MLS blackout policies leave fans confused

Rob Leifheit-USA TODAY Sports

Direct Kick and MLS Live are great ways to follow the Crew... if you aren't blacked out

The Crew TV situation appears to be coming to a resolution. The season opener in D.C. will be on Time Warner Cable Sports Channel according to the Dispatch. This clears up some of the uncertainty surrounding the team's TV situation but would leave many Crew fans scrambling to watch games on systems that don't get TWCSC.

The expected move to TWCSC will be a step back in availability as is only available to Time Warner Cable subscribers. Time Warner controls 48% of the Ohio cable market, but previous partner Fox Sports Ohio's footprint covered the entire state across most cable providers.

This leaves many Crew fans scrambling to watch the black and gold. The league does offer a couple options for out of market fans to watch games, but even these options aren't entirely clear due to blackout rules. On cable and satellite, fans can subscribe to Direct Kick and watch games league wide. There are blackout rules and the Crew were blacked out during their contract with FSO. The league hasn't released information about the 2014 edition of Direct Kick or listed blackout policies.

The league has also aggressively pursued online streaming and has had a subscription service, MLS Live, since the 2010 season. The blackout policies are handled by the local team and the Crew were blacked out through the duration of the FSO partnership. They haven't announced blackout policies for the 2014 season as of press time.

The league has released the blackout policies for MLS Live and it does provide hope that non Time Warner customers will be able to subscribe. Only eight of nineteen teams have a local blackout policy. Of note, F.C. Dallas has a deal with TWCSC and doesn't blackout locally or on Direct Kick.

Below are the MLS Live policies for each MLS and National Team covered by the service as of February.

Location

Blackout policy
USA ESPN, ESPN2, NBC, NBCSN, UniMas; available 48 hours after match
Canada TSN, TSN2, RDS; available 48 hours after match
Mexico None
Chicago Fire Matches on ESPN, ESPN2, NBC, NBCSN, UniMas
Chivas USA Matches on ESPN, ESPN2, NBC, NBCSN, UniMas
Colorado Rapids Altitude Sports broadcast region, and matches on ESPN, ESPN2, NBC, NBCSN, UniMas
Columbus Crew Local be determined, and matches on ESPN, ESPN2, NBC, NBCSN, UniMas
D.C. United CSN Mid-Atlantic broadcast region, and matches on ESPN, ESPN2, NBC, NBCSN, UniMas
FC Dallas Matches on ESPN, ESPN2, NBC, NBCSN, UniMas
Houston Dynamo Matches on KPRC, and matches on ESPN, ESPN2, NBC, NBCSN, UniMas
LA Galaxy Time Warner SportsNet broadcast region, and matches on ESPN, ESPN2, NBC, NBCSN, UniMas
Montreal Impact Nationally broadcast matches on TSN, TSN2, RDS
New England Revolution Matches on ESPN, ESPN2, NBC, NBCSN, UniMas
NY Red Bulls MSG broadcast region, and matches on ESPN, ESPN2, NBC, NBCSN, UniMas
Philadelphia Union Matches on ESPN, ESPN2, NBC, NBCSN, UniMas
Portland Timbers ROOT Sports, KPTV, KPDX broadcast regions, and matches on ESPN, ESPN2, NBC, NBCSN, UniMas
Real Salt Lake Matches on ESPN, ESPN2, NBC, NBCSN, UniMas
San Jose Earthquakes Matches on ESPN, ESPN2, NBC, NBCSN, UniMas
Seattle Sounders Q13 FOX, JOEtv broadcast regions, and matches on ESPN, ESPN2, NBC, NBCSN, UniMas
Toronto FC Nationally broadcast matches on TSN, TSN2, RDS
Sporting KC KMCI broadcast region, and matches on ESPN, ESPN2, NBC, NBCSN, UniMas
Vancouver Whitecaps All of Canada (TSN contract with Whitecaps offers nationwide coverage)

While diehard fans will subscribe to a service like Direct Kick ($79) or MLS Live ($65) to watch the Crew or MLS, the team will likely lose some casual fans that won't have easy access to the games. The Crew would add compound the problems for fans if blackout policies aren't relaxed.

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