Gil Pound: Pound for Hard times

May 14—Atlanta Braves fans, how lucky were we to follow a team whose games were broadcast on a network available across the entire country?

Spending a week in Florida on vacation? That's OK. The hotel has Ted's channel. At home in Georgia and don't have cable? Send your least-liked family member outside to hold the antenna in place, and the fuzz on channel 17 might clear up just enough to see Greg Maddux's two-seam fastball "catch" the outside corner against a righty.

Spoiled we were to love a team that was almost always a few clicks of the remote away. I'm talking of course about the glory days when the Braves were on TBS thanks to eccentric billionaire (are there any billionaires that aren't eccentric?) Ted Turner.

That golden age is long gone. The 2007 season was the last time TBS was the lead broadcaster for Atlanta's ball club.

A shift occurred that began to favor the dastardly regional sports networks, known then as Fox Sports South and Fox Sports Southeast. It was around that time Braves fans had to learn the term "carriage dispute" as negotiations between the regional sports networks, or RSNs, would break down at the stroke of midnight and the carriage turned into a good-for-nothing pumpkin like in "Cinderella."

The disputes wouldn't last long at all back then. Once the contract was close to lapsing, a message would scroll across the bottom of a game saying the deal between the TV provider and network was almost up. "Call your TV provider and tell them you want to watch the Braves!" the network would say. People would in fact call, and the two sides would come together often without a game ever having been missed.

It's a different story these days. Agreements between Diamond Sports Group, which owns and operates the Bally Sports networks where the Braves are predominantly broadcast currently, and TV providers are becoming fewer and farther between. Of the seven largest providers, Bally is carried only on Charter, DirecTV and Cox Communications. Fans who subscribe to Dish Network, Comcast and streaming platforms YouTube TV and Hulu (like me) are out of luck.

That Comcast domino fell just recently. The two sides — Comcast/Xfinity and Diamond Sports Group — have been busy pointing the finger at one another. Meanwhile, the fans suffer. It isn't a huge deal for us locally, but it is in Atlanta. Comcast's TV arm goes by the name Xfinity, which you may recognize as one of the brands on one of the large buildings just outside of Truist Park. The Xfinity name can be found inside the stadium as well with naming rights on some of Truist Park's suites.

So a little word to the wise when trying to navigate this situation as a fan. Cable companies and RSNs speak only one language — $$$. I would say the best advice I have to customers is to take your money to another TV provider, but that can be a hassle, and actually rewards Diamond/Bally for being a hard negotiator.

As much as I hate to say it, foregoing a live TV option altogether is the best way to hurt both the TV providers and the RSN. It may cause them to soften their respective stances and see they are nothing without their customer base.

A long shot, I know, but come, my friends, let us usher in a new golden age of radio together as we fight the television powers that be.