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How to understand Sports Blackouts

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How to understand Sports Blackouts


Sports blackouts happen from time to time and beyond AT&T's control. To better understand why they happen, check out the info below. 


Why do blackouts exist?

Blackout restrictions are designed to protect the television rights holders in the competing teams’ respective home markets. AT&T TV does not arbitrarily institute blackouts, but simply follows the restrictions set forth by the leagues or their rights holders, such as ESPN and TNT.


Why was a nationally televised game not shown in my area?

In our agreements with sports leagues and associations, we are restricted from showing events near where a game is played or broadcast locally. Also, national networks like ESPN and TNT have exclusive distribution rights to some events.


It's important to understand that sports blackouts and game availability are controlled by the leagues, associations, and networks that purchase the rights to broadcast individual games. To protect their rights, AT&T TV must enforce the restrictions mandated by them.


In some cases, if a game is blacked out from certain AT&T TV channels or sports subscriptions, you may be able to see it on another AT&T TV channel or on one of your local broadcast channels (in available markets).

To learn more click here.


How do blackouts work?

National rights
If a national broadcasting network such as ABC, NBC, CBS or FOX has the national rights to broadcast a sports game, AT&T TV customers who live in and/or physically located in the home team's area may not be able to see it with their AT&T TV subscription for that particular sport. Instead, they would need to watch it on their local channel for that broadcasting network if available see <insert link to Local Channels> .

If a network that AT&T TV carries - such as ESPN, TNT, TBS, or USA - has the national rights to broadcast a game, AT&T TV customers will be able to see it on those channels.

Regional sports networks do not obtain national broadcast rights to professional sports.

Local rights
If a local off-air broadcast channel (not ABC, NBC, CBS, or FOX) or local cable system has the rights to broadcast a professional game in a certain region, AT&T TV customers in that area will be unable to receive that game through their AT&T TV subscription. If a regional sports network that DIRECTV carries has the local rights to broadcast a game, customers within the region can receive that game through any DIRECTV subscription that includes this particular local regional sports network. Customers outside the region will receive that game through the appropriate out-of-market professional sports subscription.


Are pro sports shown on the Regional Sports Networks?

We offer Regional Sports Networks (RSNs) from across the nation, which show professional, college, and both domestic and international amateur sports (such as soccer, tennis, boxing, golf, rugby, winter sports, etc.), as well as coaches shows and other specialized programming.


Based on your ZIP code, you have been assigned in-market local RSNs on which you are authorized to view the pro and college games shown on that channel when you are physically located in that RSN market as determined by zip code. Due to contractual broadcast rights between the networks and the leagues, those who live outside of your area are not authorized to view the same games. The opposite is true in that you are unable to see pro sports on out-of-market RSNs.


For example, when a network such as MSG purchases the rights from the NBA to broadcast a Knicks game, they pay a fee and broadcast it to the New York City market only. Therefore, we can only allow customers within that market to view the pro games on that channel. When a national network such as TNT broadcasts an NBA game, they have paid a significantly higher fee because they are broadcasting to the entire nation. The fee is much higher due to the advertisement potential.


Because of fans like you who have interest in viewing teams from outside of your home market, the leagues have created professional sports subscriptions such as the NFL SUNDAY TICKET.

Are there different types of Blackouts?

  1. Location based in which a user will see a message that this program is not available based on their location.
  • While streaming a Local or RSN channel if the user travels outside of the permitted territory for that channel the stream will be interrupted within 5 minutes of the location check and a message will appear that the program is not available based on their current location
  1. Streaming blackout in which a user will see a slate with messaging that states the program is not available
  • HBO Boxing events are not allowed on streaming devices so we will have to cover the feed with a static image and messaging that states the program/event is not available for streaming
  1. Device blackout in which a user will see a slate with messaging that states the program is not available on this device
  • NFL games on FOX, ESPN, NBC, and NFL Network are blocked on mobile phone devices. Users on this device will see a message that the program is not available on their device.
  1. Commercial blackout in which a user will see a slate with messaging that states commercial break in progress and programming will resume shortly
  • ESPN has commercial breaks on their live channels that are 2-3 minutes long. At launch we will not support ad insertion on live channels so users will see a slate stating a commercial break is in progress and the program will resume shortly.


Hope this helps. Let us know if you have any other questions.


*I am an AT&T employee, and the postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent AT&T's position, strategies or opinions.
Message 1 of 11

Re: How to understand Sports Blackouts

Message 2 of 11

Can't watch football game again.

ESPN not showing football game. I've tried to see them this weekend and same error 70
Message 3 of 11

Re: Can't watch football game again.

I'm in NC also, BiGEDub.  Having the same issue as you.  I think the primary feed of Fox Sports Southeast serves the Atlanta area.  When a Hornets game is on, it's supposed to automatically switch to an alternate feed of Fox Sports Southeast that only goes to people located in the Carolinas.  This is obviously not working.  Hope they get it fixed before my 3-month paid subscription runs out in March or I'll be switching back to cable.

Tags (1)
Message 4 of 11

Re: Can't watch football game again.

I am in the same boat with the Hornets in Charlotte (28278).
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Message 5 of 11

Nhl blackout

I live in Hamburg, NJ and I'm trying to understand why the Canadians vs Maple Leaf game is being blacked out on the NHL network. No other channel on the Directtvnow service is showing the game and neither team is a local team to this area so there is no reason I see for it to be blacked out.
Message 6 of 11

Re: Nhl blackout

 I subscribed to Direct TV because they promised the SEC channel.

Do you think I'm a little deiappointed they waited until game time to let us know they decided not to pay for the right to broadcast the Outback Bowl featuring eastern division champs, FL Gators? 

Not only did I miss the game they kept leaving a message up like there might be a last minute reak through, so I didn't seek an alternative renue.

I'm looking for a more dependable source . Anybody know of one that at least doesn't string you along 'till ti's too late?

Message 7 of 11

Re: Nhl blackout


Yes, try 24/7tvstream.com

I am so fed up with Direct tv, I am cancelling service. Can watch play off games on local fox channel, but it is in SPANISH...


Message 8 of 11

Re: How to understand Sports Blackouts

I understand tge blackout rules. However both Mlb.tv and NHL center ice says i am in the "LOCAL" FSMW area. My zip code is 61377. I am supposed to get both CSN chicago AND fsmw. But all you give me is CSN chicago.
I can not BUY MLB.tv due to being in market for FSMW.
Please update your ZIP CODE location because you are making me miss ALL of my baseball games.
I became a member because you said i could watch my LOCAL sports teams.
If i cant watch by JUNE I will be dropping you.
Please fix the zip code 61377 and ADD FSMW asap.
Thank you and have a great day.
Message 9 of 11

Re: Nhl blackout

I am paying for the Msg network on direct tv... the live hockey and basketball games are blocked .. they tell me i must purchess Nhl center ice and Nba league pass.What a crock of $#!?

If you purchess the channel you should get full access... raise the price a bit whatever but should show everything ... 



Message 10 of 11
ACE - Expert

Re: Nhl blackout

This is not the DirecTV forum but the internet streaming forum for DirecTV Now. They want see your post here. Also there are no service reps located in these user public forums.

Award for Community Excellence 2019 Achiever*
*The views and opinions expressed on this forum are purely my own. Any product claim, statistic, quote, or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer, provider, or party.
Message 11 of 11
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