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2017 Rank of Sports Cities that Hate Local Blackouts

Every sports fan has tasted it before - Trying to stream your favorite team's games and BOOM: A Blackout.

  – Chris Cagle

The same way we sliced our own data up to create our two latest blog posts "2017 Cord Cutting Statistics, Reports & Analysis" and "Why Amazon.com Sellers need 3rd Party Reviews & Recommendations", I decided to dig into the clicks that I was able to export out of the two VPN programs we promoted this year (ExpressVPN and Unlocator).

What is a VPN?

For those of you who landed here from the Google machine, and have no idea what a VPN is, here is a quick refresher. A VPN hides where you actually are on the internet. After purchasing their service, you get an IP address that is registered from some far-away place (think Germany or Italy), and that IP is entered into your home internet broadband router. This IP address acts as a disguise to the various major sports teams that attempt to "blackout" their streaming services for those of us that can simply watch it on TV. Now, this is not a problem for most unless 1) You don't have cable, or 2) You don't want cable.

Luckily, ExpressVPN and Unlocator was able to capture the HTTP referrer URL on each click NoCable.org sent to their website (Disclaimer: I am an affiliate for them) and allowed that to be exported from their affiliate portals. Now, these clicks totaled just over 15,000, so I feel this was a pretty good set of data to analyze considering it was for the full 2016 calendar year. The number of actually conversions were much less than that, and in my opinion, not necessarily relevant when making this list - so I stuck with just the click data.

Which sports' fans hate blackouts the most?

Sports Related VPN Clicks in 2016

This was the easiest thing for me to look at.

I had a full year's set of data, and all my URLs have the league right in them (i.e. https://nocable.org/watch/MLB/st-louis-cardinals). In order to find the most popular leagues for blackout hatred, all I had to do was simply count.

The only thing I found surprising here is how much the NHL beat the NBA. Inside the US, the NBA is clearly the more popular sport of the two... even The Worldwide Leader in Sports (ESPN) doesn't find the NHL to be relevant enough to place it as a main link inside it's navigation: ESPN hates the NHL

The NFL does not typically have local team blackout restrictions and the MLS is mostly irrelevant in the US, so those two bringing up the rear is definitely not unexpected.

Season Opener vs. Playoffs

I also wanted to find out whether more people are trying to stream their team's games at the beginning of the season, or when the playoffs start. If I was forced to give an educated guess, I would have said playoffs, but it would have only been based on my own history, and nothing else.

Well, as it turned out I would have been wrong.

I decided to plot the percentage of my overall website traffic that the Boston Red Sox contributed in 2016. I chose the Red Sox for a couple reasons.

  • Boston is the top Cord Cutting sports town
  • It was the pro team I had the most data to work with
  • It was a playoff team in 2016

In this chart, you can see very clearly that the beginning of the season is when cord cutters are looking to find a way to stream. This wanes off pretty steadily throughout the season and essentially grinds to a halt once the playoffs start.

RedSox Streaming Interest during 2016 Season

As you can see, there is a steady and deliberate decrease as the baseball season goes on (as shown by the dotted red trend line) I tried to incorporate the VPN clicks into this chart, but they simply showed the same trend.

Sports Cities that Hate Blackouts Most

43. Oakland, CA
With three professional sports teams, cord cutters in Oakland had very little interest supporting their sports teams. No wonder the Raiders want to move - fan support here is minuscule compared to other cities of the same size. Considering the city across the Bay is within the top ten of this list just goes to show you that it is not a California thing.

42. San Diego, CA
Here is another 3-team sports city that has an NFL looking to bolt from town and no support from its local cord cutters.

41. Indianapolis, IN
40. St. Louis, MO
39. Memphis, TN
38. New Orleans, LA
37. Orlando, FL
36. Jacksonville, FL
35. Raleigh, NC
34. Columbus, OH
33. Charlotte, NC
32. Phoenix, AZ
31. Sacramento, CA
30. San Antonio, TX

29. Green Bay, WI
It is a little odd to see Green Bay anywhere near the middle of the pack. This city only has an NFL team, which hasn't seen a blacked-out game since 1983.

28. Baltimore, MD
27. Miami, FL

26. Atlanta, GA
Apparently, being an Atlanta sports fan is really depressing.

25. Los Angeles, CA
24. Nashville, TN
23. Washington, DC
22. Milwaukee, WI
21. Minneapolis, MN
20. Tampa Bay, FL
19. Dallas, TX
18. San Jose, CA
17. Kansas City, MO
16. Denver, CO
15. Chicago, IL
14. Portland, OR
13. Philadelphia, PA
12. Cleveland, OH
11. Cincinnati, OH

10. Detroit, MI
Which team do you think was more popular in Detroit: the Tigers or Red Wings? It's a trick question as they were both essentially tied. However, the Pistons barely registered as a blip on most cord cutters' radar.

9. Oklahoma City, OK
Well, this rank is obviously due to the thunder, but it begs a different question: If the Thunder were still the Seattle Supersonics, would they have propelled Seattle to the top spot in this list? The answer: No, but Seattle would have taken over the second spot and given Boston a run for their money.

8. Houston, TX
Those Astros fans have apparently been buoyed by the unexpected 2015 season. The Houston Astros took a step back in 2016, but with the young core they have in place, this team will likely remain competitive for years to come.

7. San Francisco, CA
Driven mostly by the perennially awesome Giants Baseball Club, San Fran is solidly within the top 10 here.

6. Pittsburgh, PA
I can speak from experience here. Pittsburgh is absolutely crazy about its sports teams and I am personally seeing a pronounced uptick in cord-cutting talk.

5. New York, NY
New York has so many sports teams, at least one has to be popular with cord cutters... right? Well, the Blueshirts are that team coming in with more clicks than all other 10 teams combined.

4. Salt Lake City, UT
I did not expect to see Salt Lake City so close to the top. This ranking is courtesy of just the Utah Jazz fans... SLC doesn't really have any other team other than an MLS team that doesnt enforce blackouts.

3. Seattle, WA
Mariners Good Old TimesSeattle has been title-town recently. Starting with the Seahawks winning it all in 2014, and the Sounders (MLS) in 2016. Actually, the Sounders where the only MLS team to record any VPN clicks on NoCable (I guess winning a championship helps). Too bad the Mariners no longer have their dynamic teams of the 1990s to attempt to add to the rings.

2. Buffalo, NY
Sabres FansBuffalo can't win anything.

This is all Sabres fans. Remember, the NFL doesn't really have blackouts, so the Bills don't factor in here. This #2 ranking for Buffalo is mind-boggling if you think about it... We are talking about a city that has never had a major sports championship (a combined 51 years), and a city that has an economy that is lagging behind.

1. Boston, MA
Fenway Park

With the Red Sox fans leading the way, Boston takes our top spot here. Boston is also the least miserable sports city in America. (Why do their teams just keep on winning?!?) So the combination of winning teams, a rabid fan base and a state that is in the top 5 of our Cord Cutters Interest Index allows Boston to win yet another award.

At least Tom Brady didn't have to cheat to help Boston win this one.

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