Blackout policies have been in existence for a long time in the sports event broadcasting. In particular, this was made to make sure people in the certain markets visit the game or at least watch the matches on the local channels. In other words, we’re talking about giving the local broadcaster a competitive advantage over the out-of-market networks. In countries like the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, the blackouts are being implemented during almost every national game.
Even long before the entry of streaming services the debate over blackouts on cable TVs was quite unsettling. Only the national networks are restricted in that particular region so that regional sports networks (RSNs) can take over them. Even in 2015, there was a class-action lawsuit filed against NHL and MLB on blackouts that only lead to lowering the prices. So, our guide will deal with bypassing blackout restrictions imposed on these online services.
Why Do We Have Sports Blackouts?
These days, professional sports leagues are connected to many things including huge financial deals. As you already know, sports venues and teams have interest in selling tickets as well as signing deals with certain broadcasters. Therefore, this mechanism works to steer you towards the channels that have paid for the broadcasting rights.
What Are the Possible Types of Blackouts?
Today, we have three major types of sports blackouts. These are location-based, device-based, and streaming-based blackouts. Let’s take a closer look at what all of these mean.
- Location-based blackouts apply to geographical restrictions and these can be national and regional. In case one of the major national broadcasters obtains licensing rights, local TV stations won’t be allowed to broadcast the game. This is because fans of the teams will more likely buy the tickets and see the game live.
- Device-based blackouts also depend on certain deals. For example, let’s say that Roku (a hugely popular media streaming devices manufacturer) obtains the rights to a certain game. If that’s an exclusive deal, only Roku devices will be able to live-stream the event.
- Streaming-based blackouts work similar to the previous category. Certain media streaming services can obtain the needed right to offer their subscribers the exclusive option of live-streaming the event.
What Sports Are Affected by Blackout Restrictions?
There are three main sports leagues often associated with blackouts. These are the NFL, MLB, and NBA.
- The NFL usually broadcasts preseason games on local stations. This means that those living outside those areas won’t be able to see the game on their TVs. Aside from local stations, major national broadcasters like CBS, FOX, NBC, and ESPN usually have the rights for full games. The good news is that regular season games are not usually restricted to regional networks and all postseason games are usually broadcast nationally.
- The same could be said for the NBA. You can rely on ABC, ESPN, TNT, and NBA TV for regular season games. When it comes to the postseason, games can be televised locally, regionally, or nationally.
- The MLB has its own rules, where preseason games can be televised locally or nationally, which depends on the game. During the season, blackouts are quite common and you need to rely on national networks like FOX, ESPN, FS1, FS2, TBS, and the MLB Network.
List of Sports Service Blackouts
Almost every professional sport – baseball, football, soccer, and basketball and all the dedicated service and online streaming platforms related to them must follow some blackout schedules. Many cable TV providers like Comcast, Verizon, Time Warner, Spectrum get an extra benefit during these process.
- Sports-Centric Services: UFC.TV, NBA League Pass, NHL.TV, MLS Network, NFL Game Pass, and MLB.TV.
- Sports Networks: ESPN3, Fox Sports Go, NBC Sports.
- Streaming Services: FuboTV, Sling TV, DirecTV Now, PlayStation Vue, Hulu Live TV, and YouTube TV.
The above list will be updated if we find any new extra channels or services that undergo blackout during the major games. As we all know, sports blackouts are based on eligible viewing areas but still content blackouts are done based on streaming rights and device-specific blackouts.
At times when games from the United States are broadcasted in Canada, the television rights have been purchased by some big cable companies and since only a few online services are available, they do face these blackout restrictions as an extra burden.
Some of the above-mentioned channels and services work on many different devices and platforms that include but are not limited to Android, Windows, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Android TV, Chromecast, iOS, iPhone, iPad, Xbox One, PlayStation, AirTV Player etc. So, all these devices can avoid blackouts if you are watching Live Sports by following the below methods.
How to Resolve Blackout Restrictions Using a VPN?
Virtual Private Networks have been around for more than two decades and they are still going through a rapid evolution. And you should also know that free apps offering a way to avoid blackouts don’t seem to work because your current location is determined based on the IP Address, but not the zip or postal code. So we strongly recommend you to follow the steps.
- Selecting a VPN can be done easily by taking a few criteria like location, the number of VPN servers, speed, security and similar. So, we have taken the task and tested some of the best VPNs for streaming.
- Our personal recommendation and results from our experts reveal that ExpressVPN seems to be especially good at speed and security that is especially important for cord cutters and streamers.
- Install ExpressVPN on your preferred device. Just download and install on any device since it supports a wide variety of platforms. Then, open the application.
- Now on the home screen, pap on the Choose Location button. Under the United States, Select any US-based server other than your current location.
- Once the connection has been established successfully, jump right back into any network or native sports app.
The above method is applicable to any service but makes sure you select the appropriate VPN location to access it. Also, there has always been a debate over SmartDNS vs VPNs but we strongly recommend you to go with VPNs since it not just changes your location but also provides safety and security by encrypting your traffic.
For each sport, you can check out with their dedicated tools such as NBA Blackouts, NHL.TV Blackout Detector, or MLB tool that let you check out if any game in your current location undergoes blackout or not. If you are traveling or living in a different region other than your hometown do enter that zip code to find the perfect match.
Dear readers, that would be all you need to know about avoiding blackout restrictions. If there’s anything else you’d like to know, just drop us a comment below.