Blackouts and Geolocation – Who is responsible for your location?


With the first game of the 2015 Major League Baseball season came a wave of sign ups for MLB.TV as fans looked to digital platforms to watch their favorite team. What makes this interesting in the new world of OTT and TVE is that sports leagues rely heavily on home territories to negotiate TV or distribution rights of their video (FCC mini-site on Blackouts). Last night I had two direct experiences with the confusing world of blackouts to the average consumer.

1) Blackout Definition Confusion – The first is a little less technical and really a marketing problem for the sports leagues. Someone I knew signed up for MLB.TV in hopes of catching the Giants game here in the Bay Area. The Giants were playing in Arizona AND the game was being televised locally on CSN+ which is pretty tough to find and deep down on the programming guide. To this user it meant that it wasn’t a locally televised game and they therefore should be able to watch it via MLB.TV without blackout concerns. Unfortunately that’s not how it works out and he did eventually find it on CSN+.

2) Technical Blackout Hurdles – This second instance is a bit more troublesome in that the foundation that these rules are built around may not be that solid. Someone I know lives down on the Central Coast which is pretty much smack dab in the middle of CA. Luckily, as he is a Bay Area baseball fan, their region is “owned” by the LA markets of the LA Dodgers and LA Angels of Anaheim. Last year he signed up for MLB.TV and watched the entire A’s season without issue via the Roku application. Fast forward to 2015 and he happily hands over his $129 and settles in for his first A’s game. One Problem: BLACKED OUT. After digging in on some research and calling Charter it was discovered that his geolcation and IP was placing him in Redding, CA which is back in the Bay Area market. Redding is a 6h drive from San Luis Obispo, not really an accurate picture of this user’s location. After arguing with Charter he was offered a static IP at an additional cost which would accurately set his location in San Luis Obispo. They didn’t budge and basically noted that it is what it is.

So the question is – who is responsible for accurately reporting your location given that many services utilize this information for new services? I’m looking into any cases or precedence for this in the recent past. Also it would be interested to find out if this is covered in the cable services Terms of Service (TOS). I’ll update back if/when I find out more.


POSTED April 8, 2015           

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