For years, Philadelphia Phillies fans with DirecTV have found themselves unable to watch most of the team’s games because the satellite provider and Comcast refuse to come to a resolution over the channel that carries those contests. Now another annoying slap-fight between DirecTV and a broadcaster has left its Philadelphia-area subscribers completely in the dark for this upcoming baseball season.
Over the weekend, DirecTV and the Tribune Company could not come to terms over their contract before it expired on April 1. So the Tribune folks pulled their channels from DirecTV in 19 markets on Sunday.
In Philadelphia, this means that DirecTV customers might not have access to the handful of Phillies games broadcast by WPHL 17. Problem is, until now those have been the only games available to DirecTV customers.
See, most games are broadcast by the local Comcast SportsNet franchise. Until early 2010, Comcast did not have to make this channel available to satellite providers because it never went out over the air. The FCC closed this so-called “terrestrial loophole” and Comcast was ordered to make CSN Philadelphia available to satellite providers.
But two years later, neither DirecTV nor Dish carries the channel, though they both claim to be “in negotiation” with Comcast to carry it.
Sources tell Consumerist that Comcast is demanding a significantly higher price for CSN Philadelphia than it does for comparable channels, or what it charges to other cable carriers in the area.
Meanwhile, non-satellite options for watching the games are limited by Major League Baseball’s moronic blackout rules.
A subscriber to the MLB.tv online package has no access to local games until hours after they are completed. And even when a Phillies game is broadcast on the MLB Network, which DirecTV does carry, if the game is also being shown by a local outlet, DirecTV subscribers are out of luck.
There is good ol’ over-the-air antenna service for the 40 or so games shown on PHL17 every season. But many people, particularly in the city, have trouble getting a quality signal from the station.
Of course, the problem for Phillies fans with DirecTV is nothing compared to NYC sports fans with the bad fortune to have Dish Network. They can’t get Knicks or Rangers games on MSG, Mets games on SNY or watch the Yankees on YES.
We’ve attempted to contact all the players in this game, to little avail. Major League Baseball says “it’s not a league issue.” The FCC refuses to comment. And an attempt to get a comment from Pennsylvania Senator Robert Casey eventually resulted in a response to an inquiry about PIPA legislation that we never made.