Over the past few years of doing Gameday Threads (stop by anytime!), I’ve fielded many questions about how to view a given night's Blazer game. I mean, a lot of questions. It seemed like time for a viewing guide for the Blazers, showing the available options based on your physical location. From now on, I’ll link this post in Gameday Threads for an easy way to check your options.
First, let's cover some information you should know before learning about your viewing options. [Want to just see the viewing chart? Click here!]
The Blackout Zone
Every NBA team services a geographical area known as the Blackout Zone. Originally, this was used to make sure home games were not available on television, so fans would pack the arena. In the '80s, the Blazers televised 20 road games a season, and no home games. And if WTBS broadcast a home game, it was blacked out locally. But now, the Blackout Zone is more important for broadcasters' exclusive TV rights, as I’ll cover below. Every team’s Blackout Zone is unique; some have a radius of 35 miles, especially on the East Coast. But the Northwest is a big sparse area, so the Blazer Blackout Zone is more than 150 miles. This extends as far north as the Seattle metropolitan area, and as far south as Ashland. This is not an exact circle around Portland, and there is unfortunately no map to help you understand your options before you try to view a game.
Every sports team has a broadcasting contract. Sometimes it involves a single network, sometimes multiple. The networks pay the team for exclusive rights over a set of games. In the case of the Blazers, they work with two networks: KGW and Comcast SportsNet Northwest. Combined, they cover all 82 Blazer games (minus a few national games) with no overlap. This is where the Blackout Zone comes into play: Since a network paid a lot of money for exclusive rights to broadcast a game, they want to make sure they're the only viewing option. This is why you can't see Blazer games on NBA League Pass from inside Portland.
Before Comcast purchased the rights to all non-KGW Blazer games, not all Blazer games were televised locally. That was only 5 years ago! It already seems like a "right" to see all Blazer games now. However, if Comcast had not purchased the rights, it’s hard to say where we’d be right now. So, while I don’t always appreciate the status of games televised by Comcast, I do appreciate that they’re being televised at all.
There is an exception to the blackout rules: If ABC, TNT, or ESPN is showing a game, they can broadcast it inside Portland. And in many cases, you can also see it on your local network at the same time. This will be explained in detail below.
The Viewing Chart
First, let's discuss your options for seeing Blazer games. First, here's a quick chart of all your options depending on location. Below that, I'll spell out the details for each option.
|CSN NW||KGW||NBA TV||TNT||ESPN||ABC|
|Portland||CSN, Stream||KGW, TBTV||CSN/KGW, Stream/TBTV||TNT, maybe CSN/KGW||ESPN, CSN/KGW||ABC|
|America||League Pass||League Pass||NBA TV||TNT||ESPN||ABC|
Viewing in Portland
This is broken down based on network, note the multiple options for some networks.
Comcast Sportsnet Northwest (CSN): Everyone’s favorite option. If you have a cable (or fiber) provider that shows CSN, you’re all set. However, it is not available via satellite, as well as a number of local cable providers. Also, some areas offer CSN, but do not show it in HD (Comcast Cable Seattle is an example). If you do not have any option to see CSN at your physical address, see "Blazers Streaming" below.
KGW and the Blazer Broadcasting Network: Nearly all games not shown on CSN NW are shown locally on KGW. For people just outside of the Portland metropolitan area, they rebroadcast games on local networks. See here for a list of those stations. Seattle is not officially listed, but games are shown on either KONG 6 or KING-DT2 (Comcast 106 or 115). If you're in the Blackout Zone and cannot see this game on TV, or just wish to watch it online, you can stream it via Trail Blazers TV.
Blazers Streaming: The Blazers provide their own streaming site for a nominal fee. This site is specifically created for those who want to see the Blazers, but cannot do so due to their option for local cable provider. If you can get Comcast through your cable or fiber provider, this site will not function at your address. This does not apply to anyone who simply chooses not to use their local provider (such as those who decline to pay for Comcast, or have Dish or DirecTV instead). Since there is still the option to see CSN at your physical address, this site will not function.
NBA TV: 5-10 games are typically shown on NBA TV each season. These are just a rebroadcast of one of the two team feeds, but with different graphics. In the Portland area, these games are always shown locally on CSN or KGW; due to broadcasting contracts, these games are therefore blacked out on NBA TV.
ESPN: Any game shown on ESPN is also shown locally on CSN or KGW. Broadcasting contracts allow both options, so you can watch on either station showing the game.
TNT: TNT gets exclusive rights to up to 6 games in any local market. So, if the Blazers appear on TNT 6 or less times, they will be your only option, even if, ahem, the first game is in triple overtime. If they broadcast more than 6 games, some of them will also be shown on KGW or CSN, and you can watch either broadcast. Check your listings before game time.
ABC: They have exclusive rights over the rare broadcasts when the Blazers appear. They also use the wrong theme song.
League Pass: If you’re in the Blazer blackout zone, you cannot see games on League Pass, period. This includes both online and broadcast league pass. If you’re outside of the Blazer blackout zone, you can see all games unless they are broadcast on one of the national networks above; those are exclusive to that network, so League Pass cannot show them. This means, if you don’t have access to those networks, there is no option for see those games. Here is more information about League Pass.
NBA.tv (formerly International League Pass): All games are shown, including nationally broadcast games (since you’re outside of the nation when using NBA.tv). Here are details for NBA.tv.
Viewing in the US outside of the Portland Blackout Zone
KGW: League Pass
CSN NW: League Pass
TNT, ESPN, NBA TV, ABC: Directly through the network. League Pass will not show the game.
Viewing from outside of the US
All games: NBA.tv.
Frequently Asked Questions:
I really hate the Comcast situation. How long will it last?
The contract lasts until 2017, then it’s up for negotiation. Presumably Root Sports (formerly FSN NW) will toss in a bid too, but who knows?
I really hate the Comcast situation. Whose fault is it? Who can I complain to?
I get that question. A LOT. There’s no easy answer. The first question is "who's at fault?". But that's a tricky topic. Comcast is in a strong negotiation position, since they have exclusive rights for Blazer games. At the same time, your cable provider knows you don't have any alternatives (especially since the satellites don't offer CSN). And honestly, for many cable providers, Comcast's pricing just doesn't seem to make it profitable to carry the station. Otherwise, they'd be carrying it. And of course the Blazers don't get off the hook, since they signed the contract with Comcast.
But odds are, if you're asking, you want to know where to complain in order to get the problem fixed now. And if so, your best bet is to talk to your TV provider. Call Charter, Dish, DirecTV, or whomever. Call them before every game you can’t see. If you have a phone number to the upper management, that can be handy (but don't abuse it, that just will annoy them). Tell them you can’t see the Blazers, and this adversely affects to your satisfaction with their service. But do it politely of course; the nice person on the phone probably doesn’t have any control over this, and can just note your complaint.
What's the best way to complain? With action. Call your provider, cancel your cable/dish service, and tell them directly that you’re cancelling solely because you cannot see Blazer games on Comcast SportsNet. Right now, your TV provider feels it’s more cost-effective to NOT offer Comcast SportsNet. That can change if people cancel the service due to its absence.
And if it makes you feel better, you can always give the Blazers a call, and let them know how frustrated you are. However, it sounds like they already know.
I really hate the Comcast situation. Wouldn’t we be better without it?
Maybe. Maybe not. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Before Comcast signed a deal, the Blazers weren’t even broadcasting every game. And HD every night? Forget about it. Comcast paid the Blazers a nice sum of money, and in return makes sure every single game is televised. And on top of that, it led to the Blazers upgrading their system to High Definition every night. There have been a BUNCH of benefits to the Comcast deal. However, we all know what’s wrong: Negotiations haven’t gone well with providers, and a lot of people don’t have the channel. So this is a no-win. Without Comcast, some Blazer games may not even be televised. Fox Sports (Root NW) wasn’t very excited to continue showing Blazer games. Paul Allen’s own channel wasn’t getting picked up by providers either. This was a "perfect storm" of events, and while I’d like to say "blame [insert company here]!", really, it’s a little of everyone. But it’s possible that without Comcast, we’d actually be further behind the times, because there wasn’t a big market for Blazer games 5 years ago.
My cable company doesn’t offer Comcast SportsNet. I ALSO cannot get Frontier FIOS in my area. But when I try to sign up for streaming through the Blazers, it says I can’t stream! What can I do?
I’ve personally been told by the Blazers they’re working on this problem. This can be caused by a few different things. It’s possible it’s a mistake in their system. It’s also possible that your Internet provider is not providing the Blazers proper information about your geographical location. Make sure to fill out the provided form and notify the Blazers. Provide your city of residence, your available cable options, and the name your Internet provider. If possible, please visit whatismyip.com, and give them your listed IP.
They also have a live chat on game nights if you're having problems. Try the chat; some people have reported immediate success after using it.
Why can't they just let me pay per game to watch it online, even if I have access to Comcast SportsNet? I'm part of the Internet generation!
Well firstly, because the broadcasting agreement prevents that. Internet viewings would not be reflected in the ratings, which are very important to Comcast.
But secondly, it leads to a bigger problem: It's not a great way to make money. Most people will only spend a small amount to stream a game; and while some fans are dedicated, many will only buy a few games. It's much more advantageous to both the Blazers and the networks to offer every game, in a batch, to everyone (when possible) than it is to offer single games directly to a bunch of individuals. They'll get lots of viewers for Miami, Los Angeles and games where playoff seeding is on the line. But few buyers for a mid-season game against Charlotte. It's all about making the most money, so they can put it back into the team.
In the '80s and '90s, they used Blazer Cable for this purpose. Home games were sold on pay-per-view for up to 30 dollars. Per game.
For better or worse, wide TV distribution agreements are good for everyone. But only if they can work out the carriage agreements.
You're missing a method of viewing games.
We've made the call at Blazersedge to not discuss any viewing options that aren't approved by the NBA. If people want to look for other options, there are plenty of places for that. But the goal here is to discuss the options that the NBA provides.
That's it! Hopefully this helps cover the options for viewing games, and some of the reasons and history behind it. If you see mistakes or have questions, feel free to let me know. -- Tim