NBA blackout restrictions have been a source of great confusion among fans. Why can’t you watch your favorite team’s games on NBA League Pass or NBA TV, even though you’ve paid for the service? The answer lies in the intricate web of contracts and agreements that dictate who can broadcast NBA games and where.
This guide provides a comprehensive explanation of NBA blackout restrictions, helping fans navigate the complexities and enjoy the game they love.
Understanding NBA Blackout Restrictions
NBA blackout restrictions primarily apply to NBA League Pass and NBA TV. To put it simply, if a fan resides in the same TV market as their favorite team, they cannot watch their team’s games live on NBA League Pass or NBA TV. This is due to the exclusive rights held by the local Regional Sports Networks (RSNs).
Here’s a practical example. If you are a Los Angeles Lakers fan living in Los Angeles, you won’t be able to watch Lakers games live on NBA League Pass.
This is because Spectrum SportsNet, a local broadcaster, holds exclusive rights to broadcast Lakers games in the LA region. Therefore, Lakers games on NBA League Pass will be blacked out for viewers in this area.
National Telecasts and Blackouts
Nationally televised games are another area where blackout restrictions apply. When a game is broadcast nationally, say on ESPN or ABC, the local RSN is blacked out.
However, the critical factor here is whether the national telecast has exclusive or merely simultaneous rights.
When a game is exclusively broadcast on national TV, such as some games on ESPN or ABC, the local RSN’s broadcast will be blacked out. To view these games, fans must tune into the national broadcast.
Conversely, for games that are broadcast simultaneously on a national network and a local RSN, fans in the local market must watch the game on the RSN as the national broadcast will be blacked out.
How Your Location Affects NBA Blackouts
Your location plays a significant role in determining NBA blackout restrictions. Your location is determined using your IP address and, if applicable, your device’s location services.
For blackout restrictions, a zip code is used to ascertain which teams are covered by your local broadcaster.
As your location changes, so do your blackout restrictions. Consequently, the games you can watch live and locally will vary based on your geographical location.
Watching Blacked Out Games
Despite the restrictions, there are still ways you can watch blacked out games. Locally broadcast games can be viewed on the corresponding RSN in your area through cable, satellite, or streaming service.
Nationally televised games can be viewed on the national broadcaster (TNT, ESPN, or ABC) through a cable, satellite, or streaming subscription.
On NBA League Pass, blacked out nationally broadcast games become available to view in the archives three hours after airing. For locally televised games, these become available to view three days after airing.
That said, there’s a workaround for streaming live games on NBA League Pass even in blackout regions.
For this workarouond, you’ll need to use a VPN to change your location to a city or country that is outside the blackout zone. Read all about this solution in my detailed guide for NBA League Pass VPNs.
What If Your TV Provider Doesn’t Include the RSN?
If your cable, satellite or streaming television service doesn’t include the RSN that airs NBA games, the blackout rules still apply.
Even if your service doesn’t carry the RSN, your location will still prevent you from watching your local team’s games live on NBA League Pass and NBA TV.
The Future of NBA Blackouts
The NBA’s blackout policy, while seemingly complex, is designed to protect the value of its broadcasting contracts.
In recent years, there have been discussions about revising the model to accommodate the changing viewing habits of NBA fans, especially younger ones.
However, until any significant changes are made, NBA fans will need to navigate blackout restrictions to catch their favorite teams in action.
In conclusion, NBA blackout restrictions are a complex but necessary aspect of broadcasting professional basketball games.
They exist to uphold the value of broadcasting contracts and protect the rights of both local and national broadcasters.
By understanding these restrictions, fans can better navigate the broadcasting landscape and find ways to watch their favorite teams.
As the ways we consume media continue to evolve, so too will the policies and restrictions surrounding sports broadcasting.