MLB.TV Coordinators Still Can’t Get Blackout Territories Right

Thankfully I am not going to waste $119.95 for this season’s MLB.TV Premium subcription since I am deployed, so this will not affect me being blacked out from any game this season.  Last season during my travels up and down the west coast, I definitely experienced tons of blacked out games.

And when I mean tons, I’m talking about being blacked out from games involving teams that are not part of the PRIMARY television territory.  When I mean primary, I mean the city / main markets that are the actual home team’s markets.

Many fans across the country, like myself, have raised complaints by sending emails out to MLB.com on this issue.   Even our own Commissioner Bud Selig is getting involved in trying to get this blackout situation dealt with.

So far here are some changes that has happened….nothing.  Not one thing has been done about it.  What you are about to read are some examples of what an ordinary typical MLB fan living out on the west coast is going thru, especially transplants, like myself, who want to see their own out-of-market teams play and still being affected by live blackouts for no reason.

With that said, here is Example #1:

- Sierra Vista, Arizona…a small town in Cochise County located approximately 70 miles southeast of Tucson.  Of course, FOX Sports Arizona, the exclusive home for the Arizona Diamondbacks, has primary television territorial rights in this area (including most of New Mexico) for D-Backs games.  That’s a given.

According to MLB.TV, the San Diego Padres also have territorial rights to southeast Arizona.

One slight problem…eh, make that two…no, make that three slight problems:

1)  Channel 4 San Diego is the local primary cable television network for Padres games (Channel 4 San Diego is owned and operated by Cox Communications San Diego). 

2)  Channel 4 San Diego is only seen on cable throughout San Diego County; the channel is not available on DIRECTV or DISH Network EVEN if you live within the county.  The only other way to get Channel 4 San Diego’s coverage of Padres games on TV outside of San Diego County is if you have Cox Communications in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Time Warner Cable in the Palm Springs and the El Centro, California / Yuma, Arizona TV markets; however, parts of the Yuma area, or should I say the outskirts east of Yuma do not get Time Warner Cable or any cable provider in their area…yet they are still blacked out from Padres games on MLB.TV?

3)  Sierra Vista, Arizona has Cox Communications as its only cable provider in the area…but Sierra Vista is part of the Tucson television market, not San Diego.  Driving from Sierra Vista to PETCO Park, according to Bing Maps is 481.1 miles (6 hours, 57 minutes).  And that’s just the quick way, jumping on I-10 in Benson and getting on I-8 outside of Casa Grande, which will lead you into Yuma, El Centro, and what do you know?  San Diego!

Regardless of the truth, the people that control MLB.TV still thinks Padres games from Channel 4 San Diego can be seen in parts of the Tucson TV market even though its a 100% myth.  Therefore, its blacked out on MLB.TV whether you like it or not.

Let’s move on to Example #2

- Las Vegas, Nevada…aka Sin City, aka the worst city to ever have a local sports franchise.  We won’t go into that in this blog but maybe for another one at another time.  But Cox Communications, as mentioned above, carries Padres games in Las Vegas.  However, Channel 4 San Diego’s feed is only seen there for just Padres games.  The primary regional sports networks that are only available on cable in Vegas are FOX Sports West and Prime Ticket, which are the exclusive cable TV homes of the Angels and Dodgers, respectively. 

Most of the Angels and Dodgers games are seen on the FOX-owned regional sports networks throughout most of Southern California (except in San Diego where both FS West and Prime Ticket blackout their games in that area) and Las Vegas.

Slight problems to that?  There isn’t just some, there’s a lot.

1)  Some Angels games are seen on KCOP Channel 13 (the FOX-owned MyNetworkTV flagship station; FOX Sports West produces their games on KCOP).

2)  Some Dodgers games are seen on KCAL 9 Sports (station is co-owned in a duopoly with CBS 2 in L.A.). 

3)  None of the Angels’ or Dodgers’ games seen on both KCOP and KCAL are seen outside of L.A. except where some cable systems like Time Warner Cable in both the Palm Springs and El Centro / Yuma markets get KCOP and KCAL (except in Yuma where KCAL is the only L.A. station available on TWC).  But if you live in Vegas and both Angels and Dodgers are only on KCOP and KCAL, you don’t get their games at all.  Period.  Just hope that their Freeway Series games are shown on at least one of the FOX RSN channels.

4)  Las Vegas, according to MLB.TV, is also part of the television territory of the following teams:

   – San Francisco Giants

   – Oakland Athletics

   – Arizona Diamondbacks

5)  Comcast SportsNet Bay Area (Giants), Comcast SportsNet California (Athletics), and FOX Sports Arizona (Diamondbacks) are not available on cable TV in Las Vegas. 

6)  Both Comcast SportsNet Bay Area and California feeds are part of DIRECTV’s Choice package (satellite TV term for basic), therefore you do not need DIRECTV’s Sports Pack or MLB Extra Innings just to get Giants and A’s games in Las Vegas.

7)  Some Giants games that are produced by Comcast SportsNet Bay Area are seen on their over-the-air flagship station, NBC Universal-owned KNTV NBC 11 in the San Francisco Bay Area; their over-the-air coverage are networked and are seen on many TV markets throughout most of Northern and Central California, Reno, Nevada, and even Medford, Oregon.  Las Vegas does not have a local TV station airing Giants games via KNTV.

8)  FOX Sports Arizona’s coverage of Diamondbacks baseball is only available on DIRECTV’s Premier Choice package, thus once again you do not need to subscribe to MLB Extra Innings in Las Vegas.

9)  DISH Network in Las Vegas will only give you FOX Sports West and Prime Ticket regardless of programming package you receive.  Therefore you only get mostly Angels and Dodgers.

Example #3

Before moving back to the Puget Sound region (Seattle – Tacoma – Everett – Olympia) last June, I spent about three years (with one year deployment to Iraq in between) residing in the ever-so-mighty metropolis of Fairbanks, Alaska, where FSN Northwest (soon to be called ROOT Sports Northwest effective March 31st) is shown on GCI Cable throughout the Last Frontier State.  Every single Seattle Mariners game is shown up there on FSN Northwest whenever they are not on big FOX. 

You will love this one…MLB.TV does not consider the state of Alaska as part of the Mariners’ TV territory, even (wait for it, Canada)…the Toronto Blue Jays.  I was able to watch the Mariners play the Angels on FOX Sports West via MLB.TV, LIVE…not just archived, I said LIVE.

So there you all have it.  MLB.TV is not really worth to buy if you want to watch your favorite teams LIVE.  My suggestion, stick with the Gameday Audio (Where Baseball Blackouts Is Always Never On).  As for the TV side, the folks at MLB.com really need to do a few things:

1)  Go onto USPS.com and look at every single zip code again.

2)  Look at every zip code and see what city / town falls under that zip code

3)  Look at that city / town and see what cable TV / satellite providers are available in that area

4)  Determine which platform to use to determine blackouts with zip codes pending on the area and availability…over-the-air, cable, or satellite

5)  Get rid of the blackouts of all live regional FOX games on Saturday afternoons.  Do you really think that the people in Pittsburgh have to suffer by watching the Pirates on their local FOX station instead of the one or two other FOX regional games that they would have an interest in?

6)  Add the TBS and MLB Network (only when they are producing a game) feeds to the MLB.TV choices.  I always believed that if a national TV network will air any MLB game, they should be the only ones carrying that game including within the respective teams’ markets.  Sorry, I just can’t stand having 2 regional networks plus a national network covering the same damn game…unless its Vin Scully behind the mic.  Other than that, its totally senseless.   

If anyone that does work and control the MLB.TV side of things reads this, I ask for this offer.  If the blackout situation can’t get fixed by the end of this season, I do not mind applying for a job with you all in a few short years and personally take control of this ridiculous blackout situation.  I always believe that the fans, like myself, deserve what they paid for.  I would like to work out where we find these zip codes, cities, towns, states, etc. and put them in the appropriate television territories instead of putting in teams that don’t belong in other team’s markets.

That’s my request.  Need I say more?

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