NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Two games of the World Series were wiped off the slate for some major-market sports fans, 13 National Football League games weren't seen in their home markets this season and certain service subscribers missed new episodes of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. So why don't you have a backup plan?For consumers in the know and sports fans with a modicum of tech savvy, there was no reason for missing Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain's starts for the San Francisco Giants as they strode out to a 2-0 series lead en route to their franchise's first championship in 56 years. Sure, News Corp.'s ( NWS) Fox was blocking content to Cablevision ( CVC) during their 14-day fee dispute, but there was also a lot of unnecessary wailing over the "loss" of free content carried over taxpayer-funded airwaves.
|There are options for fans facing blackouts during NFL sales failures or contract disputes.|
This has become the punchline to every consumer television quandary since infant satellite companies lacked local access and the government demanded a switch to digital. That said, get an antenna. A simple set of Audiovox ( VOXX) RCA rabbit ears retails for $9 and, in certain markets, culls more than 20 digital channels. Among those channels are local CBS ( CBS), ABC, NBC and Fox affiliates available in full high-definition that often comes at a premium for basic cable subscribers. This prevents consumers from paying fees for free television as network affiliates squeeze cable companies for a bigger piece of the pie while giving freeloaders all the quality HD content cable subscribers' fees help provide. While Philips, Motorola ( MOT) and Audiovox's Terk offer a range of enhancements such as amplified antennas and signal boosters for $25 to $40, even low-end equipment can bring fans a better view of the World Series than Cablevision provided for Games 1 and 2.
DirecTV's (DTV) Sunday Ticket Package
Instead of complaining about your team's home game being blacked out on the local affiliate or ESPN, why not complain about the local affiliates and ESPN being your only options? No, NFL Sunday Ticket subscribers don't dodge blackouts entirely when they pay their average of $325, but they miss less than most fans.
We're not talking about Google's ( GOOG) YouTube, but sites such as Justin.tv, BlipTV and Ustream that have hosted alternate feeds and fan feeds of games throughout the NFL season. Just before the Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced that their entire home schedule would be blacked out, frustrated fans in Tampa were already heeding tips from the Tampa Tribune and bloggers to storm these sites for game footage. Sports bar owners have taken notice as well, which has led to some tension between the big-screened beer-and-apps businesses and the NFL. Make no mistake, broadcasting games this way is absolutely illegal. The NFL's broadcast policy makes no bones about it, and a decided lack of legal challenges by the bars only confirms it. For desperate fans, however, it's as worth the risk as a peer-to-peer Duran Duran download. The sites are fairly easy to navigate and the quality of broadcasts on sites such as ATDHE.net -- which provides streams of professional soccer, basketball, golf and hockey games as well -- ranges from decidedly average to above adequate. While we can't necessarily condone this option, blackout-stricken NFL fans aren't seeking moral validation -- they're seeking games, which these sites have at their regularly scheduled times. Hulu
This is the one word the Dish Network should have used over and over again in its feud with Fox. Hulu doesn't have any Fox Sports content, but it does have just about every bit of entertainment content Fox and its legions of pinstriped lawyers attempt to withhold from viewers every time baby doesn't get enough bottle. "Wah, we don't like our Dish Network contract so we're going to cut off the public's supply of Glee!" Wrong, sucko. This is an on-demand society that doesn't care if it watches Family Guy on Sunday in prime time or five years later at midnight, after you've canceled the show and its catalog moves over to a cartoon channel's late-night lineup for the college kids and stoners. You see, Fox, when you went into your partnership agreement with Disney's ABC and GE's NBC-Universal back in 2007 and gave away your new Fox, FX and other channels' episodes five at a clip, you undercut any reasonable argument you may have made for increasing fees. Did you really think your little huffy tantrums directed at Dish Network and Cablevision were going to stop us from watching Bones on Hulu a day after its original air date? Please, this may be the season Bones and Booth hook up! We didn't even have to pay the $9.99 Hulu Plus subscription rate to catch up. If all your content is out there and all we need to enjoy it is an Internet connection and 15 seconds worth of patience to sit through the mini commercials, what's the bargaining chip? Here's a hint, Fox: Removing one bulb from your chandelier doesn't black us out. It just makes you look a little dim. -- Written by Jason Notte in Boston. >To contact the writer of this article, click here: Jason Notte. >To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/notteham. >To submit a news tip, send an email to: email@example.com.
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