Jan 12, 2024 - Sports

Browns TV blackout is a headache for fans, business owners

Joe Flacco throws a pass for the Browns.

A Brown out? Photo: Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Who knew watching the Browns make a run at a Super Bowl would be this hard?

Driving the news: Cleveland takes on the Houston Texans in the wild card round of the NFL playoffs at 4:30pm Saturday on NBC.

  • Yes, but: A dispute between broadcast company Tegna and AT&T-owned DirecTV will cause the game to be blacked out on local NBC affiliate WKYC.

Why it matters: DirecTV, DirecTV Stream and AT&T U-Verse customers — including bars hoping to show the game to large crowds — will have to find an alternative way to watch the game.

What they're saying: "It's a huge pain point for DirecTV users anywhere, especially bars with multiple TVs," Alex Budin, owner of Jukebox, which hosts the Hingetown Browns Backers fan club, tells Axios.

  • George Gountis, owner of Mars Bar & Café told Crain's the establishment will switch from DirecTV to Cox as its cable provider because not showing the game could mean "at least an $8,000 to $10,000 hit."

State of play: There are other options such as using an over-the-air antenna or streaming services like Peacock, Fubo, Hulu and YouTube TV, some of which offer free trials.

  • Budin says he's purchased antennas for Jukebox and will use Peacock as a backup. But he says streaming services like Peacock make it "impossible" to sync multiple TVs together.
  • "They all seem to broadcast on their own timeline. Three TVs activated at the same time could have three different feeds as much as 10 seconds apart."

The intrigue: The blackout is such a big deal that it's caught the attention of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, who is calling on executives at Tegna and AT&T to settle the matter.

  • "It is unacceptable that Browns fans would be unable to watch their team play in the playoffs — their first playoff game in three years — due to a business dispute," Brown wrote in a letter.

The bottom line: Fans aware of the blackout should be able to find other options; others may be in for an unpleasant surprise come kickoff time.

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