Sports blackouts and out of market games come into play when a game is broadcast on a regional sports network instead of a national network (like ESPN). Regional networks are networks that show different content in different parts of the country. For example, NBCSN Chicago only shows Chicago sports teams. NBCSN in Philadelphia will show Philadelphia sports teams.
These restrictions can be a very frustrating for people who are trying to watch their favorite team without cable.
Out of Market Games
Out of market games are games in which neither team playing is from your local area. For example, if you live in Chicago and are trying to watch a Miami Dolphins vs. San Francisco 49ers game.
This means that, if you live outside the area local to your favorite team, you may not be able to see the game. If you live near Indianapolis but want to watch a Chicago Bears game, you might not be able to view the Bears game, as you are outside the regional network.
Sometimes a game may be blacked out on a regional channel if it is being broadcast on a national network. Channels like ESPN or TNT may have exclusive rights to a game, so the game will not be broadcast on other channels.
Also, some professional sports choose to blackout games if a certain percentage of tickets to the game hasn’t sold. They want to “encourage” fans to attend the game instead of watching at home. (I think this just pisses fans off instead of encouraging them to do anything).
College sports are going to be the biggest issue with location based blackouts.
Some channels or events can be blacked out on streaming devices or streaming through mobile devices. Most streaming companies will reference this, but there are few concrete examples given on their websites.
We watch a lot of sports at my house and haven’t run into this problem. However, we live in a local area to (most) of the teams we watch. Also, we don’t watch Pay Per View events or (many) boxing events.
According to DIRECTV Now’s FAQs, NFL games cannnot be streamed on mobile devices.
Professional Sport Specific Subscriptions
Subscriptions such as MLB TV, NHL TV etc, will black out teams in your local area. For example, if you buy am NHL TV subscription and live in the Chicago area, you won’t be able to watch Blackhawks games.
Here are links for different streaming companies and how they address blackouts. It’s important to realize that streaming companies don’t have control over blackouts. If it was up to them, they would give you all the content all the time.