There are a lot of ways to watch March Madness online, from streaming the NCAA basketball tournament on your phone or laptop to using a media streaming device or watching through an app on your smart TV. But for many viewers, plain ‘ol cable is still the go-to for live sports.
PCMag and Sports Illustrated teamed up to survey 688 US adults on their TV-watching and video streaming habits around March Madness. We found that most viewers will still tune in via cable broadcast; perhaps because of convenience, or the breadth of games available in most cable packages. We found that 30 percent of viewers planned to stream the games, either on their TV, laptop, smartphone, or tablet. As with our findings on Super Bowl streaming trends, younger demographics are more likely to stream March Madness than older age groups.
In the 18- to 24-year-old age bracket, almost 60 percent of viewers plan to stream the games. For younger viewers, streaming is the easiest way to watch every game on any device, using either a virtual cable package from services like Sling or YouTube TV, or using their parents’ cable logins with the March Madness Live app.
Of those watching the games via connected devices, 28 percent said they’re using Roku devices, while 23 perccent are partial to Amazon Fire TV. Respondents also listed other streaming platforms, including Android TV—one of the new options the NCAA added this year—as well as Google Chromecast and game consoles including PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
The demographic breakdown of streaming versus cable is about what you’d expect. The 18- to 24-year-olds are the only streaming-first age group, but the 25 to 34 age bracket is close; cable TV accounts for 51 percent versus streaming at 45 percent.
The older age groups are where cable still dominates. For respondents ages 35-44, 63 percent watch March Madness on cable. In the 45-54 bracket, it’s 72 percent; for 55- to 64-year-olds it’s 70 percent, and 73 percent for viewers above age 65.
Miraculously, 5 percent of overall respondents said they still watch over-the-air broadcasts, meaning an old-school TV set with an antenna or rabbit ears. Unsurprisingly, most of the OTA viewers are well over age 50.
This year’s Final Four games air Saturday night starting at 6pm ET on CBS, or wherever you’re streaming the games. If you’re curious about how exactly streaming providers beam live games to millions of viewers around the world, dive into our explainer on the inner workings of streaming tech.