NLCS, NFL fans lose as FOX TV fights with Cablevision over money

Sitting in your easy chair, popping open a beer and switching on your TV to check out the baseball playoffs — it almost reads like part of the Bill of Rights.

But watching the Philadelphia Phillies play the San Francisco Giants in the NLCS is not a guarantee, especially if you're a Cablevision Systems customer caught in the middle of a dispute over fees with the owner of the FOX Network.

Because of the impasse, some 3 million households in the New York metropolitan area (along with many in central New Jersey) were blacked out from watching Games 1 and 2 of the NLCS, according to the Associated Press. They have been prevented from seeing all of FOX's programming, in fact, including Sunday's NFL games. No "Glee," either, if this isn't settled by Tuesday night.

Most customers in the Philadelphia area get cable TV through Comcast, but if you live closer to Trenton, N.J., and get Cablevision — as many Phillies fans do — you've had to scramble to watch this round of baseball.

Jessica Muszynski, a Phillies fan from Hamilton, N.J., headed to a local bar — like many friends and family — and figured it cost her nearly $50 to watch games Saturday and Sunday. Not a small consideration for someone who is unemployed.

"I pay a lot for my cable and I'm sure both companies make plenty of money," Muszynski said. "So I'm not sympathetic to either side. The only reason I'm with Cablevision is to be able to see the Phillies [during the regular season]."

Paying for a digital tuner to pick up FOX's free over-the-air signal is an option for some, but it might not be feasible to viewers in high-rise apartments without means to get a clear signal. This might really come into play if the New York Yankees happen to advance to the World Series on Oct. 27, when FOX picks up all of the broadcasts.

Fans have other options, too, such as gizmos that allow you to watch local TV channels on your computer. People are resourceful. But that's not the point.

Fans shouldn't have to jump through hoops to watch these games. As Muszynski said, she already pays a lot of money for TV. Going to a bar, or renting a hotel room with a group, or going to a friend's house — these should be fun options, not necessities that fluster fans.

And going to the local bar isn't always a cut and dried solution, either — if that bar subscribes to Cablevision.

I don't know for a fact who the worse bad guy is in this dispute, although I have my suspicions. FOX's Rupert Murdoch is always pulling stunts like this, apparently not satisfied that he's quite rich enough. But the overall problem is more complex and troublesome.

I do know it would behoove Major League Baseball, the next time its TV deal expires with FOX, to remember what Murdoch thinks about baseball fans.

Not much.

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