Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Nomo vs. Technology: An Opening Day Tale

The ongoing stalemate between Time Warner Cable and other TV providers over distribution of SportsNet LA has stretched into its second season. This has left those who are unable (like me!) or unwilling (like people who hate crappy cable service!) to switch to TWC with no real option for watching Dodger games. Sure, there are less than legal ways to view the games, but my brief experiments with those links ended with pretty poor video quality.

Last season, I was able to see a handful of games on my TV, at no cost. This was due to two things: the generous loan of an MLB.tv login from a friend of the blog, and a weird anomaly with my home IP address that somehow made it immune to local blackout restrictions. This year, I wanted to give the MLB.tv route another go. It's really difficult to be a Dodgers blogger/Twitterer if you can't see the games! Not wanting to seem greedy, I ponied up for my own subscription, in the hopes that the IP address anomaly would still work. If it didn't, I was aware of options for working around the blackout restrictions with services like Unblock-US and Unlocator. (I grabbed a free trial of each, just in case.)

My first mistake was not testing my IP address before the start of yesterday's game. I signed up for MLB.tv on Friday morning, but Friday's and Saturday's games were not subject to local blackouts. I also figured I wouldn't be able to try it for Opening Day either, since I would be at work. Lo and behold, I found myself at home yesterday with a sick child, so I was ready to take in Opening Day on my TV. Shortly before 1pm, I logged into MLB.tv on my Amazon Fire TV, selected the game, and...I was blacked out. Strike one.

No problem, I thought. I could just try those unblocking services everybody is raving about. I logged into Unlocator first. I was greeted with a screen that said, "Trying to unblock MLB games? See our list of compatible devices here!" I clicked the link and...no Amazon Fire TV. Strike two. But Unlocator's site did have a page for setting up an Amazon Fire TV for use with the service, so I figured I'd try that. I followed all of the instructions to the letter and...nothing. It would not connect. Strike three, one out. So, I decided to try Unblock-US. I logged in and discovered...Amazon Fire TV is not supported. Strike four. Meanwhile, it's approaching 1:30 at this point and I'm missing Vin, Kershaw, et al. I threw on Gameday Audio to be the soundtrack to my frustration.

Undaunted, I moved to the living room and attempted to get Unlocator working on the PS3 (even though the PS3 MLB.tv app has always been awful for me). Again, I followed the instructions to the letter and..."Connection Error." Strike five. Sick child is now wondering why I turned off Disney Junior just to yell at the PS3. So, I moved on down the line to my Macbook, which is now so old that it has to stay plugged in all the time to work. I went through the Unlocator steps once again and...SUCCESS! A flare single over the second baseman's outstretched glove! I couldn't leave well enough alone, though. I really wanted to watch the game from the comfort of my room, but didn't want to unplug everything and move it. So, I pulled out an old work laptop, brought it to the room, and...waited almost 20 minutes for it to boot up. Thrown out trying to stretch the single into a double.

When the laptop was finally up, though, I was able to get the game running on it, and gleefully watched from the sixth inning on. I think I could have saved myself a ton of pain and sorrow, had I done a little more research on how the unblocking services work, and made sure I had all my devices (both old & busted AND new hotness) ready to go ahead of time. I've decided to subscribe to Unlocator for the season, because when it did finally work, it worked really well. At the end of the day, I finally got it working on the PS3 too, so I have that for the living room, the laptop for the bedroom, and I'm going to continue to try to get the Fire TV to work. In total, I'm paying $157.50 to watch Dodger games for the season. Huh. A customer willing to pay real money for content? You'd think a cable company would want to take advantage of that.

And that's the real issue here: I SHOULDN'T HAVE TO DO ALL THIS TO WATCH A DAMN BASEBALL GAME ON MY TV. For the millionth time, TWC and the Dodgers, I am begging you to get your shit together. I mean, you've already pissed off Ice Cube. You might not have much time left.


Zach said...

Hola VPN app for your phone or google chrome browser on your laptop is another way to get around the mlb.tv blackouts. And it's FREE.

Cliff Beefpile said...

I was just gonna ask if anyone had tried Unlocator. I'll give it a shot tonight.

Dusty Baker said...

If you dissed Cube you done dissed yourself!

BJ Killeen said...

We did MLB tV and unblock. Scott finally figured it out with Apple TV second inning. $30/ mo cost versus $56/ mo last year for TWC or $70 mo this year for twc. Plus all the other games. Deal.