Q. I know all about the big fight over SportsNet LA with DIRECTV and everyone else. But is there any way at all to watch the Dodgers through streaming? Certainly it’s available somewhere online, right? — Bev, Los Angeles.
SportsNet LA, the TV home of the Los Angeles Dodgers, is not available on any cable or satellite TV service in the LA market except for Charter Spectrum, which has the management rights to the channel.
The pay TV services say Charter is demanding excessive fees to carry the channel, an allegation denied by the cable operator. There seems to be no end to the dispute which has now gone on for four years.
So, what can you if you don’t subscribe to Charter?
The live streaming services, such as DIRECTV Now, Sling TV, Hulu and PlayStation Vue, also don’t carry SportsNet LA. While they have not commented publicly on the channel, it’s likely the price tag for carriage is too steep for them, too.
(Charter also does not allow its own LA-based subscribers to stream the Dodgers in-market. The only other two teams not available via in-market streaming are the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles, which are carried by MASN.)
No pay TV coverage except for Charter. No coverage by the live streamers.
Bev, if you don’t have Charter, you only have one alternative.
Cheat the system. (Sad to say.)
SportsNet LA is available via streaming on the MLB.TV package, which costs $112.99 for the entire season of out-of-market games. But, of course, SportsNet LA is in your market, not out, so you couldn’t watch the Dodgers on MLB.TV. The games would be blacked out.
However, there is a way for blackout victims in the LA market to watch the Dodgers on MLB.TV
The answer is three little letters: VPN.
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network, a software that you can download that will enable you to use an IP address different from your own. For instance, if you live in Detroit, you could insert an IP address supplied by the VPN company that would say you live in Denmark.
You probably don’t need me to tell you what’s next. If you live in the LA area, you could use your VPN to say you live overseas. Then, you could subscribe to the MLB.TV online package and watch SportsNet LA because the the IP address wouldn’t say Los Angeles. (Normally, MLB.TV is required to blackout the in-market game because the regional channel has the exclusive rights. But in this case, MLB.TV wouldn’t know you live in that market.)
But the league actually refers to its use in MLB.TV’s FAQ section for its blackout policy. The league explains how a game could be blacked out in a home because of a VPN.
“If you are accessing the Internet through a VPN connection, you might be getting a blackout message because the host IP address for the VPN is within the restricted range of the game that you are trying to access,” the site says. (For example,if your VPN uses a St. Louis IP, you couldn’t watch the Cardinals.)
Some fans have speculated that MLB looks the other way because more people will subscribe to MLB.TV, which means more revenue for the league. Considering that MLB.TV has not engaged in a public war on VPN use, as Netflix has, that speculation is not easily dismissed. If the league truly wanted to stop VPNs, it would seem that a more aggressive attack, including highly publicized legal challenges, would be necessary.
That will hardly stop a die-hard fan who’s desperate to watch his or her team.
Which VPN should you use if you decide to go that route? Unlocator is a popular choice at $4.95 a month and it offers a 14-day free trial. Unlocator can work with various computer platforms and streaming devices such as Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV. (So, yes, you could watch the games on your television.)
Bev, I can’t recommend that you use the VPN to watch your favorite team. You will have to make your own decision based on your belief system. You might not think it’s right, but some people are doing it.
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— Phillip Swann