Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Sports Columnist Rips Giants for Tolerating TV Blackout in Hawaii, and That’s Really Bad PR

The San Francisco Giants organization is a pretty thick-skinned bunch. They’ve shown no aloha whatsoever for their loyal fans in Hawaii as they tolerate the Infamous MLB Blackout of their games in the state.

Honolulu Star-Advertiser sports columnist Ferd Lewis calls out the Giants suits today, and although the newspaper has installed a pretty impenetrable firewall to keep non-subscribers out, we don’t think they'll mind if we quote Ferd’s column in its entirety today. After all, “it’s for the good of the game.”

Giants get their jollies holding Hawaii hostage

By Ferd Lewis
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jul 03, 2012

For San Francisco Giants fans in Hawaii, the team's first-place success can be a little bittersweet these days.

That's when it isn't just plain head-banging maddening.

While they relish the Giants' standing atop the National League West Division and what it might portend for this season, they say there is the continuing disappointment with not being able to see much of it firsthand.

We're going on four years now of Major League Baseball's curious blackout, one that has Hawaii fans caught in a rundown between the clubs' greed and the inflexibility to work out deals with cable partners.

This notion that Hawaii is "home television territory" for the Giants, some 2,500 miles distant and therefore subject to blackout, would almost be funny if it hadn't been so ham-handedly drawn up and tight-fistedly enforced.

It is one thing to black out Giants' home games in Northern or Central California, where fans are within driving — or rail — distance of AT&T Park. It is quite another to impose it on the 50th State, where the commute is more arduous.

The shakedown works like this: MLB teams are allowed to declare "home television territories" that need not be based on any geographic common sense. Profit motive is enough. Which is why at various times as many as six teams — Giants, A's, Angels, Dodgers, Padres and Mariners — have all staked their claim to these islands.

Not to actually play any games here, you understand, but to strong-arm local fans and their cable operators to sign on and pay up or forgo the opportunity to watch them on a regular basis.

Unless local cable operators come to terms with the team's designated regional sports network, there is a blackout of non-ESPN national games and DirecTV. In this, even subscribers to MLB.com, MLB Extra Innings and others outlets have found themselves in the dark.

Some clubs, the Mariners and Padres, for instance, have relented and granted so-called "temporary waivers." Others, such as the Dodgers and Angels, have managed to work out deals with Oceanic Time Warner Cable.

Meanwhile, the Giants have dug in the way Willie McCovey once did and aren't budging. Even testimony to the Federal Communications Commission in Washington and a letter from some concerned U. S. senators earlier this year have yet to back the Giants away from the plate.

Which is why fans here didn't get to see Matt Cain's perfect game until the final innings, when ESPN and others finally cut in.

Give KITV's MeTV Hawaii, available on digital cable Ch. 126, credit for bringing in a 12-game package. But that still leaves more than 90 percent of the Giants games up to the whims of the TV market. At least fans can catch their team on the radio on KKEA, 1420-AM.

Giants fan and rail public relations operative Doug Carlson was so enraged he started a blog dedicated to the blackout, www.commaaina.blogspot.com.

When that didn't work, Carlson took perhaps the ultimate step: He moved to Sacramento. "I can't say the Infamous MLB Blackout of Hawaii was all of the motivation, but it definitely was a sweet part of the transition," Carlson wrote in an email.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@staradvertiser.com.


  1. I'm saddened that my favorite team has turned its back on my home state of Hawaii. Ive gotten used to listening to the knbr radio feed I paid for on MLB.com. for the radio feed to be sponsored by Hawaiian airlines and called "the Hawaiian airlines broadcast booth" is such a slap to the people of Hawaii. It's actually a disservice to its mainland market to be advertising Hawaii as a place where giants fans can go vacation. (Go to Hawaii giants fans, where u can be totally cut off from all viewing live broadcast pleasure). Just another example of Hawaii being used and abused for its natural splendor while being swept aside to the blackout corner when it really matters. I don't vote for president because our state only has 1 electoral vote. Now I'm being punished by sf and MLB for the same reasons as why my vote doesn't matter.

    I just want to watch sf giants baseball! Please end the blackout! In the meantime ill be traveling the 2500 miles in Sept to watch my "home team" play some games Sept 15-25!

    Dedicated sfg fan

  2. Do what I did, Dean -- move to Sacramento! Actually, that's not a realistic reaction to the Infamous MLB Bay Area Blackout in Hawaii. I, too, get riled when Jon and Dave tell listeners they're broadcasting from the "Hawaiian Airlines broadcast booth" during a game. The suits at Time-Warner and Comcast can't get together, and MLB's executives tolerate it. Impossible to believe, but it's apparently OK screw the fans in tiny and remote Hawaii.

    BTW, please don't skip voting for president. Hawaii actually has 4 electoral votes -- one each for the state's two senators and two representatives. Those 4 votes could be the difference in a close national election, so maybe if that actually were to happen, we'd finally have some leverage where it counts -- in the White House.

    Could the President of the United States of America restore television coverage of MLB's West Coast teams for fans in Hawaii? After three and one-half years of this blackout, I frankly doubt it.

  3. With today's acquisition of the Flyin Hawaiian Shane Victorino and Brandon League over the weekend, the Dodgers have solidified there grip on Hawaii as the local baseball favorite. It's a joke that the Giants continue to claim the territory while blacking out its fans from Giants games since every Dodger game is televised via Oceanic Cable and Prime Ticket or Fox Sports West. Of course that is to be expected of the Giants Brass, one only has to look a at the Barry Zito deal to determine what type of business acumen the front office in San Francisco possesses. The Giants brass are nothing short of pathetic.

    1. Can't let your comment stand alone without a comeback, Bigkahuna. The Victorino et al deal was a bust in 2012. Maybe it'll bear fruit next year, but for now, the Dodgers are suffering from PTSD -- Post-Trade Sinking Disorder.

      And since your post on 7/31, Zito has turned it around and is completing his best seasons as a Giant. He's solid for the post-season roster, according to Bruce Bochy. Shane and the rest of the stars in the Big Kahuna-Like Trade will be watching from their off-season homes.

      But I agree with you about the Giants front office's indifference about fan welfare. The suits apparently can see only as far as their bank balances -- fans be damned.

  4. Is there any possible way of getting another photo of the "Beat LA" licence plate? I would like to see the Hawaii written on the top and Aloha State on the bottom.
    Thanks Much!

    1. I'm afraid that's as good as it gets. Should have taken the license plate out of its frame.

  5. I just moved from Hawaii to the Mainland, and SURPRISE! I'm no longer blacked out from all six west coast teams! (The Mariners and Padres "temporary waiver" was removed in 2012.)

    I now live in Alabama, which is closer in distance to ALL 30 MLB TEAMS than the distance between Honolulu and San Francisco. Makes perfect sense to me....

  6. Congratulations, Alabama resident. I also moved from Hawaii to the Mainland -- Sacramento, which is an easy drive from San Francisco's AT&T Park, home of the 2012 National League West Division's Champion, The San Francisco Giants. We've attended only one game since moving, but the Giants are on TV each and every time they play. The Giants are arguably "Honolulu's team," although some would say the Dodgers are, but since it's LA, the arguing comes easily. Only the Giants' games are broadcast on Honolulu radio, and that says something about which team owns Honolulu.

    I really feel for my island friends who have been prohibited from watching nearly all West Coast MLB teams -- except for the Dodgers, wouldn't you know it? -- for four full seasons. Not even MLB.com streams Giants games to the islands because Honolulu is in the "home TV territory" of the club. It's a travesty; the fans are screwed by the refusal of two corporations -- Comcast and Time-Warner -- to resolve their financial standoff, and what does MLB do about it on behalf of the fans? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!