Baseball fans in Sitka trying to watch the World Series on DirecTV ran into some technical difficulties. (KCAW photo/Rich McClear)

Baseball fans in Sitka trying to watch the World Series on DirecTV ran into some technical difficulties. (KCAW photo/Rich McClear)

Tonight (Tuesday, 10-28-14) is Game Six of the World Series, and fans across the country have been glued to their TVs as the San Francisco Giants carved out a one-game lead over the Kansas City Royals. But in Sitka this weekend, viewers trying to watch the World Series on DirecTV ran into some major technical difficulties — sending some baseball fans on a mad scramble for a better way to watch.

KCAW’s Rich McClear decided to investigate. He spoke with Sitka sports writer Ron Rau and his friend Howard Pendell about their quest to watch the Series somewhere – anywhere.

And he found some good news for baseball fans.

Downloadable audio.

Rau: We watched the first game and it became so pixelated and blacked out. The ball would stop half way between the pitcher and the catcher.

Pendell: You could kind of watch it, until there was action. Then if there was action you would, you know, lose the video on it and you would find out what happened on a play once you were on a still.

Rau: The second game they had this announcement: ‘No need to call us. Service will be restored as soon as technical difficulties are resolved. Please check this channel periodically for status’ and they’re sorry for the interruption. (Laughs) But we did call them.

McClear: What happened when you called them?

Rau: Well, we got past the menu to a real person who I suspect was a used car salesman on his day off answering the phone for DirecTV. And he blamed it on the Juneau station not getting us the signal.

I called DirecTV and must have gotten the same salesman because, when he found that I do not have a TV, he spent his time trying to sell me a DirecTV package rather than answering my questions.

Then I called the Fox  affiliate, Coastal TV in Anchorage (they run KJUD TV in Juneau which carries the World Series), and asked them if the trouble was originating with them.  Both the receptionist and engineer in the control room told me they had no problem.  The signal was just fine.

But none of this helps Ron and Howard.  They still had no World Series. So what to do?  Well first, they called the Pioneer Bar to see if they had a signal. No luck.

So Howard…

Pendell:  Tried a friend who had cable to see if he’s been getting the World Series and he said yes, yeah it was coming in on cable just fine. But he was out fishing!  So we kind of pushed the limits of friendship and he invited us over. He said ‘Go ahead, you can go in.’ So we did that. (Laughs) I think the friendship will survive. I don’t think we left too many chips on the floor.

Rau: Five of us are sitting there watching when his wife walked in!

I checked with some of the bars that rely on DirecTV for their sports coverage.   Chris Heim at the Pioneer Bar in Sitka said that on Thursday and Friday…

Heim: On Channel 10, the local channel, we were having problems, and we weren’t even getting the game at all.  And then we realized it was on Channel 399.  

Channel 399 is what is called in the industry, a ‘direct network signal.’  It’s a feed of the Fox TV affiliate in Los Angeles.  It’s available only to residents living in area codes outside the signal area of a local Fox affiliate.

The situation is Sitka is complex, according to a DirecTV spokesperson who wished to remain off the record.  There is no Fox affiliate broadcasting in Sitka or Juneau.  KJUD-TV in Juneau is an ABC affiliate with the right to broadcast some Fox special programs, like the World Series.  So that channel may be protected in Sitka.

According to the Bayview Pub, which like the Pioneer Bar can receive Channel 399, it took a long negotiation process for them to get access to the channel.

But when I went back to Ron Rau’s house and checked Channel 399, it was there.  So, if you have Directv you may want to check Channel 399 — before the next World Series game.

The next World Series game is Tuesday, Oct. 28 at 4 p.m. Alaska time.