The Blackout Zone: Every NBA team "owns" 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. Even games broadcast on WTBS were blacked out locally. But now, the Blackout Zone is more important for exclusive TV rights. Every team’s Blackout Zone is unique; some have a small radius, especially on the East Coast. But the Northwest is a big, sparse area, so the Blazers' Blackout Zone is more than 150 miles. This extends as far north as the Seattle metropolitan area, and as far south as Ashland. It's 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. Inside this zone, the broadcasters completely control access to Blazer games, based on contracts they signed.
Broadcasting Contracts: Most games are broadcast by two networks: KGW (18 games) and Comcast SportsNet Northwest (60 games). TNT has exclusive rights to the other 4 games. Since these networks paid a lot of money for exclusive broadcast rights, they are the only viewing options for those games. This is why Blazers games are not viewable on League Pass around Portland. However, ABC, ESPN and TNT have the right to broadcast locally, regardless of local broadcast agreements. ESPN "shares" games with the local broadcaster; both networks show the game simultaneously. TNT can "share" games as well, but that won't happen this season, they have exclusive rights.
Blazers streaming: There are a small number of people who do not have access to Comcast SportsNet through their cable system. In fact, one of the biggest remaining cable systems, Charter, added CSN NW for this season (Congrats, Oregon Coast!). The Blazers offer a streaming option to the remaining fans without an option to view CSN NW on their cable system (so this does not apply to those who choose to have satellite coverage instead). For more, the Blazers have a press release with links.
League Pass: The NBA offers League Pass for viewing nearly all NBA games in a season, except games in the local team's blackout area. You can order it through your cable/satellite provider, or buy the Internet streaming option (which is also included when buying the TV version). League Pass Broadband offers options for both web viewing and apps on various platforms. The International version of League Pass (ILP, now called NBA Game Time) shows all games, but the US version (NBA LP) only shows games that are not broadcast nationally. The Blazers are on national TV (TNT, ESPN, NBA TV) 11 times this season, so only 71 games will be viewable on US League Pass. Cable subscribers typically have access to those channels, but League Pass Broadband viewers don't have that option.
League Pass cannot show Blazer games in the Portland Blackout Zone for the reasons noted above. This applies to both the Internet and the Cable/Dish versions.
Other viewing options: TNT will stream some games on TNT.tv, but historically have not shown all games. Your mileage may vary. ESPN3 streams all games broadcast on ESPN, but it depends on whether your ISP is paying enough money to ESPN to enable the privilege. So your mileage may vary there too. Lastly, there are no legitimate streaming options for games shown on NBA TV.
The Viewing Chart
There are four distinct geographical regions who have different Blazers viewing options: The Portland Blackout Zone, the Seattle Metropolitan area (which is inside the blackout zone), the rest of the Country, and International viewers. Here are how your options break down for 2013-14:
or Blazers Streaming
|KGW||KGW or CSN NW
(or Blazers Streaming)
|TNT||CSN or KGW
or Blazers Streaming
or Blazers Streaming
The Detailed Version
Portland: For games on KGW, CSN NW or TNT, that network is your only option, with two exceptions: 1.) If ESPN is also broadcasting the game, it's viewable too. 2.) If your cable provider doesn't offer CSN NW, wait for word on the status of the Blazers' streaming site. If you're outside of KGW's broadcast area, check the Blazers' list of television stations statewide.
Seattle: For games on CSN NW or TNT, that network is your only option, with the same exceptions as Portland above. For KGW games, the Blazers offer no viewing options to the Seattle area, however historically they are also blacked out on League Pass, since Seattle is in the blackout zone. For KGW games on ESPN, they should be viewable. For NBA TV, there have been varying reports about blackout status. The Seattle situation is a bit messy due to blackout rules, so tune in on game night to find out.
Nationally outside Portland: League Pass is your only option, except for games broadcast nationally, which are unavailable on League Pass. See the options in the Other Viewing Options section above.
Outside of America: International League Pass shows all the games.
Frequently Asked Questions
What's the status of Comcast SportsNet on Dish/DirecTV? Whose fault is it?
No change, it's still unavailable as of now. Hope springs eternal.
There is plenty of fault to go around. The current Blazers management cannot alter the deal, so they're off the hook. But if you want to complain to someone, contact Comcast and your satellite provider, and tell them both you're unhappy and why. I can't guarantee it will help, but it might make you feel better.
Why aren't there more streaming options, like a per-game option regardless of broadcasting rights?
The broadcasting contracts are far too lucrative to make that option feasible at the moment. It's probably not going to happen for a while, but it's very likely inevitable down the road.
How can I add the Blazers to my calendar, so it's easier to keep track?
I use the Blazers' online schedule for the information in Gameday Threads.
For your own calendar, the Blazers have instructions and downloads here. Google's calendar also has the whole schedule in their "other calendars" section. None of these options list the broadcasting info for each game, though.
What about, ahem, other streaming options?
We made the decision not to focus on those here at Blazer's Edge. Everyone knows about them anyway. We'll keep the discussion focused on the options we discussed in this article. Thanks for understanding.
Any questions? Ask away in the comments! -- Tim