ESPN, AP Photos
NEW YORK — Finding March Madness basketball games online is easier this year, but watching them isn't if you've ditched your cable or satellite TV service.
This is good news for most Americans — those who pay for cable or satellite service. If you already get the Turner channels — TNT, TBS and TruTV — on television, you should be able to watch live video of every game for free on computers and mobile devices.
But last year, Turner gave those who don't have cable or satellite an option to view all 67 games online for a one-time fee of $4. So if you didn't want to pay $70 or more each month for cable service, you could just pay $4 once for the games.
That was quite a deal. In fact, it was too good to last.
Turner says the plan all along has been to eliminate that option once people got more comfortable with signing in with their pay-TV accounts to watch online. NBC and its sister cable channels have been doing that every other year with the Olympics. HBO, which like Turner is owned by Time Warner Inc., makes you sign in to watch its shows online. There's no online-only option with either.
It's a concept the television industry calls TV Everywhere. The catch is you still need a TV subscription to watch online.
In doing so, the networks are discouraging cord-cutting, which is still uncommon, but growing fast. Networks want to preserve the fees that cable and satellite companies pay them for every subscriber who gets those channels on television.
The good news here is that to compensate for the disappearing online-only option, Turner has made it very easy for online viewers to access live games of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament. That's crucial when games are during the workday, when access to a TV is limited.
For starters, Turner and its broadcasting partner, CBS Corp., have centralized where you can find the games.
Just go to www.ncaa.com/march-madness on a Windows or Mac computer or download the free NCAA March Madness Live app on an iPad, iPhone or Android device. You'll see a schedule of games. Just choose any already in progress.
CBS is broadcasting about a quarter of the early-round games and most of the later ones. You can watch as much as you want of those games online.
The Turner games are limited to four hours without a password. You don't have to use that all at once. The idea is that you'd use that time to figure out your account information. In my case, it's the same one I use to access cable bills online.
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