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MLB Blackout Rules

Updated on July 19, 2015

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.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 by Team
MLB Blackout Rules by Team

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 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.

What do you think of the MLB blackout policies?

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    • tvyps profile image

      Teri Villars 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Interesting, I didn't know most of this.

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image

      Wednesday-Elf 6 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      I agree with Bud Selig - the blackout rules need to be changed. I just moved to St. Louis so it will be interesting to see if any of the Cardinal games are unavailable to me this MLB season. :-).

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I never really understood it and I think it is stupid

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I would like to thank lozipan for her blogspot advice. Nothing pisses me off more than blackouts. We were staying in a nice hotel for our anniversary one year, just here in town and when we got there, the game was blacked out! We were so pissed! Nothing pisses me off more than blackouts! Such nonsense.

    • hunksparrow profile image

      hunksparrow 6 years ago

      Thanks for answering this frustrating question. I never quite understood it before.

    • profile image

      PorscheRandall 7 years ago

      I don't get it! I buy the MLB package from Direct TV and so far this season all the Phillies road games except Washington have been blacked out! Atlanta, Houston, Florida! What the heck is up with that?! Home games I can understand road games? What good is the MLB package? $150 rip off!!

    • profile image

      JoeBlack 8 years ago

      That's interesting stuff, never really thought about it before. Gave you five stars because of the info. Maybe you can take a look at my lens about baseball hitting when you get a chance. My name is Joe Rodgers, please let me know what you think.

    • profile image

      lozipan 8 years ago

      [in reply to lozipan] Oops! I meant

    • profile image

      lozipan 8 years ago

      Old thread, but I found a way to get by the blackouts in case anyone is interested.

      You use a proxy server and I found out how to do it here:

    • profile image

      jacka 8 years ago

      i live over 500 miles from ny and get black of the yankees!!!!!!how stupid!!!!!!!!

    • profile image

      eric73177 8 years ago

      MLB needs to change these ridiculous blackout rules. I live in Columbus Ohio and can't watch the Pittsburgh Pirates. They are not on local TV here (3 1/2 hours away) and still blacked out! Just stupid!!