Sunday, April 10, 2016

Columnist Has Had It with Blackout: 'Major League Money Grab Keeps Hawaii Fans in Dark'

Honolulu Star-Bulletin sports columnist Ferd Lewis wrote the piece reproduced below for the April 9, 2016 edition of the paper. He has written other columns on this same subject over the past seven baseball seasons -- and as we've done on those occasions, we beg the newspaper's indulgence for plucking the column from behind its pay wall. San Francisco Chronicle sports reporter and columnist Scott Ostler also has taken notice of Major League Baseball's tolerance of the television blackout inflicted on Hawaii baseball fans -- especially those of the San Francisco Giants and other West Coast teams whose games are not available to the vast majority of TV sets in the Islands. Ostler has written of the MLB "knuckleheads"  who have turned a blind eye to the blackout (see his 9/12/09 column below). Truth be told, Southern California fans of the Dodgers and New Jersey followers of the Yankees apparently are having similar problems in watching their favorite teams -- all because the "suits" put their own financial interests above the fans. Here's Lewis's column:

Why the Minnesota Twins didn’t jump on this multi-time-zone money grab isn’t known.
That doesn’t mean that any of them will actually play any games on our shores, you understand. It just means that fans must ante up for regional TV packages serving (and enriching) those teams if they are to watch them outside of national TV games. And, even then, as was demonstrated by the blacking out of ESPN’s Dodgers-Padres season opener, MLB can kidnap a designated number of so-called national broadcasts.
Hawaii is among the most aggrieved markets in the nation on this score. Only Las Vegas, which is staked by the Arizona Diamondbacks in addition to the five teams that claim Hawaii, has more teams attempting to pick its pockets at one time.
Parts of Iowa are claimed by the Chicago White Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, Twins, Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers.
The impact is that on some days, as local fans noted on Monday’s openers, you could click on one game to find it was blacked out and then flip to another channel to find a similar message. “Based on trying to watch various games on Sunday and (Monday), seems like a carbon copy of last year’s situation so far,” said Honolulu fan Phil Kinnicutt.
So you know just whose TV colony you are, MLB has a place on its website where you can type in your zip code and find a listing of the teams you will be required to pay for.
MLB’s policy states, “home television territory blackout restrictions apply regardless of whether a club is home or away and regardless of whether or not a game is televised in a club’s television territory.”
This form of hijacking has been going on for more than five years, but this year is the most egregious coming after the settlement of a court case that had the potential to blow up the whole model.
Not long after MLB instituted its territorial blackout policy it became the subject of a federal antitrust class action suit, Garber v. Office of the Commissioner of Baseball, challenging some of its broadcast policies.
But minutes before the trial was to begin on the lawsuit in January, MLB and the plaintiffs announced a settlement agreement. The deal had some rewards for fans in terms of pricing but did little for those of us in the far-flung TV territories.
Another season but same old baseball avarice.

Reach Ferd Lewis at or 529-4820


  1. The Seattle Mariners are yet another team blacked out in Hawaii.

  2. The Seattle Mariners are yet another baseball team blacked out in Hawaii.

  3. What kills is that even if you PAY for, the games are still blacked out. And I'm trying to watch The Washington Nationals!