March Madness 2019: How to watch NCAA basketball tournament games live


Ja Morant of the Murray State Racers dunks on the Marquette Golden Eagles. Murray State defeated Marquette 83-64.

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Day 1 is in the books. 

The first full day of March Madness didn’t include much in the way of upsets or buzzer beaters, but a No. 12 seed did advance thanks to Ja Morant’s incredible effort. His triple double (17 points, 11 rebounds, 16 assists) led Murray State to a win over No. 5 seed Marquette. It was the first triple double in the tournament since Draymond Green in 2012, and the first triple double for a guard since Dwayne Wade in 2003.

Friday is the second day of Round 1 and will feature the tournament debut of college basketball’s best player, Zion Williamson, when Duke tips off in prime time this evening. In other action, No. 1 seed Virginia plays this afternoon and No. 2 North Carolina plays a late game after Duke tonight.

Want to watch? Here’s your guide.

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March Madness 2019: Everything you need to know


When are the March Madness games on?

With 68 teams invited, the NCCA holds four play-in games to get the field down to 64, at which point the math works out to have four regional tournaments of 16 teams each. The winners of the four regional tournaments then advance to the Final Four, held this year in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

  • Friday March 21: Round 1
  • Saturday and Sunday, March 22 to 23: Round 2
  • March 28 to 29: Sweet Sixteen
  • March 30 to 31: Elite Eight
  • April 6: Final Four
  • April 8: National Championship Game

Which channels are the games on?

March Madness games are shown across four channels: CBS, TBS, TNT and TruTV. (Editors’ note: CNET is a division of CBS.)

How can I watch for free?

Go to the NCAA’s March Madness Live site or use its March Madness Live app and you’ll be able to watch games for free. As with most things that are free, there is a catch. 

To get full access to every game you’ll need to sign in with credentials (username and password) from a pay TV provider, typically your cable, satellite or live TV streaming service. 

If you don’t sign in, you’ll be limited to only a 3-hour preview, after which point you’ll need to log in to continue watching games on TBS, TNT and TruTV. Games on CBS, meanwhile, don’t require pay TV credentials so you can stream all of them for free.

What are my other streaming options?

Cord cutters can use a live-TV streaming service to watch March Madness. In order to watch CBS’ coverage, however, you’ll need to make sure the service carries your local CBS station. Some streaming services carry all four channels for March Madness, but others will require you to mix and match services, which can save you money but could present a challenge when frantically changing channels to catch a potential buzzer-beater at the end of a close game.

Other stuff to know about live TV streaming services:

  • You’ll need a solid internet connection.
  • You can watch any of them on TV as long as your smart TV has the service’s app. You can also watch on your TV using a media streamer, including Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV and Chromecast.
  • You can also watch on iPhones, Android phonestablets and PC browsers.
  • You can sign up and cancel anytime, no contract required.
  • All of them offer free trial periods, so you can sign up to watch and then cancel.

Disclosure: CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of products featured on this page.

Streaming services with all four networks

DirecTV Now ($50)

DirecTV Now’s cheapest, $50-a-month Plus package includes CBS, TBS, TNT and TruTV. Click here to check availability of live local channels in your area.

See at DirecTV Now

Mix-and-match March Madness options

AT&T WatchTV ($15 or free) + CBS All Access ($6) = $21 or $6

AT&T WatchTV is a relative newcomer to the streaming game. It offers a more limited number of channels compared with its competitors but is much cheaper. It costs $15 a month for most people, but AT&T wireless customers on qualifying plans can get it for free. Among the 35 channels Watch TV offers are TBS, TNT and TruTV. 

Meanwhile, CBS All Access carries live CBS stations in many areas of the country (check the site to see if you’re covered) for $6 a month. Combine the two and you can watch all of the tournament games for about half the cost of a more fully-featured streaming service above.

Sling Blue ($25) + CBS All Access ($6) = $31

Neither of Sling TV’s plans offer CBS, but its $25-a-month Sling Blue plan includes TBS, TNT, and TruTV. Pair it with CBS All Access to pick up the games on CBS and you are still paying less than a competing streaming services at $31 a month. Better yet, you can sign up at a discount: Sling Blue is currently $15 a month for the first three months for new subscribers, bringing your March Madness cost down to $21 for the tournament when paired with CBS All Access.

OTA antenna for CBS games = free

Another option for watching games on CBS is to use an antenna to get free, over-the-air TV. You can attach an over-the-air digital antenna to nearly any TV, and solid antennas start as little as $10.

March Madness in 4K

Subscribers to DirecTV’s satellite service are in for a treat this month. DirecTV will reportedly broadcast March Madness games from March 19 to 30 in both 4K and HDR. You’ll be able to watch only a selection of games in 4K. The 4K broadcast schedule is reported to be on six days of the tournament from three locations:

  • March 19 to 20: First Four play-in games from Dayton, Ohio
  • March 22 and 24: Rounds 1 and 2 from Tulsa, Oklahoma
  • March 28 and 30: Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight from Anaheim, California

Competing satelite provider Dish is also broadcasting a selection of games in 4K. You can see its 4K broadcast schedule here, which includes four games on Friday:

  • Texas Tech vs. Northern Kentucky (1:20 p.m. ET)
  • Buffalo vs. Arizona St. (3:50 p.m. ET)
  • Houston vs. Georgia St. (7:15 p.m. ET)
  • Iowa State vs. Ohio State (9:45 p.m. ET)

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Originally published on March 5.
Update, March 22: Adds detail of the first full day of the tournament and Dish TV’s 4K schedule.

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