Bars Are Big Winners In TV Disputes

Greed has wreaked havoc on Oregon sports fans in recent years, and that’s good news for owners of sports bars.

The Pac 12 Network’s ongoing dispute with DirecTV and Comcast’s exclusive deal with the Trail Blazers have made fans rethink their Saturday afternoon or weeknight viewing plans. What once was simple as turning on the TV – or radio, in the not so distant past when Oregon and Oregon State’s football teams were never locks to be on the tube – has now turned into a multistep checklist.

First, you have to find out in advance what channel the game is on. If it’s a national telecast – ABC, ESPN, TNT, NBC – no problem. If it’s on the Pac 12 Network or Comcast Sports, you now have to come up with another solution. Do you dial up a friend who has Dish or Comcast and invite yourself over for the game? Sure this is OK to do now and then, but over the course of a 14-week college football season and an 82-game NBA season, it gets to be obnoxious.

You can’t self-invite from September through June.

So fans are left buying tickets to the games (which has become an even less appealing option as ticket prices have skyrocketed and the powers that be have paid less and less attention to the fans in the stands in comparison to TV contract dollars. Instant replay, commercial breaks, TV timeouts … these are all hell for people paying for tickets. Instead of flipping to another game, they’re stuck deciding whether Dot 1 or Dot 2 will win the race on the big screen, cheering for a fat guy to kick a field goal or quietly making fun of the experts behind them to the person they came to the game with) or heading to the bars.

Take, for example, Saturday’s Civil War game between No. 5 Oregon and No. 15 Oregon State. One of the longest standing rivalries in college football. Two teams ranked in the top 25. Pac 12 title and BCS bowl implications on the line.

And if you have DirecTV, you can’t get the game at home.

Whoever was in charge of scheduling this one messed up. This game didn’t deserve a noon time slot on the Pac 12 Network, but that’s what it got. And the noon start time was probably a good thing – there were plenty of over-imbibers flanking Reser Stadium after the game ended. Had it been a 4 p.m. or later start, the police would have had a busy night.

So while the noon kickoff was good for the livers of those going to the game, at the same time it sent several others to the bars way earlier than they may have preferred just to be able to tune into the game. Bombs Away Café in Corvallis, not known at all as a sports bar, was packed full of mostly orange-and-black clad fans watching the game on their new HD wall projector. Some of these people would have flocked to the bar anyway for the gameday atmosphere; others’ hands were forced because they couldn’t watch from the comfort of their own couch.

While on the one hand fans should be excited they’re able to watch all of their teams games on TV – it wasn’t all that long ago this was impossible – bar owners should be even more thrilled that contract negotiations between teams, leagues and TV networks are so contentious. The greed makes things more difficult for the everyday fan, but they can all take solace knowing there’s a game – and a drink – waiting for them right around the corner.

Kyle Boggs is on Twitter. Follow him at @KyleKBoggs

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