For the third straight week, every NFL game will be shown on local television. The NFL is crowing about that.
The league put out a statement on Friday noting that attendance is up and blackouts are down compared to last season, through nine weeks of the season.
Out of 132 games this year, only four have been blacked out: Week One in Tampa Bay, Week Four in Tampa Bay, Week Five in Tampa Bay and Week Three in San Diego. Last year the NFL had 130 games in the first nine weeks, and seven of them were blacked out.
The NFL also said that paid attendance through eight weeks is up about 1,000 a game, at 65,610 this year compared to 64,609 in 2011.
There are, however, a few caveats. For starters, blackouts are down in part because the NFL changed the rules this year to make it easier for teams to get blackouts lifted in their home markets. And this early in the season, when some teams have already played five home games and other teams have only played three, it’s possible that an attendance increase could just be a statistical quirk related to teams with bigger stadiums having had more home games.
It’s also entirely possible that we’ll see an uptick in blackouts over the second half of the season. In addition to more blackouts in San Diego and Tampa, we could easily see blackouts over the second half of the season in places like Oakland, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Jacksonville.
Still, after the NFL had seen a steady decline in attendance over the last few years, the numbers released today have to be seen as good news for the league, which is continuing to do phenomenal TV ratings, and not doing too shabby at the box office.