The response to MLB and Fox’s insanely frustrating blackout policy was overwhelming. We had numerous tweets pour in from frustrated fans all around the country stating how blackout policies were keeping them from watching their favorite teams. We heard from people blacked out in “local markets” three states away. Colorado Avalanche games blacked out in Omaha, Nebraska. Oakland A’s games blacked out in Las Vegas. Northwest Arkansas being claimed as a Houston Astros market even though it’s 10 hours away. The Reds, Braves, Nats, and Orioles sharing a home market in North Carolina and much more.
I’m not going to even pretend to know how all these blackout policies work in MLB, NBA, and the NHL, but I do know these rules prevent sports fans from watching their favorite team around the country way too much. Leagues and networks need to take notice of these grotesque policies that hurt fans. These are Blackout Horror Stories…
As I said in my tweet I live in NW North Carolina. I am somehow local to the Reds, the Braves, the Nats, and I forgot about the Orioles. I bet Baltimore wishes they could forget the Orioles. I am a Cubs fan and basically what this does to me is every time the Cubs play one of these teams I have to listen to the local broadcasters and not the Cubs. The worst part about this policy is the Reds aren’t available locally in my area. So most of the time I can’t even watch the Cubs even though I pay for the Extra Innings package. And the Fox blackout whenever they show a game does not make any sense to me. I don’t see how they can legally do that. I mean we pay the money for the package we should be able to watch whatever game when we want too.
I’m a Reds fan in Indianapolis, and I’m luckier than fans of other teams–I at least get 95 Reds games/year on Fox Sports Indiana. But those other 60+ games I can’t get on MLB.TV or Extra Innings. Like Joe Lucia wrote, I really want to get rid of cable, but not being able to watch the Reds is keeping me from doing it.
Las Vegas gets blacked out for the Diamondbacks, Padres, Dodgers, Angels, A’s, and Giants – none of which are within 200 miles of us.
Probably the most frustrating blackout experience I have experienced is WKYC’s (Cleveland NBC’s local affiliate) handling of NHL games when the Cleveland Indians are in season. WKYC has an arrangement to broadcast selected Sunday afternoon Indians games, often times in direct conflict with NHL playoff games. WKYC shows the Indians games and will join the NHL game in progress.
I realize that I do not live in a prime hockey market. However, with the technology available today I find it amazing that I cannot see the game in HD that I want to see, regardless of the city I live in. As a native of Buffalo and fan of the NHL I have chosen DirectTV so that I can buy the NHL Center Ice package. That allows me to ensure I will see every Sabres game that is televised on cable. Over the air broadcasts are another story and apparently the local affiliate can choose to not broadcast what the network shows.
This situation is especially unbearable for me when the Sabres are in the playoffs. If lucky, I would be able to catch the third period of the Sabres playoff game once the Indians game was over. At worst, the Indians game would go into extra innings and I would miss the entire game.
Today there are a few more options through some private internet sites that will show a grainy version of the game. The official online NHL solution is no help in this matter.
Repeated emails to WKYC, NBC, DirecTV and the NHL have been no help in this regard. I have proposed what I think to be reasonable alternatives to each entity with no success. Each response I have gotten has referenced legal contracts that prevent any resolution in this matter.
With the recent long term deal between NBC and the NHL I am not optimistic this will be resolved any time soon. The NHL fan in Cleveland will continue to suffer. There aren’t many of us in Cleveland so it looks like the NHL playoffs on Sunday afternoons will continue to be pre-empted here.
As a native of Fremont, Ohio (located between Toledo and Cleveland on the I-80 Turnpike roughly) I am an avid Cavs, Indians and Browns fans. Of course with the Indians we have Sports Time Ohio so we don’t miss a game. However the Browns regularly suck and will sometimes get knocked off our block (blacked out) if the Bengals or Steelers are playing. Two seasons ago the Browns faced Minnesota in the season opener but the game (at Cleveland) was blacked out in the Northwest Ohio area. Generally I miss a couple Browns games per season due to the shitty nature of the team, especially in the later weeks when we are all but eliminated from the playoffs (as usual by Week 10).
As far as the Cavs go, the Blue Jackets always get top billing for FSN-Ohio. If the Cavs and BJ’s play the same day, you can guarantee you won’t see the Cavs play. It was also like this in the LeBron James era when we were one of the best in the NBA via record. The Blue Jackets were also one of the worst teams but either road/away for either team, always the BJ’s despite me being 2 hrs from Cleveland and 2.5 hours from Columbus.
Even after LeBron is gone, both teams suck and we still get the Blue Jackets. The appeal of hockey in Ohio isn’t strong at all, but I guarantee we love our Cavs regardless of whether we started watching during the LeBron era or not.
I’m a die-hard White Sox fan living in Baton Rouge. Baton Rouge is a bad MLB market to begin with. The default “home team” is the Astros (or the “Disastros,” as my colleague Astros fan puts it). Occasionally – perhaps a dozen times a year – if the Astros’ schedule doesn’t conflict, Fox Sports Houston (which we get in BR) will carry Rangers game. But other than that, it’s a steady diet of lousy Houston Astros baseball, supplemented by the national broadcasts (Fox normally carries NL East or Central games). So, basically a disaster for a fan of an AL Central team. (I’m hoping this improves when the Astros move to the AL.) Needless to say, I subscribe to Extra Innings.
But the real kick in the teeth is that Baton Rouge, a full 7 hours away and without the benefit of any Dallas stations, is subject to Dallas blackout rules. So on the couple of occasions every year that my White Sox play the Rangers (opening series this year, hooray!), not only can I not see it on Fox Sports Houston (who is usually playing the Astros, or if not maybe some scintillating Texas high school action), but my Extra Innings coverage gets blacked out as well. In summary, can’t watch it on any available local market channel, but it gets blacked out on MLB Extra Innings because I guess I’m within that market. Blech.
Really enjoy your stuff, keep up the good work.
As an Iowan, we are in the complete blackout abyss. As a Minnesota sports fan in Iowa that is unable to subscribe to DirecTV’s Sports Pack, I am completely screwed for watching my Twins or T’Wolves. Try subscribing to MLB.TV, I not only get blacked out of the Twins, but also the Royals, White Sox, Cubs, Brewers and Cardinals on not only MLB.TV but also on ESPN telecasts. Our local cable, which is the only thing my landlord allows, carries only the Fox Sports affiliate of the Cardinals. Try getting NBA League Pass for my iPad or iPhone, blacked out of the T’Wolves. Basically, I am completely unable to watch any Minnesota pro sports except for my Vikings because the NFL allows you to at least see your teams sometimes.
As a Cleveland Browns fan living in Cincinnati, I fully endorse all NFL blackout rules. It means whenever the Bengals play a home game, I get to watch the Browns.
If you’d like to share your Blackout Horror Stories and tell these leagues and networks how much their stupid blackout policy sucks and is hurting your experience as a sports fan, send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. As more insanely ridiculous stories like this come to light, perhaps these networks and leagues will finally start to take notice how they’re hurting their own viewers and fans.