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.
They are super annoying, but you can get around them here. http://mlbtvblackout.blogspot.com/
"The rules are so stupid that you would think its the government! ITS TIME TO DO
Actually...This is the free market at work. But, whatever. You don't have to make sense.
But did you actually have to bring politics into EVEN THIS conversation?
The rules are so stupid that you would think its the government! ITS TIME TO DO
So riddle me this, I'm blacked out of Pirates-Cardinals on ESPN in suburban Washington DC, firmly in the Nationals market.
Holy Heck! So, I hit 214-dash-1, and there I have it in HD. Never used the "dash" button before. Thank you, SpringRubber, though I feel a bit stupid.
Saturday, June 15, 2013...Here in Los Angeles...An LA Dodgers @ Pirates game that started at 1-pst is on local channel 9. Giants/Atlanta which started at the same time is blacked out on the MLB network on Direct TV channel 213, but you CAN watch it in letterbox format on MLB alternate channel 214.
But I live in northern NY and they black out red Sox games up here. Not even in the new england region.
This is very interesting and helpful, something that is sorely needed in the bizarre world of blackouts.
I was wondering if you have advice for my situation, I live in ALbany NY, OUTSIDE of the Boston territory area, and ESPN STILL blacks out the Red Sox games. Am I confused about the territory? Or is ESPN in error? And if they are in error how do I get it fixed? Is there a way to contact ESPN?
Saturday, May 25, 2013...
Here in Los Angeles...An LA Angel game that started at 11:00 am pst in KC is on FS West. A 1 o'clock pst game on MLB Network is blacked out. However, a 1 o'clock
Cubs game on WGN is NOT blacked out.
Maybe they consider WGN "grandfathered" in?
I have DirecTV MLB Extra Innings so I can watch Pirates games. Every couple of weeks they flat out don't carry a game and its nowhere else to be found. I just figured they said F-it, its the Pirates, who's gonna notice.
Here's what I don't understand. I have DirecTV and live in the Philadelphia market. DirecTV in this market doesn't carry Comcast SportsNet Philly. I understand Comcast is the reason why, which still makes no sense because in Chicago, for example, DirecTV carries Comcast SportsNet Chicago. What in the hell is the difference? But why does MLB black out games I could get on MLB Network or ESPN when they are being co-carried locally on CSN Philly? See I'm confused even in writing this. I have no chance of watching the game on CSN Philly. A game is carried on ESPN or MLB Network and it STILL gets blacked out. Doesn't seem fair or make sense. I'm not a Philly sports fan, so it doesn't matter that much to me. But somebody needs to explain the this difference for the two markets. A petty fight between the two companies? Is it because Comcast is a local Philly corporation? I don't plan on EVER going back to Comcast anyway so I'll live with it gladly. But it still seems silly.
An interesting thing happened in the Indians v Royals series last week. They played a double header on Sunday and neither team was allowed to broadcast the night game, because of ESPN's blackout rules. However, MLB.tv did broadcast the game (which was not on ESPN), meaning the only people (with MLB.tv) who could not watch the game were people who lived in the Cleveland and Kansas City MLB.tv blackout zones. You know, the only people who would have wanted to see the game.
What is ridiculous with the blackout rules is MLB's refusal to adapt when a team changes broadcasters. You mentioned Comcast Houston. I live in West Texas in an area outside of Comcast Houston's coverage. I went to request it online, and I got a note saying I am outside of Comcast Houston's target area and that we likely won't ever have the station. Yet MLB has the Astros games blacked out here in West Texas because up until this year they aired on Fox Sports Southwest, and when they were on FSSW we fell into the Astros target area. So why hasn't MLB woken up and adjusted the target areas for teams?
The fact remains that while the blackout will be removed for national games next year, it won't be removedf for MLB.TV, so if you fall into an area where you are classified as part of the taget range, you will continue to be blacked out of those reular cable broadcasts until 90 minutes after the game ends.
What kills me is what is considered a "local" team. If you live in Iowa, the Royals, Cardinals, Cubs, White Sox, Brewers, AND Twins are all considered "local" teams. Buying Extra Innings or MLB.tv is pretty much a waste of money because all those games would be blacked out, and there's no cable or satellite service I'm aware of that will give an Iowan all the necessary RSNs to watch those teams. Meanwhile, I live in Omaha (a stone throw from Iowa) where the Royals are my only "local" team (about 200 miles from Kauffman Stadium). Brilliant rules.
@patgorse Nothing is further from the truth, i only point out how
stupid the broadcast rules are.Actually the free market is not protected
by antitrust exemptions nor MONOPOLIES AS IS IN MY AREA!!!!!!!
@patgorse It should be available in HD on channel 214-1.
MLB Network is a special case because not only do they abide by MLB's regional blackout restrictions, but they also will black out the primary game if they decide that the secondary game is more appropriate to your viewing area. I assume they have to do this because they can only show one game or the other, not both. I think cable viewers get a much more seamless experience of this because both the primary and secondary game are able to be viewed on the single MLB Network channel based on what feed MLB Network sends to your local cable headend. On DirecTV, it's a bit more jarring because you have to change channels to 214 if they determine that you're going to get the secondary game instead of the primary game.
Thanks for the info. I have charter cable TV and never had a problem till this year. Would think that being in the new York market we wouldn't have this issue. Thanks again.
@Ed Combs It depends on the region you are in and if you get the NESN local feed or NESN national feed.
Technically if you live in New York, you should get the National feed, which doesn't blackout the games but provides alternative programming. However some of the affiliates have contracts to air the local feed, in which case the Red Sox games can only be watched on NESN and not the national feed. If it isn't blacked out on the local feed, then the national feed will usually be blacked out, at least until the end of this season.
For example I have DISH Network. My brother has UVerse. In both of our cases, outside of Fox Sports Southwest, the games are blacked out on YES, FS San Diego, FS North, NESN, MASN, etc. because we don't live in their broadcast region. We get those networks, but we can't watch the games when they air live on those networks, the exception being WGN (since it is a national station and not a regional station). However we can catch those teams on MLB Network, MLB.TV, TBS, ESPN, etc.
On the other hand when our local team, the Rangers, plays on TBS, ESPN, MLB, etc., unless it is in an exclusive like Sunday Night Baseball or one of the games ESPN exercises the rights to broadcast in the restricted territory, usually on monday nights, we get blacked out on those stations and can only watch the FS Southwest broadcast.
It all comes down to MLB's protected zone restrictions. I know in Fayetteville, Arkansas, the national broadcasts are blacked out for the Rangers (FSSW), Astros (Comcast Houston), and St. Louis (FSSW+) games because those 3 affiliates have the protected licenses, and all 3 come into their home market. MLB has always blacked out the game and differed to the local broadcast because they don't want to hurt the local carriers.
@ChrisVanDoren Time Warner Cable carries NESN. Check your TWCS affiliate to see if they carry the NESN national feed or the regional feed. If they carry the regional feed, then you can watch those games on NESN, placing you in their broadcast territory. If it is the national feed, then I would contact Major League Baseball and see why they classify you as being in Red Sox territory, since they are the ones who blackout area games on ESPN.
@patgorse Blackout rules are based off of the main broadcast contract. Comcast Chicago holds the main broadcast contract for both the Cubs and White Sox. Games are then sublicensed to WGN and WCIU from Comcast Chicago. Despite the fact that WGN is a national network, since the contract applies to Comcast Chicago, it gets an exemption to the blackout rules across the nation outside of the Chicago area.
@LastingsMilledgeville The only Pirates games that haven't aired this year are the ones that ROOT Pittsburgh hasn't carried. ROOT Pittsburgh doesn't have a + station, so when the Penguins and Pirates play at the same time, they have shown the Penguins and not broadcast the Pirates. That includes tonight's game against the Nationals by the way.
@kdjohn34 CSN Philadelphia came up with a brilliant plan to only distribute their channel to the cable providers via land lines. Every other RSN distributes their feed to cable providers via satellite, and in that case, the FCC mandates that those feeds be available to satellite providers as well, but by distributing CSN Philadelphia only via land line, Comcast evades that FCC rule and thus is able to only allow Comcast (and select other cable providers) to carry CSN Philadelphia. From what I remember, the satellite providers took the issue to court, but it never went anywhere.
In short, Comcast is a sucky, smarmy company.
@DanielOrmsby Dear god. That's terrible. You have my sympathy. The CSN Houston launch has been a disaster from square one. I had no idea it was *that* bad.
@Joel SI have DISH network in Iowa. As part of the sports package, I get all of the Fox Sports stations. I can watch the Cards, Cubs, White Sox, Brewers, Royals and Twins, but no others.
@Joel S Oh yeah, there are plenty of hellacious markets like that. I think Vegas is another area that six teams claim.
So would TBS, but it's a device built in to protect local broadcasts. Frankly I hate it because we don't have FSSW at our house, so I only get to watch the Rangers Friday nights when they are locally on MyTV 16 and the occassional Saturday or Sunday night gane.
@DanielOrmsby Thanks. We have the NESN National Feed. I wrote to ESPN and didn't get a response. But both Nationally televised games (ESPN and TBS) this week did come through this week so maybe my note did help...? If there are any more problems I will try and contact MLB per your suggestion.
@SpringRubber @kdjohn34 Couldn't have said it better myself. Thanks for the additional evidence that Comcast sucks.
@kdjohn34 they're the worst.the only reason to have comcast is the phillies & they know it.thats why
they're so afraid to let direct & dish have it because they know they would get wiped out!