It’s fun to watch a game at home with your friends and family. For the occasion, you might have apps and beverages lined up and the kids dressed in their sports idol’s jersey. But what happens if you tune into a local game and see a blackout notice? For cable and satellite viewers, programming blackouts can be incredibly frustrating, especially when you’re just trying to kick back, relax and watch a game.
The reasoning behind blackouts centers around television and radio broadcasts and who is able to view them. Sometimes programming is purposely blocked, preventing audiences in certain locations from receiving games.
How Blackouts Affect Sports Fans
This is because some regional sports networks have exclusive broadcasting rights for most games. The Big Four sports leagues—NFL, MLB, NHL and NBA—have or have had blackout policies in place. Contractual agreements between sports leagues and teams and the programming distributors, such as cable and satellite networks, may prevent content from airing. This means sometimes sports fans can’t watch their favorite games because they aren’t allowed to be aired thanks to certain “media markets,” like regional sports networks or local channels, having exclusive broadcasting rights.
You may have also heard that it’s because a sports league prohibits a game from being televised if the stadium didn’t sell out. This is true for some cases and is referent to as a location blackout. In other circumstances, it might have been “preempted.” This happens when one game is local and the second game is not, or if two networks (broadcast and non-broadcast) each scheduled the game to air in the same market.
People with cable and satellite consumers will be subjected to different blackout policies and restrictions depending on the sports package they use.
Types of Blackouts
There are different types of sports blackouts:
Location-based refers to national or regional geographic areas. This means some regions may have access to the game while others may not. For example, NHL blackouts are intended to allow regional sports networks the chance to air more localized games.
Device-based blocks content on specific types of devices, such as televisions and smartphones. For example, some football games from the National Football League aren’t viewable on mobile devices.
Streaming-based means the content is completely blocked and regulated and unable whether attempting to access it on a phone or TV.
Why OTA Users Don’t Need to Worry About Blackouts
What multichannel video programming distributor (MVPDs) consumers, such as those with satellite or cable, might not realize is that the games that are on broadcast television aren’t subjected to blackout stipulations. Luckily, over-the-air (OTA) TV viewers bypass channel blackouts completely.
Another great advantage of using an antenna is improved picture quality. MVPDs like streaming services reprocess OTA signals in order to carry them. Each time a signal is reprocessed, it loses quality.
In order to view games with OTA TV, you’ll need to make a one-time purchase of an antenna. This helpful guide can get you started.