One storyline for tonight’s Caps-Flyers’ tilt is the matchup between two unbeaten and powerful looking East heavies, in what could be a preview of a deep-in-the-postseason matchup next spring. Another, though, is that no small number of the region’s puckheads again won’t be able to see the television broadcast, as for the second time in three games this young season, Versus is carrying a Capitals’ TV feed. Versus is presently embroiled in a dispute with DirecTV, the upshot of which is that the channel isn’t included in the satellite provider’s catalogue of outlets.
Among the blacked-out by the dispute: our Gary Œöriebel. His is a dilemma not unlike many about the region: a longtime DirecTV subscriber (10 years), otherwise happy with the service, and a parent of two young ones who require, even on game nights, evening feeding, bathing, and bedtime coercion. He’s long made a habit of DVR-ing Caps’ games and catching up with the action just as soon as the little ones are put down. I knew he was in a pickle for the season opening broadcast in Boston (also on Versus) last week, and again this week he’s left out in the broadcast cold.
“I’m screwed,” he emailed me earlier today. “I cannot easily go to a friend’s house or bar to watch the game because of family commitments.
“Tonight I’ll be following along with Steve Kolbe online, since 1500 am is not so strong west of the Beltway.”
Gary, like a lot of other hockey fans, has made a lot of furious phone calls to DirecTV about the situation, but the impasse remains. It’s a brutal one, from my vantage, because of DirecTV’s seemingly incongruous negotiating position. On the one hand, the provider has quite publicly alleged that Versus is little more than an elaborate infomercial outlet, the provider of esoteric outdoor broadcast coverage like game hunting and such. Simultaneously, however, DirecTV is attempting to bundle Versus in a costlier sports package for all of its subscribers.
No doubt DirecTV this offseason acknowledged the NHL’s increased television popularity — fueled to no small degree by the wide array of the league’s likable young guns — and is seeking to profit from the enthusiasm surge. From its vantage Versus understandably doesn’t want a dramatic alteration in the way it is offered by providers, as specialty bundling packages as opposed to basic plan inclusion necessarily decrease overall viewership numbers. Until the impasse is resolved, millions of hockey fans across the country are denied access to the league’s national network provider.
Gary noted that changing providers, in addition to being a general nuissance, seems impractical for a service he’s otherwise pleased with, and particularly when only about a half dozen Caps’ regular season games are broadcast on Versus. Potentially more, however, could run there in the postseason.
We know that some in our readership are in a similar predicament – and the sizzle of this Caps’ club is such that missing even a single game is painful. So what are you doing about the matter? Anything clever or creative? And how do you imagine this prolonged impasse being resolved?