ESPN Drives Football Fans Crazy With Arbitrary HD Blackouts

Once you become addicted to watching football in HD, it’s tough to go back to standard definition. And when you realize that people in other parts of the country are getting to watch the game in dazzling HD while you suffer through your grainy, small-screen 1985 version thanks to a nonsensical decision by ESPN, it’s darn near maddening.

Take a look at Matt, who is furious ESPN stuck him with an HD blackout of sorts by not showing a game he wanted to see on ESPN’s HD channel:

I write to you today as an angry college football fan fed up with ESPN. I don’t know how long ESPN has been doing this, so I may have missed the boat a long time ago, but I discovered today that certain regions of the country are subject to what I would refer to as an “HD Blackout” of certain games the network broadcasts.

Today, I watched the 11am CST game (Minnesota-Northwestern) in High Definition on ESPNHD. Where I am located, the following game at 2:30pm CST was to be Texas-Oklahoma, a game I also wished to watch in HD. However, ESPN decided that viewers in my part of the country would not be allowed to watch that game in HD.

At the time of kickoff for the Texas-Oklahoma game, the programming on ESPNHD was switched and ESPNEWS HD was instead broadcast. (ESPNEWS HD is a CNN-style sports news channel that does not broadcast games, only highlights and brief look-ins for a number of different games.) The Texas-Oklahoma game was available in my area, but only on the standard definition ESPN channel. This was not an error by my cable provider. ESPN shows this choice on the coverage maps buried on their website (which can only be found by using the site’s search), but makes no mention anywhere else that I can find.

I first attempted to contact ESPN through the live assistance chat feature for questions and complaints on their website. Although indicated that operators were online, my questions were met each time with the response of “Sorry, no agents were available to answer your question”.

Since no telephone number can be easily found on the ESPN website, I called my cable provider to lodge a complaint. The rep at my cable provider correctly indicated that this particular complaint was in regards to ESPN programming, which the cable provider has no control over. She quickly gave me the telephone number for ESPN customer service.

I then called the ESPN customer service line to ask why they would choose to block certain areas of the country only from receiving the HD broadcast of the game, but could not get a straight answer. The rep acknowledged that it was a decision made by ESPN, but would not offer any explanation, only referring me to speak with my cable provider. I emphasized multiple times that my cable provider doesn’t make programming decisions for ESPN. The rep then said that I could just watch the game on the standard definition ESPN channel. I replied that I didn’t want to watch it on the standard def channel; I purchased an HDTV and HD cable service to watch programming in HD, not standard def. The rep would only answer that he could see what I was saying, but that the only thing he could tell me was I should to talk to my cable provider.

Personally, this is the last straw for me with ESPN. I’ve been turned off by their programming more and more the last few years and this experience put the nail in the coffin for me. I love college football, but I’m tired of this garbage. Unfortunately, I can’t simply cancel ESPN from my cable package to cut off my support of this network and ESPN would still receive money from me through my cable subscription fees even if I stopped watching. Therefore, I’ll be canceling my cable service completely when my local branch opens Monday morning.

If you’ve been HD-blocked by ESPN, share your horror stories.