT Sport subscriber, you can watch every game for free by logging in and streaming. If you don’t have cable, you can opt for BT Sport’s recently introduced online-only plan, which costs £25 per month. However, there is no free trial available for this service. Alternatively, ESPN Player offers a seven-day free trial, and after that, the monthly subscription is £9.99.
Also: The best live TV streaming services
Otherwise, you’ll need a virtual private networks (VPN), so you can stream the game from your US streaming service. For travelers, ZDNET recommends NordVPN, ExpressVPN, and SurfShark VPN.
What is the March Madness schedule?
2023 Men’s March Madness schedule
- First Four: March 14-15.
- First round: March 16-17.
- Second round: March 18-19.
- Sweet 16: March 23-24.
- Elite Eight: March 25-26.
- Final Four: April 1.
- NCAA championship game: April 3
2023 Women’s March Madness schedule
- First Four: March 15-16.
- First Round: March 17-18.
- Second Round: March 19-20.
- Sweet 16: March 24-25.
- Elite Eight: March 26-27.
- Final Four: March 31.
- Women’s NCAA Championship Game: April 2.
Can I stream March Madness for free?
Sort of. If you go to the NCAA’s March Madness Live site or use its March Madness Live app, you’ll be able to watch games for free… if that is, you’re a paid-TV subscriber. If you’re not, you can still get a three-hour preview. With ads, that means you’ll be able to watch a single game.
In other words, this “free” trick only works if you’re already paying for a cable, satellite, or streaming service.
What is the cheapest way to stream the games?
The least expensive choice available to watch the men’s tournament is by subscribing to Sling TV Blue and Paramount Plus Premium. By opting for Sling TV Blue at $40/month, you can access TNT, TBS, and truTV games. Additionally, with Paramount Plus at $10/month, you’ll get the CBS games. The two memberships combined cost $50/month. However, if you’re a new subscriber, you can get a 50% discount on your first month of Sling. This would bring your total cost down to $30 for the initial month.
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For the women’s tournament, Sling TV’s Orange, $40/month, with the Sports Extra package for the obscure ESPN channels, $11/month, is the cheapest option.
Will the March Madness games be in 4K?
It doesn’t look like it. While it’s possible the Final Four will be broadcast in 4K, there have been no announcements to that effect.