MLB Blackout Rules
MLB Blackout Policies
MLB blackout rules are one of a kind. Many baseball fans complain about blackouts. In some instances, over six teams are blacked out in an area. Because of this, baseball fans from around the country have been calling for a change in the system.
What causes a blackout? Read on to find the three reasons why certain teams are blacked out in your area.
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Major League Baseball Blackout Rules
Rules and policies of local and national media
Major League Baseball blackout rules are different than the NFL's. In the Nation Football League, games are blacked out within a 75-mile radius of an NFL stadium and may be broadcasted if the game is a road game or if the game sells-out 72 hours or more before the start of the game. In the MLB, things are a bit different. Games are blacked out based on three criteria.
- Local broadcast and cable stations which have contracts with a team have priority over national broadcasters. If a game is televised on ESPN, but the a local station like Fox Sports SW also hold the rights to the game, ESPN will be blacked out.
- Fox has exclusive nationwide rights for MLB games on Saturdays between 3:55PM ET and 7:00PM ET. ESPN has the same rights for games on Sunday after 8:00PM ET. Games beginning during these time periods can only be telecast by the network holding the exclusive national rights (games that run long are not cut off). For example, if a game is being shown on MLB Extra Innings and the game runs past 7PM ET on Sunday, the game is allowed to be shown for its remainder. The Texas Rangers and Florida Marlins are exempt from the exclusive nationwide policies because a majority of their games are played at night when playing at home on Sundays due to the weather. TBS does not hold nationwide exclusivity to their Sunday afternoon game-of-the-week.
- Radio stations (including flagships) are not allowed to include MLB games in the live Internet streams of their station programming.
Due to these rules, fans hundreds of miles away are unable to watch their favorite teams play. Fans in Iowa cannot watch the Brewers, Cardinals, Cubs, Royals, Twins or White Sox. Fans in Las Vegas are unable to watch the A's, Angels, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Giants or Padres.
MLB Blackout Rules for Hawaii
Sadly, the MLB blacks out all games on the West Coast for Hawaii. That's 10 MLB teams.
MLB Blackout Workaround
If you are a subscriber to MLB Network on television, there isn't much you can do as far as a workaround. The good thing is that, hopefully, if there is a blackout the game will instead show on one of your local channels.
However, if you are a MLB.tv subscriber online, there is a workaround. You can use what is known as a VPN. This will bypass your own IP address making it look like you are living somewhere else. You will then have full access to the channels.
Sadly, most VPNs are slow. You will likely have to setup a pay service in order to use it.
The LA Times wrote an article about this very subject on April 25, 2015.
Note the section which reads:
The practice violates MLB.TV's terms and conditions. Violators risk losing their service and paying a $100 early termination fee. In addition, some lawyers say, the VPN workaround could violate provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
Bud Selig on the Blackout Rules
“I hear more about people who can't get the game, and, yes, I've already told our people we have to do something about it.
Will the Blackout Rules Change?
There has been much talk about whether or not the blackout rules will change. There was talk about it in 2013, 2014, and 2015. I'm sure there will still be talk about it in 2016.
This year there is an ongoing lawsuit against MLB blackout rules. However, the MLB will likely force the lawsuit to stay in court for as long as possible and pray for a favorable outcome.
Sadly, there is no end in sight and the supposed success of the blackout rule may spread to further sports blackouts across the board.
Even though the MLB knows that customers hate the blackouts, they don't seem to care other than pandering to the press about it. There has yet been any real progress.