By Mike Murphy
There are plenty of ways to stream March Madness, but for hardcore cord-cutters, the options are severely limited.
The 2021 Men’s NCAA Tournament tips off Thursday, March 18, and the 67 scheduled games will culminate with the national championship Monday, April 5. It’s the first tournament in two years, after it was canceled last year due to the pandemic.
ViacomCBS Inc.’s /zigman2/quotes/200340870/composite VIAC +2.00% CBS, along with AT&T’s /zigman2/quotes/203165245/composite T +0.50% WarnerMedia channels TBS, TNT and TruTV, will broadcast all the action, and here’s where it gets complicated.
If you want to watch every game, you need cable or a live-TV streaming service, such as YouTube TV, Hulu Live or AT&T TV that carries all four channels. (Sling TV subscribers get the Warner channels, but not all packages include CBS.)
You can also get all 24 games that CBS will broadcast for free, if your TV has an antenna.
All tournament games will also livestream at the NCAA’s “March Madness Live” site. However, users must select their TV providers to log in. Eligible providers include AT&T, Cox, DirecTV, Dish /zigman2/quotes/207505872/composite DISH +1.89% , Charter Spectrum /zigman2/quotes/201656355/composite CHTR +1.57% , Verizon /zigman2/quotes/204980236/composite VZ +0.64% and Comcast’s /zigman2/quotes/209472081/composite CMCSA +2.04% Xfinity.
You can also stream games from that site with Roku /zigman2/quotes/205087179/composite ROKU +3.03% , Google /zigman2/quotes/202490156/composite GOOGL +1.19% /zigman2/quotes/205453964/composite GOOG +1.03% Chromecast and Amazon /zigman2/quotes/210331248/composite AMZN +0.61% Fire TV devices — if you have a live-TV provider.
For hardcore cord-cutters with no cable and no live-TV service, the best — and really, only — bet is Paramount+, which will air all 24 games that CBS broadcasts, including the Final Four and championship game. Games will not air on Warner’s HBO Max. Paramount+ costs $5.99 a month with ads, and $9.99 a month for no ads, but you can sign up for a free month’s trial through March 31.
So, why can’t you stream all the games for free? Blame capitalism. March Madness is a huge money-maker for the networks. In 2016, CBS and Warner’s Turner Sports extended their broadcast rights through 2032, priced at roughly $1 billion a year . And as long as millions of people are paying to watch the games, don’t expect them to stream free anywhere.
Here’s the complete tournament schedule:
First Four: Thursday, March 18 (TruTV and TBS)
First Round: Friday, March 19 and Saturday, March 20 (CBS, TBS, TNT and TruTV)
Second Round: Sunday, March 21 and Monday, March 22 (CBS, TBS, TNT and TruTV)
Sweet 16: Saturday, March 27 and Sunday, March 28 (CBS for afternoon games and TBS for primetime games)
Elite Eight: Monday, March 29 and Tuesday, March 30 (CBS on Monday and TBS on Tuesday)
Final Four: Saturday, April 3 (CBS)
National Championship: Monday, April 5 (CBS)