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How to watch Tampa Bay Lightning games on TV in 2020-21

SB Nation logo SB Nation 1/8/2021 GeoFitz4
a man sitting in front of a computer screen © Photo by Kinsey Janke/NHLI via Getty Images

How to watch the Tampa Bay Lightning play games during the 2020-21 season? That’s a question a lot of Lightning fans are asking themselves and Googling right now as we are less than a week from the start of the regular season. When Disney purchased most of the entertainment portion of Fox, they were required to sell off the Fox Sports Regional channels as part of the regulatory approval for the acquisition. That includes Fox Sports Sun that is the Lighting’s broadcast partner for games.

Sinclair Broadcast Group ended up being the company that purchased those assets. They immediately went on a campaign of renegotiating with TV providers for more money. They’ve held out of agreeing to contracts with any TV provider, including internet based providers like Sling TV and YouTube TV, that formerly carried their channels, that won’t meet their demands. This has left sports fans in the dark.

Frontier does not have Fox Sports Sun. Comcast/Xfinity does not have Fox Sports Sun. Sling TV does not have Fox Sports Sun. YouTube TV does not have Fox Sports Sun. Hulu TV does not have Fox Sports Sun. Philo does not have Fox Sports Sun. Fubo does not have Fox Sports Sun.

The only services that I have found that have Fox Sports Sun is Spectrum and AT&T TV. While Spectrum covers most of the Tampa Bay area, it leaves Sarasota County, much of Polk County, and parts of southeast Hillsborough County and eastern Bradenton Country without Spectrum as an option. AT&T TV is an option if you’re outside of that area, but at a minimum, that will cost you $65 a month. If you already have another cable provider, that’s a lot to ask on top of what you already have just so you can watch the Lightning.

Oh, I almost forgot. NHL.TV technically has Lightning games. I say technically because NHL.TV has blackout restrictions. If you’re in a team’s broadcast area, you won’t be able to stream the games. Doesn’t matter if you can actually GET Lightning games on a service that is available in your area. You just can’t do it. So unless you want to also pay for a VPN to make it look like you actually live in some other part of the U.S. on top of NHL.TV’s $99 deal for the shortened season, this isn’t an option.

As a resident of Sarasota County, with Frontier as my cable provider and Comcast/Xfinity as the other cable provider available to me, I’m pretty disheartened that the team hasn’t done anything to step in and force the issue with their broadcast partner. Same for the Tampa Bay Rays who are also impacted by the same strong arming by Sinclair. Both teams have prided themselves on having strong, local broadcast viewership. Well, looks like this year, both teams might be at the bottom of the league in that category since only people with Spectrum or AT&T TV will actually be able to watch games.

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