Friday, April 6, 2012

4th Blacked-Out Season Begins; Giants Are on HawTel’s Digital Service, but Not Time-Warner’s System; Does MLB Leadership Care about Fans?

What we're supposed to be watching today -- but aren't.
The madness continues. The insult to baseball fans continues. The indifference to “the good of the game” continues, and so does the greed.

For the fourth straight year, Major League Baseball is condoning the refusal of Time-Warner Cable (dba Oceanic in Hawaii) and various broadcast baseball rights owners on the West Coast to cut a deal that will allow Giants, A’s, Mariners and Padres games to be carried in Hawaii.

Deals can be done. The Dodgers and Angels games are frequently on Oceanic’s Fox SportsNet West channel, so the questions also continue. Honolulu's KITV, owned by Hearst, is carrying 17 games this season, as it did last year. HawaiianTelcom has the Giants game on its digital service this afternoon.  What’s holding up a deal to allow cable coverage of the affected teams? And do the suits in MLB’s executive suites give a rip?

Time-Warner and Comcast blame each other. T-W says Comcast wants too much money, and Comcast simply says T-W Oceanic “has opted not to make…our Giants coverage available to their customers.” Local fans have repeatedly contacted those companies plus the Giants organization, the Federal Communications Commission and MLB’s headquarters, and they've either brushed us off or haven't bothered to waste a stamp.

Sports columnists Ferd Lewis of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle have written to condemn the blackout, and Senator Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii is one of a group of Democratic senators who are urging the FCC to end the blackouts. Said Inouye in a statement:

"Professional sports fans in Hawaii are at a significant disadvantage geographically and economically because unless their teams are on TV they have to expend significant time and resources to travel to watch them play. The fans are the lifeblood of these sports franchises and they should be able to watch their favorite teams play regardless of what state they live in. I would urge the FCC to take another look at sports blackouts and to think of the fans who want nothing more than to cheer their team to victory while promoting the franchise and expanding its base of support."

A New Indignity

Instead of watching the Giants-Diamondbacks game today we’re listening to the audio feed, and there’s something new this season: After every half inning, the feed pushes an obnoxious 10-second audio commercial that “shouts” at the listener on top of the KNBR radio feed. It comes out of nowhere and is completely unacceptable. That’s what we’ve told the Support staff via a message on the website. We’ll see if they care to do anything about it. April 7 Update: Here's's response: "Please forward your inquiry or comments directly to the team, as they are better suited to respond." That's totally unhelpful, of course, because the audio streaming platform is run by MLB, not the Giants. Why would the Giants cut into the stream with the 10-second commercial and step on KNBR's broadcast? They wouldn't, so it's a typical side-stepping response from MLB. Let's see what Support's response is to our second message. 


In addition to everything else, there’s something additionally wrong about blacking out video coverage of the Giants and other West Coast teams on in Hawaii. Internet streaming and cable TV are different channels and technologies. Does Comcast think the Internet is competition? The MLB has meekly acquiesced to the streaming blackout, too.

We really don’t know any details of MLB’s position on the blackout because the Commissioner’s office, including Bud Selig, has refused to respond to letters.

Maybe they’ll respond to Senators Inouye, Richard Blumenthal (CN), Sherrod Brown (OH), Frank Lautenberg (NJ and Debbie Stabenow (MI).


  1. Luckily, my team (the Royals) is not on the West Coast, but they've been playing the Angels and As, so I've been utilizing Gameday Audio a lot, then watching on replay. New York City is about as far as we are, that alone should be the kicker. It was annoying last year when it was the Giants and As, now it's SIX teams.

    I purchased PREMIUM for the whole year, I guess I'm a sucker. Well, they're not getting a renewal from me until they fix this.

  2. My friend in LA is only blacked out from watching Dodgers and Angels games on her MLB.TV subscription. But I'm subject to being blacked out by SIX teams because I live in Hawaii? This is crazy!

  3. You're absolutely right about crazy, Anonymous. We're being screwed by the crazies who see only as far as their wallets. We can't get a straight answer from any of them, and the fans don't matter.