The Jacksonville Jaguars have announced that their home opener will air on local television, and in the process lifted the curtain on a dirty little secret in the NFL: Games don’t actually have to be sold out to lift the local TV blackout.
The Jaguars’ announcement that the game will be on local TV notes that there are tickets remaining for the game, and ticket sales are expected to continue through Sunday. So the game is not a sellout.
But the Jaguars have apparently decided to take advantage of the NFL rule that allows them to buy back their own unsold tickets at 34 cents on the dollar, and therefore lift the local TV blackout.
Every NFL team is free to use that tactic to put its games on local television, but teams rarely if ever acknowledge that that’s what they’re doing. The teams that do buy back their own tickets don’t want fans to get used to the idea that they can watch every home game on TV even if the game isn’t sold out, and the teams that don’t buy back their own tickets don’t want fans to realize that they’re too cheap to take the necessary step to get their games on TV.
So teams like the Jaguars will issue announcements saying that their games aren’t blacked out, but they won’t explain that they lifted the blackout by buying their own tickets. And teams like the Buccaneers, whose home opener is blacked out, won’t explain that they could have lifted the blackout if they had wanted to spend the money.