TV Answer Man, I have used YouTube TV and DIRECTV in the last year and they both had some NBA games in 4K blacked out in my area. I can’t understand that. It seems that the NBA TV games should not be blacked out because they are on a national channel, right? Can you explain this to me? Is it a technical glitch? — Champ, Cleveland. 

Champ, as you know, DIRECTV and YouTube TV now offer some NBA TV games in 4K on special 4K channels. However, there will be times when you can’t watch the games in 4K although the rest of the nation can.

Let me explain.

NBA TV is subject to local blackout restrictions whether the game is airing on the 4K channel or the regular HD channel. If the game is airing on a regional sports channel in your area, it will be blacked out on NBA TV.

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For instance, let’s say your Cleveland Cavaliers are playing the Los Angeles Lakers on both the 4K and HD NBA TV channels. The game will also be broadcast on the Bally Sports Ohio channel in the Cleveland market and the Spectrum SportsNet channel in the Los Angeles market. NBA TV defers to the regional channels and blacks out its 4K and HD airings in those markets.

The practice is designed to protect the regional channels which paid an enormous amount to the NBA for the rights to the games. (The league owns NBA TV.)

The blackouts have triggered considerable confusion and anger over the years, but I don’t see them going away anytime soon. (MLB has the same policy for the same reason.)

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I’ll add that the anger is often heightened when the blackout occurs on a service such as YouTube TV which does not carry the regional sports channel that is airing the NBA TV game locally. For example, YouTube TV does not carry Bally Sports Ohio, the TV home of the Cavs. But even though YouTube TV doesn’t carry it, NBA TV still blacks out a Cavaliers game on YouTube TV in the Cleveland market.

Champ, hope that makes sense. Happy viewing and stay safe.

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— Phillip Swann