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March Madness 2018: How to stream the NCAA tournament live

All 67 games start streaming today. You can watch many of them for free.

A North Carolina player dunks the basketball in a 2017 playoff game against Gonzaga. Chris Steppig - Pool/NCAA Photos via Getty Images
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

The NCAA March Madness college basketball tournament gets going today just after noon eastern time, when Oklahoma tips off against Rhode Island.

Like every other live sports event, the best way to watch this one is by turning on your TV. It’s easier to watch live sports on TV than on the internet.

But unlike some sports events, the TV networks that broadcast March Madness know that some of you will want to stream the games. Especially on Thursday and Friday, when many of you have to be in the office or somewhere else without a TV.

So CBS and Turner, which are sharing coverage of the tournament, are once again streaming all 67 games. We’ll walk you thorough it, but here’s the tl;dr: You can stream all of the CBS games for free. And if you are a pay TV subscriber, you can also stream the games on Turner’s networks — TBS, TNT and TruTV.

The big idea: All of the games will stream on the NCAA’s March Madness site and via “The NCAA March Madness Live App,” which is available for many devices, including iOS, Android, Roku and Apple TV. Individual TV networks, like CBS, are also streaming the games via their own sites and apps.

The basics: CBS and Turner (TBS, TNT, TruTV) are sharing TV rights for the games again this year. If CBS is carrying a game, you can stream it for free. If Turner is carrying a game, you will (eventually) need to prove that you’re either a pay TV customer or someone who at least has a trial subscription to a pay TV service.

Details: CBS is carrying 21 games. You won’t have to log in to stream those. Turner’s channels will have the other 46 games. You will eventually have to log in with some kind of cable TV or other pay TV credential to stream those.

CBS and Turner are splitting up this week’s games, as well as next week’s Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games. But the Final Four games and the championship game will all be on Turner’s networks, which means you’ll either need to pay to stream them or plan ahead (see below).

A wrinkle: You can’t stream the CBS games for free on your TV with a connected device like Apple TV. If you want to stream those games on a big screen, you’ll need to subscribe to CBS’s “All Access” service.

If you’re supposed to pay but don’t want to pay: Turner will offer a three-hour “preview mode” where you can watch the games on its platforms without paying. So you could almost certainly watch at least one game on Turner’s broadcasts for free. And if you have multiple devices, you can extend that: You can get one three-hour window on your laptop and another on your phone, etc.

Another option for people who don’t want to pay: See if you can get a trial offer from one of the pay TV streaming services that have both CBS and Turner channels, like Sling or YouTube TV. You will probably have to give them your credit card to get the free trial, though.

One new feature the networks are offering this year: Fast Break — what amounts to a dedicated streaming feed featuring “whip-around coverage of every game being played during the first round of the tournament.” It will be available on mobile apps and the web. But note that if you’re watching it, it will count against your three-hour preview allocation.

This article originally appeared on

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