Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Giants continue to blackout Hawaii

For San Francisco Giants fans in Hawaii, the team's first-place success can be a little bittersweet these days. That's when it isn't just plain head-banging maddening.

While they relish the Giants' standing atop the National League West Division and what it might portend for this season, they say there is the continuing disappointment with not being able to see much of it firsthand.

We're going on four years now of Major League Baseball's curious blackout, one that has Hawaii fans caught in a rundown between the clubs' greed and the inflexibility to work out deals with cable partners.
This notion that Hawaii is "home television territory" for the Giants, some 2,500 miles distant and therefore subject to blackout, would almost be funny if it hadn't been so ham-handedly drawn up and tight-fistedly enforced.

It is one thing to black out Giants' home games in Northern or Central California, where fans are within driving — or rail — distance of AT&T Park. It is quite another to impose it on the 50th State, where the commute is more arduous.

The shakedown works like this: MLB teams are allowed to declare "home television territories" that need not be based on any geographic common sense. Profit motive is enough. Which is why at various times as many as six teams — Giants, A's, Angels, Dodgers, Padres and Mariners — have all staked their claim to these islands.

Not to actually play any games here, you understand, but to strong-arm local fans and their cable operators to sign on and pay up or forgo the opportunity to watch them on a regular basis.
Unless local cable operators come to terms with the team's designated regional sports network, there is a blackout of non-ESPN national games and DirecTV. In this, even subscribers to MLB.com, MLB Extra Innings and others outlets have found themselves in the dark.

Some clubs, the Mariners and Padres, for instance, have relented and granted so-called "temporary waivers." Others, such as the Dodgers and Angels, have managed to work out deals with Oceanic Time Warner Cable.

Meanwhile, the Giants have dug in the way Willie McCovey once did and aren't budging. Even testimony to the Federal Communications Commission in Washington and a letter from some concerned U. S. senators earlier this year have yet to back the Giants away from the plate.

Which is why fans here didn't get to see Matt Cain's perfect game until the final innings, when ESPN and others finally cut in.

Give KITV's MeTV Hawaii, available on digital cable Ch. 126, credit for bringing in a 12-game package. But that still leaves more than 90 percent of the Giants games up to the whims of the TV market. At least fans can catch their team on the radio on KKEA, 1420-AM.
Giants fan and rail public relations operative Doug Carlson was so enraged he started a blog dedicated to the blackout, www.commaaina.blogspot.com.

When that didn't work, Carlson took perhaps the ultimate step: He moved to Sacramento. "I can't say the Infamous MLB Blackout of Hawaii was all of the motivation, but it definitely was a sweet part of the transition," Carlson wrote in an email.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@staradvertiser.com.

P.S.  Sacramento Kings too.  (Good thing it's not the Lakers or Clippers.)



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