Last year, an odd dynamic emerged in Tampa. Buccaneers games consistently were sold out, and thus televised locally. And at most of the supposedly sold out games, vast expanses of empty seats routinely filled the upper deck of Raymond James Stadium.
On Tuesday, the Buccaneers confirmed what many had believed. The team in 2009 took advantage of the rule that allows the franchise to buy unsold tickets at 34 cents on the dollar. Per PewterReport.com, Bucs director of communications Jonathan Grella said that the team will no longer engage in that practice.
Grella blames the phenomenon on the team’s competitive struggles, and on local economic challenges.
“While on-field success surely affects ticket sales, the economic
downturn has proven to have a dramatic influence over ticket sales in
this and other sports,” Grella said. “Tampa is suffering from the
League’s largest unemployment increase (9.3 percent) in the past five
years and the second-worst overall unemployment rate (13.3 percent). So
when that’s the case, you can’t take anything for granted. We’ve
redoubled our efforts to stay connected with our fans through free
events and more affordable seating options ($35 per game season tickets,
$25 youth tickets, long-term payment plans and no more club seat
deposits or contracts).”
Consequently, the team also acknowledged that its preseason home opener will be blacked out. The second preseason home game likely also won’t be televised locally.
In Week 1 of the preseason, three teams failed to sell out their home stadiums: the Bengals, the Rams, and the Chargers.
The broader reality is that the league’s previously little-known loophole for avoiding blackouts has gained plenty of exposure in recent months. And in some markets teams could face fan, media, and/or sponsor pressure to buy up, at 34 cents on the dollar, any unsold seats in order to permit the games to be televised locally.
Then again, for some of the bottom-feeding teams, it may actually be better to not have their home games on television. Or, for that matter, their road games.