Simple MLB.tv Blackout Workaround using VPN or DNS | Tested April 2017

Published by on June 19, 2016 in VPN & Privacy

Scuffed up
Major League Baseball fans in the United States who bought MLB.tv subscriptions are feeling betrayed by the fact that they can’t watch all the games promised to them due to live blackouts. MLB.com’s own website claims subscribers, who pay $25 per month or $120 per year, can “watch every out-of-market game regular season game live or on demand on over 400 supported devices.” Scroll down to the fine print, however, and the reality is quite different. Fans have expressed anger toward MLB.tv that many games are geo-locked due to local licensing restrictions, forcing them to buy a cable or satellite TV subscription in order to watch. According to MLB.TV’s blackout policy:

“All live games streamed on any MLB.TV product and available through MLB.com At Bat are subject to local, regional or national blackouts. Except for certain MLB regular season and Postseason games as described below or in certain MLB Club home television territories for which MLBAM may offer in-market subscription Services, all live games will be blacked out in each applicable Club’s home television territory. If a game is blacked out in an area, it is not available for live game viewing through MLB.TV.”

Luckily, there’s a workaround. A VPN, or virtual private network, reroutes all of a device’s internet traffic through a location of the user’s choosing. Fans can make it look as though they are watching from a different state or even country in order to bypass the blackout. Good VPNs usually require a monthly subscription fee, but it’s far cheaper than buying cable. This method works with ExpressVPN (includes 3 months extra free on 12 month plans via this link), which is simple to use, offers a 30 day money back guarantee and comes highly recommended. The same applies to IPVanish who  offer fast speeds perfect for streaming and a 7 day money back guarantee. We’ve re-tested this method as of September 2016 and can confirm it still works.

Another, cheaper, option is to use smart DNS such as Overplay a similar proxy service that obscures the viewer’s true location, but without the encryption used by VPNs.

What is a live blackout, exactly?

Before every MLB season, executives sit down and decide which broadcasting companies get the rights to which games. Often, a regional TV affiliate, such as your local Fox, NBC, or ABC TV station gets exclusive rights to games played by the local teams, and they don’t share. They also don’t live stream games online much of the time. Even MLB itself can’t broadcast those games online or on TV within that geographic market.

You can find out which games will be blacked out in advance using MLB.tv’s regularly updated list.

These content rights often bar MLB.tv subscribers from watching the teams they care about most–the ones closest to them. Whenever a fan goes to watch a game on a web browser or on the MLB.tv app, the app or website checks the device’s IP address. The IP address is used to determine the viewer’s location. If that viewer falls within the blackout region, the live stream is blocked. Instead of a live stream, you’ll get one of the following error messages:

  • “We’re sorry. The broadcasters’ required blackout checks cannot be performed at this time. Please try again in a few moments.”

  • “We’re sorry. We have determined that you are located inside one of the applicable Club’s home television territories and are therefore blacked out of watching the game you selected. Live Audio of this game is available as part of your MLB.TV subscription.”

  • “Due to Major League Baseball exclusivities, live games occurring each Saturday with a scheduled start time after 1:10 PM ET or before 8:00 PM ET and each Sunday with a scheduled start time after 5:00 PM ET, will be blacked out in the United States.”

  • “Media Error. This game is temporarily unavailable. Please try again in a few moments.”

The situation has been made worse by conflicts between TV companies like Comcast and Time Warner Cable, which further fragment the channels available on cable.

Bypass MLB.tv blackouts in a web browser

Among other functions, a VPN can change your IP address to that of another location. After you connect to a VPN, just clear your cookies and refresh the page where the game you want to watch is streaming.

Most VPNs have native clients you can easily download and install. After setup, just select a server location and hit connect.

We tested this out by connecting to a Chicago server and attempting to watch a Cubs game. Sure enough, we got a message alerting us the game is under a local blackout.

mlb blackout chicago

Next we connected to servers in Miami using two separate VPNs: ExpressVPN and Total VPN. Both worked flawlessly. A quick refresh was all that was needed to unblock the stream; no more blackout messages.

mlb blackout chicago fixed

Some games are under national blackouts, so for this we tested servers in Mexico and Argentina. This worked fine as well. Ideally, however, you would want to connect to the location that is geographically closest to you but still beyond the blackout region. This speeds up the connection and results in a higher quality stream. In case of a nationwide blackout, however, connecting to another country should work. The one exception may be Canada, where some MLB teams hail from.

Bypassing MLB.tv blackouts on Android and iOS MLB At Bat app

Updated April 2017

If you want to bypass a blackout on the MLB At Bat app on either iOS or Android, we’re sorry to inform you that this is now much harder as of 2017. When we tested this before, we advised users to connect to a VPN server with an IP address outside of their blackout market. Android users could then use a fake GPS app to spoof their location to match the one set in their VPN.

This method no longer works. At Bat now requires your GPS location before viewing any game and can detect whether a mock location is being used in Android. It will block the stream accordingly, instead showing the error message:

“At bat is unable to reliably verify your location. Tap Help below for more information about blackout restrictions.”

As of the 2017 season, bypassing MLB At Bat’s blackout restrictions require Android phones and tablets to be rooted, and iPhones and iPads to be jailbroken.

Bypass MLB At Bat blackouts on Android

  1. Root your Android phone. The process for doing this is complicated and can brick your device if not done properly, so proceed with caution. Because the root process varies by device, we do not provide instructions for this step.
  2. Download and install FakeGPS or the GPS location-spoofing app of your choice (except for option C).
  3. Download and install MLB At Bat (except for option C). If it’s already installed, clear your app cache data in your device’s storage settings.

From here you have three options to try:

Option A:

  1. Install Hide Mock Locations from the Xposed Module (requires root).
  2. In Settings > Developer Options enable “Allow mock locations” or, on newer versions of Android, choose you GPS location-spoofing app
  3. Open Hide Mock Locations and set it to blacklist mode.
  4. Add MLB At Bat to the blacklist
  5. Open your GPS location-spoofing app and drop the pin somewhere outside of your blackout region where a VPN server is available.
  6. Open your VPN app and connect to a server close to the location you chose in the previous step.
  7. Open MLB At Bat and stream the game!

Option B:

  1. Move your GPS app from /data/app to /system/app using Root Explorer or a similar file manager app (requires root)
  2. Restart your device.
  3. In Settings > Developer Options disable Mock Locations (if enabled)
  4. Open your location-spoofing app and set your location to somewhere outside of the blackout region where a VPN server is available
  5. Open your VPN app and connect to a server close to the location you chose in the previous step.
  6. Open MLB At Bat and stream the game!

Option C:

  1. Install XPrivacy from the Xposed Module (requires root).
  2. When installing MLB At Bat, you will see a list of permissions. When this list appears, open your device Settings
  3. Tap the Randomize Now button.
  4. Set an IP address to a location outside of your blackout region (you can use your VPN’s IP address if you wish)
  5. Restrict all permissons except Internet
  6. In your Android settings, set Location to High Accuracy mode
  7. Finish installing MLB At Bat, open it, and stream the game!

Should you run into issues with Option B, some users have reported that restarting into Recovery and clearing out Cache/Dalvik Cache can solve some problems. You can also try discarding your login info by using “delete data” in the MLB At Bat settings, then logging in again.

Bypass MLB At Bat blackouts on iOS

  1. Jailbreak your iPhone or iPad. The process for doing this is complicated and can permanently brick your device if not done properly, so proceed with caution. Jailbreaking varies depending on your iPad or iPhone model, so we do not provide instructions for this step.
  2. Download and install Protect My Privacy (PMP) from the Cydia store
  3. Download and install MLB At Bat and open the stream.
  4. When MLB At Bat asks for permission to view your location using your GPS, PMP will display a prompt. Choose the option to “protect” your location, which will substitute a random GPS location rather than simply blocking access
  5. You may also need to connect to a VPN to change your IP address (to be confirmed)
  6. Stream the game!

Links:

Overplay DNS
ExpressVPN (includes 3 months free on 12 month plans)

Image: “Scuffed up” by slgckgc licensed under CC BY 2.0

31 thoughts on “Simple MLB.tv Blackout Workaround using VPN or DNS | Tested April 2017

  • Has anyone had success with Pure VPN? I’m planning on buying the VPN service and install on my router

  • Paul,

    I’ve torn through the Internet looking for someone that can assist me.

    I have a Firestick with MLB. I got IP Vanish installed and found out quickly that it wasn’t going to work because of the GPS issue.

    So would I need to get my Firestick rooted and then install a GPS spoofing application to run in the background along with my VPN?

    • Hey Ryan, I’m not sure if there’s a way to spoof a GPS location on a FTV even if you have root priveleges… one option would be to install Kodi and use the MLBMC add-on, which won’t require the GPS verification.

  • I have an Android phone. I installed the Kodi app then the mlb.tv add-on. In the add-on settings I entered a proxy from Canada. No more blackouts. Working as of 4/20/17.

  • All you have to do if you have a valid mlb.tv at bat login is install Kodi on your device then the mlb.tv video add-on. Under settings it has a proxy server input page. Put in your proxy server (Canada for example) and no more blackouts. It is all free and very easy.

  • Has anyone had an issue with Chromecast? I got the local game to play fine on my browser via VPN. Last week, i was about to use chromecast to watch it on TV…then tonight it gives me the blackout issue – yet it is fine on my computer. I guess it is reading my IP through chromecast on my router…i just don’t understand why it worked last week. I guess i will be getting some long HDMI cords and plug the computer right to the TV. Just wondering if something changed or any workaround is available…
    Thanks

  • How vigilantly does MLB check for things like DNS or VPN? Netflix now blocks access if you’re using a DNS service, which makes it impractical to put this service on a router. Luckily I have three different devices (Tivo, SmartTV and Apple TV) that stream content so I can tie one up with the special DNS settings. But am I risking being blocked by MLB? It is technically against the terms of service to circumvent the blackouts, unfortunately.

  • I tried expressVPN from a few different cities and countries last night to watch the Astros game in Houston, and it didn’t work. Any recommendations?

  • Hi,
    I am trying this with Android- I am getting a ‘At Bat is unable to reliably verify your location. Tap Help below for more information about blackout restrictions. ‘

    Any ideas of what I am doing wrong?

      • Thanks for the quick response. I am using VPN (Private Internet Access – is what I currently have). I am testing this on an Samsung S6. I have location on I have tried all the methods. High accuracy, power saving, and gps only. The app ask for access to location. Not sure if I am doing the Fake location wrong. Another issue is that it is spring training and the blackouts are not in effect. On my iPhone the app shows a map saying that they determined I am the right viewing area. The android version doesn’t do that.

        Another question – if I am going to vpn and view through browser – do I need to do anything special on a Mac? I am probably more likely to use this method.

        Thanks again.

        • Hi Matt,
          I’m afraid I’m not sure what’s wrong on the S6. It’s difficult to troubleshoot without being able to test it personally on that device. You could try a different GPS spoofing app. Make sure you’ve allowed mock locations in your developer settings.
          For your second question, you shouldn’t have to do anything special on a Mac if you’re watching through a browser. Make sure you’re routing DNS requests through the VPN and not just normal web traffic (this usually happens by default on most VPN apps). You can test for DNS, IP, and WebRTC leaks here and find instructions for fixing any leaks you come across: https://www.comparitech.com/privacy-security-tools/dns-leak-test/

          Best,
          Paul

        • I got the same message “At Bat is unable to reliably verify your location. Tap Help below for more information about blackout restrictions”. It seems the At Bat app is able to detect if you are using “Allow mock locations”. I was able to get around it by only using the VPN portion of this guide (I turned off mock locations). So for me, using the VPN app was sufficient to get the stream.

          • I am having the same problem with At Bat not able to verify my location.

            I was able to do this last season using the method described above. I have tried the different gps settings, changing vpn apps, clearing the app cache, restarting phone, uninstalling the app.

            Still can’t get it to work. I wonder if mlb got smarter and added additional ways to determine the location.

          • We’ve updated the article to reflect changes in the At Bat app. You now need root/jailbreak in order to bypass the GPS verification.

      • Any idea what a pre-configured router from express costs? I’m not an IT geek and I’m looking for a way to get around blackouts that doesn’t require in-depth IT knowledge and/or routinely having to make adjustments in order to stream the games. I appreciate your advice.

        • Go to this ExpressVPN link and scroll halfway down the page, and you will send three options for
          1) buying routers with ExpressVPN’s app for routers installed (from FlashRouters) — $199.99 or $299.99 options
          2) installing ExpressVPN’s app on routers manually (with instructions for several routers) — $79.99 or less depending on where you buy it
          3) manually setting up a VPN on your existing router — no cost if your router is one of those supported in the drop down list

          https://www.expressvpn.com/vpn-software/vpn-router

  • The location faker does not prevent blackouts on iOS as far as I know. I believe they use a combination of ip address, gps location, and they check your AppStore api. So even with a VPN and a gps location tweak, you cant avoid the api check.
    At least not right now that I know of.

  • I’ve had ExpressVPN working on my laptop with location settings turned off. Avoids the Blackout. But can’t avoid the Blackout on either my iPad or Roku/TV WiFi setup.
    I turn off location settings on my iPad, but MLB.tv accesses Settings, sees that location is off and won’t allow the game to start.
    Do you have any tips or a website I can go to show me how to change my router configuration so wirelessly sends the same IP address that ExpressVPN sets for my laptop?

    • Hey Mark,
      VPN router setup differs a lot based on your router’s firmware, which is why we don’t have a one-size-fits-all tutorial. You could, however, try setting up a virtual router on your laptop and connecting your Roku and iPad to that, which should route everything through the VPN that your laptop is connected to. We’ll be publishing a piece on how to do that in the next couple of days.
      Best,
      Paul

    • The app uses your IP address, not your mobile network or your GPS location, to verify your location. So no, that probably wouldn’t work.

      • Just tried IpVanish today, chose Chiago Servers, confirmed the visible location was chicago.

        Then cleared Google Chrome cache, opened browser, clicked on mlb.tv, tried turning on the Nationals game and it says “we’ve determiend that your are located within the local broadcast area”

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