Fans Plot World Series Sweep to Bars, MLB.com Amid Cablevision Shutout

Baseball fan Jon Eisenstein set up a new 55-inch, 3-D television at his house ahead of the World Series opener today. He can’t count on watching the Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants on it though.

Eisenstein is a customer of Cablevision Systems Corp., which lost the rights to show Fox broadcasts including the World Series in a fee dispute with Fox parent News Corp. So he’ll likely head to a sports bar near his home to catch the games.

“I’ll probably end up going to Buffalo Wild Wings,” said Eisenstein, a 36-year-old marketing company executive who lives in Stamford, Connecticut, referring to the chain that offers 50 chicken-wing orders and cheeseburgers topped with onion rings and pulled pork.

Fox cut its broadcasts on Cablevision two weeks ago, after the two sides failed to agree on how much the cable operator should pay for programming. The standoff has sent baseball fans digging through closets for antennas, scoping out local sports bars and searching online for broadcasts of baseball’s championship.

News Corp., run by billionaire Rupert Murdoch, has set up a website to encourage Cablevision customers to switch their television service. The site, keepfoxon.com, lets people plug in a Zip code to find pay-TV alternatives, including DirecTV, Dish Network Corp. and Verizon Communications Inc., which sells its FiOS TV service in the New York area.

Verizon has seen a pickup in new subscribers since the conflict began, said spokesman John Bonomo, without providing specific figures. The carrier has increased the size of its installation crews and extended call-center hours into the evenings and weekends to keep up with demand, he said.

Digging Out an Antenna

DirecTV has also added customers since the blackout started, said Robert Mercer, a spokesman, without giving details. Francie Bauer, a spokeswoman for Dish, declined to comment.

Jim Maiella, a spokesman for Cablevision, declined to comment on how many customers the company may be losing because of the stand-off. He called on Fox to end the blackout and agree to binding arbitration.

Nikki Adams, an assistant manager at a bank who lives on Long Island, switched to Verizon from Cablevision within a few days of losing Fox. Programs like the “Wendy Williams Show” and “House” were too much to give up, she said, and she wants to watch the World Series.

Daniel Jalkut, a San Francisco Giants fan who lives in Brooklyn, opted for older technology. He hunted through storage boxes for 20 minutes to track down an antenna that could pick up over-the-air broadcasts, the standard approach before cable service. The software engineer is going to try to get Fox’s high-definition broadcasts of the games.

MLB.com Option

“It’s not great, but since it’s an HD broadcast, when it does tune in, it’s perfect,” said Jalkut. “It’s kind of an all-or-nothing thing with digital broadcast.”

Jalkut said he’s happy with Cablevision’s other services and doesn’t plan to switch to get access to Fox stations for the time being.

Some baseball fans are choosing online options. Ivi Inc., based in Seattle, lets customers watch live broadcast television on their computers for $4.99 a month. The company was sued last month by broadcasters for streaming video online without authorization.

MLB.com is advertising live-game broadcasts and “no blackouts” for $9.95 in the U.S. and Canada. Subscribers can stream video, with limited views that don’t include the standard broadcast, to computers and Apple Inc.’s iPads and iPhones. Dave Wadsworth, who lives in Central Valley, New York and travels for work, is considering signing up for the MLB.com package.

The best option may be to “just buy the package and watch the whole thing on your computer,” Wadsworth said in an interview. “Technology makes it pretty easy now.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Amy Thomson in New York at athomson6@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Elstrom at pelstrom@bloomberg.net.

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