Browns Playoff Blackout Frustrates Fans and Businesses

Local Sports Broadcast Dispute Triggers Creative Responses.

by Nouman Rasool
Browns Playoff Blackout Frustrates Fans and Businesses
© Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The anticipation of the Cleveland Browns' journey toward the Super Bowl has hit an unexpected snag, casting a shadow over what should be an exhilarating playoff season. In a pivotal wild card round, the Browns are set to face the Houston Texans on Saturday at 4:30 pm, broadcasted on NBC.

However, a brewing conflict between Tegna, the broadcasting company, and AT&T-owned DirecTV threatens to disrupt this much-awaited game. This dispute has led to a blackout on WKYC, the local NBC affiliate, leaving DirecTV, DirecTV Stream, and AT&T U-Verse subscribers searching for alternative viewing options.

This blackout holds significant implications not only for fans but also for local businesses, especially bars that planned to host large gatherings for the game. Alex Budin, the owner of Jukebox, which is home to the Hingetown Browns Backers fan club, expressed his frustrations to Axios, citing the challenge of managing multiple TVs in a bar setting under these circumstances.

George Gountis, who runs Mars Bar & Café, conveyed to Crain's the economic impact of this blackout, estimating a potential revenue loss of $8,000 to $10,000 if they're unable to show the game. In response, Mars Bar & Café is even considering switching to Cox as their cable provider.

Alternative Viewing Solutions

Fortunately, there are a few workarounds. Fans and establishments can resort to over-the-air antennas or various streaming services like Peacock, Fubo, Hulu, and YouTube TV. Some of these platforms offer free trials, providing a temporary solution.

Budin has already equipped Jukebox with antennas and plans to use Peacock as a backup. However, he highlighted a critical issue with streaming services: the difficulty in synchronizing multiple TVs. Streaming services often have slight delays, resulting in discrepancies of up to 10 seconds between feeds on different TVs.

The significance of this blackout extends beyond local businesses and fans. It has even garnered the attention of U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown. Senator Brown has actively intervened, urging Tegna and AT&T executives to resolve their dispute promptly.

He emphasized the unfairness of Browns fans, eagerly awaiting their team's first playoff game in three years, being caught in the crossfire of a corporate disagreement.