Hockey Fans Can’t Comprehend NHL Blackout Rules

If you’ve been on Twitter this week as the NHL pre-season begins, you may have seen the hilarity that ensued after TSN’s and RDS’s regional broadcast of Habs, Leafs, Sens and Jets games. For various reasons, people were pissed that they couldn’t see the hockey game they wanted to and instead were greeted by the dreaded ‘program is not available’ message.

A search of Twitter will bring up a lot of angry tweeters who vented their frustration (incorrectly) at TSN or RDS. Here are some of the highlights:

No more blackouts?

More channels equals more games?

Sportsnet never had blackouts apparently!

Misunderstanding of how the new TSN channels work.

Zero knowledge of how blackouts actually work.

Let’s just get this out of the way first: At times, people can be just plain stupid. That said, there are some valid reasons here as to why people are upset and confused by this whole, completely brand new “blackout” thing.

First off, Rogers can somewhat mostly be blamed for this. In their big announcement of their new national rights deal, Rogers incorrect stated there would no longer be blackouts for NHL viewers in Canada. In fact, the article on NHL.com still states “The agreement also guarantees there will be no further regionalization of games or local blackouts.” This was later clarified by Rogers and Sportsnet but it was too late for most as ‘no blackouts’ featured in numerous headlines and articles about the deal. Now viewers are pissed they can’t see a hockey game they were told they could see.

Others seem to think that by TSN adding three new channels and promising more sports, that somehow meant they would be able to watch any hockey they wanted that screened on the network. No doubt viewers were also used to seeing most games that aired on TSN in the previous seasons when they had national rights. Speaking of previous seasons, some may also be confused because they never saw regional games on their guides before. For example, if you’re in Toronto, you never saw Jets or Habs regional games as they aired on a separate network available only to those in the respective teams viewing area. For Habs French-language games, RDS previously had the national rights so viewers across Canada with RDS were able to watch. This season, RDS only has regional rights so those outside Eastern Canada are out of luck.

To their credit, both TSN and RDS have tried to help explain the situation to viewers. RDS has published a page in both English and French explaining why the blackouts aren’t their fault and the TSN Twitter account has been replying to those upset.

Screenshot 2014-09-26 06.58.30

For now though, I’m sure people will remain angry no matter whether they are told the very reasonable explanation as to why they can’t see a game featuring a Canadian team on the other side of the country or not. Of course, in the end, you can blame the NHL for all of this for having regional television areas, but it’s not like they are the only league with a blackout policy.

— Dan (@SportsOnCdnTV)

19 thoughts on “Hockey Fans Can’t Comprehend NHL Blackout Rules

  1. Just 1 more point to add about blackouts. Coming in April 2015 most if not all Canadian teams will be blacked out of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Fans are advised to check the NHL standings in February for specific information.

  2. I agree a lot of the recent blame should be put on Rogers and the NHL for the wording of that quote you mention. Saturday night games on CBC were never “blacked out” to begin with. Yes CBC made them regional in nature and had to in order to get them on the air, but they were always available nationally if you had access to the CBC affiliates that were carrying the games.

    TSN then deserves some blame too for the way they promoted their new TSN feeds by advertising “More Jets, More Leafs, More Sens…” in the commercials. And with Habs and Sens games blacked out on RDS west of Belleville/Pembroke now, RDS in my opinion should be made to offer alternate programming to those west as I do agree with the sentiment that someone should not have to pay full price for a channel that is blacked out part of the time. With TSN you can turn to your own local feed and there will be programming of some kind.

    I don’t think a lot of people have ever understood the reason behind the blackouts. Especially when I read comments like “I live 1000 km away how do they expect me to buy tickets”. Correct me if I’m wrong but regional blackouts are intended to protect the value of each team’s regional tv rights. For example if Canucks/Leafs/Habs/Sens regional games were available in the prairies, it would cut into the potential viewership of Oilers, Flames, and Jets games thus decreasing what those teams can try to demand in regional rights fees from the networks. In theory anyway.

    • I refuse to watch any games televised if the leafs are backed out in my area. New Brunswick. I’m not watching Ottawa or Montreal games anyway. So, in my case blackouts aren’t working.

  3. The other misconception that we’ve read and heard in interviews when Rogers first got the rights to the NHL was that they had the National rights to games on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday.

    But, if you check on the TV schedules that each of the respective channels have released, you will still see some Flames/Canucks/Oilers games, even on a Saturday, restricted to their specific sportsnet channel (Sportsnet West or Pacific) or games involving the Sens and Jets, also restricted to their respective TSN channel. (3 or 5).

    By the way they worded, in that same article you have referenced, you would have thought that you wouldn’t be blacked out of any Canadian team, especially on a Saturday, but that isn’t the case.

    “The agreement also guarantees there will be no further regionalization of games or local blackouts. Rogers has three exclusive windows to broadcast any game involving a Canadian team — Wednesday nights, Saturday nights and Sunday nights. Fans will have the ability to watch any of those games regardless of geographical location within Canada.”

    I understood from past years that on some saturdays, there were games involving Canadian teams that the CBC did not take on for various reasons but, with this new Rogers deal, they’ve confused a whole bunch of people to start with their announcement back in November and subsequent press releases until now, with pre-season games airing and now they are trying to clear up the picture.

    I can only assume the various restrictions the CBC had (mainly, the limited number of games they could carry for each of the Canadian teams), that plays a hand in why they did broadcast every Sens game for example on a Saturday, or Oilers game and so forth.

    I am assuming with TSN getting the Sens package, it has forced Rogers to pick and choose which of the remaining 29 Sens games they can show. It will I think lead to some confusion based on that statement I quoted above.

  4. I’ve been reading this blog for over a year and this is my first comment but I thought it was rather interesting and surprising. On Thursday October 9th I saw that there is a double-header on SN360, Montreal @ Washington then Calgary @ Edmonton at least that’s what it said on NHL.com. Today I was looking at the sportsnet broadcast schedule and the Calgary Edmonton game is supposedly going to have blackouts apply. I’ve also seen on the nhl schedule more games that are on sn360 but not on Thursday (and excluding Saturday’s) so I don’t know but I thought all games on sn360 were national but maybe not and if that’s the case then I am quite disappointed and I’m sure many others who thought all sn360 games were national are too!

  5. How about the NHL just does away with all blackouts and makes all the games available to stream online for a fee?

  6. i’m so fed up with the NHL, there seems to be a whole lack of common sense. If a team has fans outside the region what is the problem with them being able to support their teams by watching these games? My husband grew up in Montreal and no longer lives in the regional area and although we pay extra for both RDS and Sportsnet he has only been able to watch 1 game so far this season. Does the NHL not see how people are just going to get frustrated and tune out?

  7. Just stream the games that are blacked out on firstrowsports.eu. It’s all free and easy.

  8. Quite frankly the NHL, Rogers and tsn can suck my sweaty balls, regional blackouts FFS arseholes.

  9. I live in Victoria and have shaw direct with all the local channels. When City TV has a game on in another area of the country like Montreal, I get blacked out !!! WTF ???? Thats just insane !

    • If the game is only on City Montreal, it is a Habs regional game so of course you won’t be able to see it, just like you can’t watch Leafs games on TSN4 or Sportsnet Ontario. Just because it’s on an OTA channel doesn’t mean it’s immune from being blacked out.

  10. Ok but still I should go to tsn in my guide menu go to tsn 5 and see they have a game on and I see that I can’t watch it I pay for the sport channels so I pay to have the tsn channel so if I pay for it they should let me watch tsn it is part of the sports package

  11. If the aim for these increased blackouts and less viewing available was to destroy the fan base and decrease viewers then the networks and NHL are doing a great job. This I’d a fan sport and viewing should be available to all fans no matter where they live. The increase in price to gamecentet this year made me not resubscribe and when I had it I was still experiencing way too many blackouts. Just because I’m in a certain area doesnt mean I have access to a cable TV. This deal will destroy the league as viewers are what fuels the nees to watch and pay grown men to play a game.

  12. I am frustrated with the blacked out games, I have decided to cancel all my sports channels. And I stopped watching sports on T.V.

  13. Until the NHL (and all major sports leagues for that matter) realizes that they are stuck in the past and losing business due to archaic broadcast policies, they won’t be getting any cable money from me.

  14. why are the games blacked out on TSN ( vancouver ) but available on NHL center ice in Vancouver ? ….. is this just another scam to make you pay for NHL center ice ? … if it is a regional black out .. then it should be blacked out on all channels should it not ? ————– on shaw in vancouver we had ( until this year ) been able to watch the leafs , jets , canadians when advertised on the tv guide ………………………… this week the guide would say tsn 4 toronto and ottowa – tsn 5 blacked out , but both channels ended up being blacked out ……………. do they want us to pay 200 bucks extra for center ice . to get the same games we got last year on TSN etc. for free ? ……………. now i wonder why people find ways to get content in ” illegal ” ways ?

  15. remember when you knew that cbc would show your team almost every saturday night during the season ……. the nhl is getting to be like nascar ie: you never know what channel or time to watch the race … looking at the empty stands at nascar races ..we can see just how well it has worked for them !! ……………….. ps you expect all of the religious crap from nascar , but especially on sunday nhl broadcasts de we realy need to hear about who went to church and where they went to church etc. .. if i want jesus i will go to church !!

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