On Wednesday night, I flipped my TV over to ESPN at 7 PM to watch the Nationals-Braves game. I was planning on writing a review of ESPN's experiment with commentators at field level, but lo and behold, I was treated to a block of ESPNEWS instead. I immediately realized I was getting blacked out, which makes sense (since I'm in Washington's viewing area), but makes no sense at the same time since I was able to watch Monday's Nationals-Braves game on ESPN with no issues whatsoever.
That's right, two games in the same series fell under different blackout rules.
Blackouts are a confusing reality of being a baseball fan, and even though they'll be largely disappearing in 2014 with the advent of MLB's new TV deals witih ESPN, Fox, and Turner, we're still dealing with them in the 2013 season. After doing some research, I found out why exactly I was blacked out on Wednesday and not on Monday.
Monday games on ESPN have an exception that up to three times per season, ESPN will allow a "co-exist" with the local channel. For instance, as someone in the Nationals market, the game will be aired on both MASN and ESPN as opposed to what happened on Wednesday, when ESPN was blacked out and the game was exclusively aired on MASN in my area.
Are you confused yet? Good, because you should be. Here's a summary of the blackout policies in regards to *just* ESPN…
-All Sunday games with a scheduled start time after 4:10 PM eastern are blacked out from watching online, as they air nationally on ESPN. Well, except for the Rangers and Braves, who are allowed to play home games on Sunday nights because of how hot it gets in the summer in Texas and Atlanta. Those games aren't blacked out nationally despite falling into ESPN's exclusive window.
-All Monday games broadcast on ESPN are blacked out locally on ESPN, but are available for viewing on the local RSN, unless ESPN decides to use one of their three co-exists per team on the game. Of course, there's no way of finding out if ESPN is using the window until game time. Oh, and if the game airs on ESPN2, there aren't any coexists available, so don't even bother trying if your local team is scheduled there.
-All Wednesday games broadcast on ESPN are blacked out locally on ESPN, but are available for viewing on the local RSN.
And of course, as in my case it doesn't matter if you don't get the RSN of the team you're getting blacked out of from your local cable company. Just look at the territorial rights map, and learn to love it. Look at the poor people in Texas that *still* haven't gotten CSN Houston yet.
But as we all should know by now, the blackout rage is coming to an end once the 2014 season starts. The ESPN Monday and Wednesday blackouts will be gone, and you can watch the national feed or the local feed (with probably just the local feeds available on MLB.tv). The infamous Fox Saturday blackouts will be gone as well, which will eliminate rage like the situation this past weekend, where the three games featured six teams in the eastern time zone (including three in the northeast).
We've just about cleared the blackout hump, baseball fans. But that doesn't mean that the rules we still have to contend with for the next five months aren't ridiculous.