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NFL “will strongly oppose” elimination of blackout rule

empty-seats Getty Images

The FCC wants to drop the curtain on the NFL’s blackout policy.  Predictably, the NFL intends to push back.

“We will strongly oppose any change in the rule,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told Politico.com.  “We are on pace for a historic low number of blackouts since the policy was implemented 40 years ago.  While affecting very few games the past decade, the blackout rule is very important in supporting NFL stadiums and the ability of NFL clubs to sell tickets and keeping our games attractive as television programming with large crowds.”

This year, relaxations to the league’s rules have resulted in only one actual blackout, in San Diego.  The Chargers, however, likely would have avoided the blackout if they’d taken advantage of the rule that allows teams to reduce their minimum sales requirement to as few as 85 percent of all non-premium tickets.

In other cities, teams have avoided blackouts by reducing the minimum and/or purchased on a per-game basis extra tickets at 34 cents on the dollar.

It’s unclear (at best) whether and to what extent fans of a given team choose to attend games simply because they fear that if enough of them don’t show up no one will be able to watch the game on local TV.  In today’s world, with the in-home experience better than ever and plenty of options available for watching out-of-market games, the possible inability to watch the local team play its eight homes games may not be much of a factor at all in the analysis of whether tickets should be purchased.

In other words, how many would-be customers ever ask themselves, “If I don’t buy tickets to the local NFL game, will I be able to watch NFL football?”

Besides, if the NFL’s desire to make the games more compelling on television entails ensuring large crowds, why would the league allow teams to televise games with up to 15 percent of the non-premium seats empty — and all of the premium seats vacated?  Why would the NFL allow owners like Ralph Wilson to buy up thousands of Bills tickets to allow the local broadcast of a game with plenty of fans dressed as empty seats?

Opponents of the FCC’s proposed rule think the agency is solving a problem that doesn’t exist.  In turn, the NFL could be worried about a consequence that will never occur.  Taking away the stick of a blackout likely won’t affect ticket sales.

And if ultimately compels the NFL to be more creative when it comes to crafting the carrots that will get fans to continue to choose to attend NFL games in person, dumping the blackout rule may not be such a bad thing.

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47 Responses to “NFL “will strongly oppose” elimination of blackout rule”
  1. parlett316 says: Dec 19, 2013 1:19 PM

    Maybe the owners could lower ticket prices to entice fans to come to their State/City sponsored welfare stadium sponsored by some stupid company.

    Oh but supply and demand and apparently taxes don’t affect the Shield.

  2. mogogo1 says: Dec 19, 2013 1:20 PM

    I don’t think the blackout threat sells extra tickets. It just brings more attention to the cities where they struggle to sell seats.

  3. lennydpocketqb says: Dec 19, 2013 1:22 PM

    Can’t the FCC focus on radio ownership rules?

  4. mbbill83 says: Dec 19, 2013 1:23 PM

    I’ve never heard a fan say ‘I better buy a ticket to the game so someone else can sit at home and watch it’. If there is a good product on the field then people will show up

  5. buccaboo says: Dec 19, 2013 1:25 PM

    Greedy Bastards

  6. beardinals says: Dec 19, 2013 1:26 PM

    I agree the blackout should be abolished.

    At a MINIMUM, if I pay for Sunday Ticket, I should be able to watch locally blacked out games NO MATTER WHAT!

    Unfortunately, a fan boycott of the NFL is probably a long shot – even though it would knock the NFL off it’s pedestal a bit.

  7. 4thqtrsaint says: Dec 19, 2013 1:30 PM

    Lower your ticket prices, raise broadcast prices. Problem solved.
    Or you could go to payperview.

  8. natelan69 says: Dec 19, 2013 1:30 PM

    The NFL also strongly opposes my use of illegal internet feeds to watch blacked out and non-market games.

    But guess what…

  9. steelerben says: Dec 19, 2013 1:31 PM

    If the NFL really and truly wants to ensure that every game is sold out, then lowering the prices of tickets so that the people that watch the games are able to afford going and reducing the prices of the concessions are going to fill the seats.

    What good does it do blacking out games in markets that are so disinterested in teams that they don’t go to the games?

  10. natelan69 says: Dec 19, 2013 1:31 PM

    Keep pushing that blackout rule, NFL.

    I’ve got all the internet bandwidth I need to circumvent your own stupidity.

  11. aikmanschinstrap says: Dec 19, 2013 1:33 PM

    Get rid of the blackout rule. Let the free-market work.

  12. footballgenius101 says: Dec 19, 2013 1:40 PM

    The script should be flipped – unless a team sells out, that team cannot collect ANY TV revenue for that game (forcing them to price tickets to sell more aggressively – i.e. “cheaper”).

    This should especially be true in markets where the local community is forced to help pay for the venue via taxes.

  13. flmike says: Dec 19, 2013 1:41 PM

    Time to start questioning their’s and all Major Professional sports leagues Anti-Trust exemptions then….

  14. badmoonrison says: Dec 19, 2013 1:47 PM

    Blackouts dont have much affect these days anyways. Especially now that you can stream literally any game you want online for free via certain websites. The league doesnt seem to concerned with these websites, as many of them have been operating for a long time.

  15. faaqna says: Dec 19, 2013 1:49 PM

    I love how the NFL/networks incessantly promote the “game of the week with _____ implications” and then be forced to watch a different and inferior product due to this rule. Can’t wait for that Jacksonville and Tennessee matchup this weekend.

  16. jamaltimore says: Dec 19, 2013 1:50 PM

    For Fan Safety this rule is necessary. No fan should be subjected to having to go to NFL stadium to get punched, stabbed, and mugged at the concession stands just to make sure everyone else can watch the home team. It really just comes down to protecting the Fans.

  17. jacksonjames4 says: Dec 19, 2013 1:51 PM

    I think the NFL is a disgusting greedy monster

  18. buckybadger says: Dec 19, 2013 1:51 PM

    The FCC should just worry about getting a handle the news networks and the BS they are feeding the idiot masses.

    The removing of the blackout rule might make teams look for relocation. Why stay in a market that won’t buy your tickets and feed into the revenue you can collect from anywhere? I think this really needs to be thought about and discussed.

    I understand why owners like the blackout rule. They are selling a product, why shouldn’t they do everything to get them to come to their place for it? Its their product.

  19. baywolfe says: Dec 19, 2013 2:08 PM

    NFL Red Zone gets all the games, whether they’re blacked out or not.

  20. Go-Hawks! says: Dec 19, 2013 2:11 PM

    You want to sell tickets? Then stop price gouging!!! Tickets should cost the same regardless of who is playing. Sometimes I can get a regular season game ticket for $60, and other times I have to pay more than $130. And that’s for the lousy seats and/or standing room only.

    The should be some kind of regulation of ticket prices. A seat in the 300 level should always cost the same no matter which two NFL teams are playing!

  21. hunnymoney says: Dec 19, 2013 2:14 PM

    As a general rule the NFL has done quite well for itself and most of its decisions have worked out well. I would submit, however, that the blackout rule cannot be counted as one of the “good” decisions. Marketing 101 says that if you are trying to build brand recognition that you make the brand available through as many venues as possible. How does the blackout policy assist in the building of that brand recognition? If a city isn’t particularly in love with their NFL team, how will imperiously limiting their access to games improve that? The short answer is that it won’t, and no one that I know of has ever run to the ticket window just to make sure that a particular game wasn’t blacked out. It is a simple formula; put a competitive team on the field and you’ll never have trouble drawing fans. No blackout rule will ever get fans to rabidly support a floundering franchise, and it is high time that this archaic rule goes the way of the Edsel.

  22. eatitfanboy says: Dec 19, 2013 2:19 PM

    I think the black out rule is arcane and stupid and the NFL should get rid of it themselves.

    But I oppose government intervention in cases like this. NFL football games are the product created by the corporation called the National Football League. They, as other corporations have a right to distribute their product as they see fit.

    By the way, does anyone think it’s a coincidence that the FCC waited until blackouts were almost entirely eliminated before they started acting like they cared about them?

  23. spartan822 says: Dec 19, 2013 2:22 PM

    It’s not up to the NFL. If the FCC decides there will be no more blackouts then there will be no more blackouts. The NFL can throw a tantrum like a spoiled child if they want, but it’s not their decision to make.

  24. jefferee101 says: Dec 19, 2013 2:23 PM

    Hey NFL execs,
    your continued opposition to small market teams, thinly veiled threats of relocation without public subsidy, and now your hard-line stance against impoverished fans is quickly turning the fans against your product. Your days are numbered. Your revenue streams are at an end.

  25. creteman52 says: Dec 19, 2013 2:25 PM

    It comes down to one thing GREED BY THE NFL. They want the cake and eat it too.Makes me sick. Pro sports have become too GREEDY

  26. CKL says: Dec 19, 2013 2:36 PM

    The blackout rule is lame. What’s lamer is that my team isn’t the one in my local market, so I buy Sunday Ticket. If that team, which has not made the playoffs since 1994, does not sell out, and my team is playing at the same time, I cannot watch my team play even though I PAID to see them. This has to end.

  27. CKL says: Dec 19, 2013 2:37 PM

    Oops, I should have said “hasn’t won a playoff game since 1994″

  28. statsdolie says: Dec 19, 2013 2:39 PM

    It’s horrible enough that the NFL has tax exempt status but this black out rule is the icing on the cake

  29. sanityinsd says: Dec 19, 2013 2:43 PM

    There are those that like going to games to see their team(s) and there are those that prefer the at-home experience. I prefer the latter, myself. I miss, not only much of the game that I’m watching, but what’s going on around the league as well.

    I turned down several offers of free tickets to go inside M&T to watch AP and the Vikings play the Ravens but I never considered it, even though I was just outside the stadium tailgating in the snow. Why? The previous week I had to endure the CIN @ SD game in perfect weather conditions but just felt like I had missed the whole Sunday of football.

    Give me HD replays, commentary, highlights and control of my food and drink.

  30. randomguy9999 says: Dec 19, 2013 2:45 PM

    The low fan turnout is on the NFL… taking a family of 4 to a game with parking, food, a somethin or other for the little ones and nosebleeds seats is far more expensive than most middle class families can afford.

    Reality is that people who can’t afford it and/or just prefer watching it on their big screen from the comfort of their couch are never, ever, ever……. going to change their minds because of blackouts.

  31. milliondollardream2 says: Dec 19, 2013 2:45 PM

    Simple here. I don’t like going to games when my team is good let alone bad. If they are bad I don’t care if I see the game on tv or not. Blackouts only make me more disinterested in my team so I guess those teams only hurt themselves. Owners should be begging fans to watch their bad team play on tv.

  32. beardinals says: Dec 19, 2013 2:56 PM

    As for comments about government intervening: Tax payers are asked to up-front a ton of cash for stadiums, so in essence, we own part of it.

  33. journeyman22 says: Dec 19, 2013 3:13 PM

    The NFL blackout rule never made any sense. First, people love to see in person what they watch on TV. If the home team isn’t televised locally, it can quickly become irrelevant. A TV blackout simply makes a team’s bad situation worse, and hurts ticket sales (which is why every other league doesn’t have such a policy). Second, a guarantee that the home team gets its home games televised helps increase the value of the TV rights; and we know the NFL loves that. Third, I agree that as long as the stadium is taxpayer funded, then the team is for everyone. If the game is televised somewhere, it needs to be televised to the home market. Fans (and non-fans) are already paying taxes to support them.

  34. ijahru says: Dec 19, 2013 3:23 PM

    All NFL teams have benefited from public funding whether it was money towards the cost of the stadium or money spent on infrastructure around the stadium. The NFL has no right not allowing games to be televised if they don’t sellout. If the NFL doesn’t want the blackout rule lifted I hope Congress imposes a luxury tax on the NFL.

  35. coltsreign says: Dec 19, 2013 3:28 PM

    My god.
    Can they give us a free online stream on nfl.com
    I want tp watch all colts games but…… i live in florida. If i had to pick who to watch, id watch TB

    But seriously, it sucks that i have to stay on fox cause of the dolphins.

  36. chiggerticky says: Dec 19, 2013 3:30 PM

    I’ll be astonished if this doesn’t become a moot point. Seems that with all the available internet-based viewing opportunities, anyone with half a brain will be able to circumnavigate a blackout. Am I wrong?

  37. 2dimesandanickelback says: Dec 19, 2013 3:36 PM

    This rule is already ridiculous. If a game is blacked out the last thing I’m going to do is up and buy a ticket just to see the team play because I couldn’t watch it on TV because I’m being punished by the people selling me a product. How about they sell the tickets for 34 cents on the dollar to us fans and then they’ll never experience another blackout again. Nose bleed seats in Arizona are 60 bucks..pretty hard justifying driving to the stadium when they do play my team and I know they are probably on the cheaper end of the ticket pricing spectrum.

  38. weepingjebus says: Dec 19, 2013 3:52 PM

    I don’t know, I enjoy only being able to watch the Redskins regardless of what other games may be on. Because they are so consistently awesome, year in and year out.

  39. dasboat says: Dec 19, 2013 4:04 PM

    It’s not the FCC’s job to make NFL owners richer.

  40. zerole00 says: Dec 19, 2013 4:17 PM

    You know what? The NFL can black out any game they wish – as long as it’s not being played in a stadium built with public taxpayer money.

  41. roperrm says: Dec 19, 2013 4:47 PM

    i had to shell out 70 bucks a ticket to take the gf to her first ever football game. for the cheapest seats available. it was miserable. it snowed beforehand. it was cold. and i easily was over 250 after parking and food and beer. try making tickets more affordable, and maybe then people will go.

    the reds do great about making tickets cheap. like 5 dollars for cheap seats, 20 for a lot of decent seats. and they hand out thousands of free tickets every season to children for good grades. you know how many reds games we went to growing up? (with a family of 2 adults and 4 kids) 61. you know how many bengals games we went to, even when they were the laughing stock of the league and every game was blacked out? 0. we couldnt afford to spend 600 bucks to go watch a team that would finish 2 and 14, or 3 and 13. we werent poor. we just couldnt afford 600 bucks for a 3 hour game. im always surprised to see that many fans fill a stadium at those ticket prices.

    on top of that i think it should be a crime for cities where the taxpayers spend hundreds of millions of dollars for a football stadium, and after the raised taxes many people can not afford to use extra money to go for the game. so the nfl is punishing fans, after they spend upwards of a half a billion dollars, for not paying them even more money. they have a word for it: extortion. why is it a crime for everyone else but not for the nfl? not to mention how they are a “non profit”.

  42. philliephaninva says: Dec 19, 2013 5:56 PM

    Who the heck can afford to actually go to the stadium these days? I sure as heck can’t.

  43. ksiner says: Dec 19, 2013 6:02 PM

    Simple solution here… if you take any form of public money for the stadium or if the land on which a privately owned stadium belongs to the government then NO blackouts ever. The taxpayer is playing for your elaborate playground, John Q. Public should be able to watch the game regardless of how many tickets the team sells. Now if the land and the stadium are completely privately owned then yeah you can blackout the game if you like.

  44. thefirstsmilergrogan says: Dec 19, 2013 6:19 PM

    if the nfl keeps raising this, they will regret it in spades.

  45. blspears says: Dec 19, 2013 7:45 PM

    Keep your black out rule and give up your tax exemption status you greedy pigs.

  46. blspears says: Dec 19, 2013 7:45 PM

    Give back the tax money that helped build those giant stadiums that you did totally pay for.

  47. larryrush25 says: Mar 1, 2014 12:00 PM

    Id say their is a very high percentage of people who do not even know about the blackout.
    The reason tickets are not being bought is clearly the prices, working class America can not afford to go to the games any more.
    Reason being the cost of living and the unemployment rate. Professional Athletes and their Employers make entirely to much money while the rest of the 70% of America is trying to survive. We the working class weather we go to the game or not are still paying your overpriced salary’s in the overpriced items we buy at the store from all your sponsors. What will the NFL do when were all unemployed and out of work. the only people showing up to the game then will be state and government workers. And Cable well know one will be able to afford it, if the price keeps increasing. So blackout or not. if we cant afford the ticket prices, we cant afford the cable bill either.

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