NFL continues to face assault on blackout rule

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The effort to eliminate the NFL’s blackout rule continues, and the NFL continues to not like that.

Via the Associated Press, FCC commissioner Ajit Pai described the league’s blackout rule as “outdated,” and he urged his fellow FCC commissioners to vote in favor of repealing the rule.

“Right now, the FCC is officially on the side of blackouts,” Pai said.  “We should be on the side of sports fans.  The FCC shouldn’t get involved in handing out special favors or picking winners and losers.  And in my view, there is no reason for the FCC to be involved in the sports blackout business.”

Pai’s comments come eight months after the FCC proposed eliminating the blackout rule and sought public comment on the potential elimination of the rule that prevents the local broadcast of games not sold out within 72 hours before kickoff.  Pai wants the issue to go to a vote, and he needs only two of his four colleagues to agree.

The league said in December that it will “strongly oppose” elimination of the blackout rule.  That “strong opposition” has consisted publicly of a clumsy effort to throw money at Lynn Swann and to craft a nonsensical effort to blame the controversy on “Pay-TV lobbyists” who hope to “change the current rule and charge fans for games they currently watch for free.”

Yes, because the NFL will rush to do business with the “Pay-TV” companies who hired the “Pay-TV lobbyists” who managed to scuttle a rule that has been in place for decades.

More recently, Swann took his effort to the airwaves owned by the NFL, without disclosing on the air that the NFL has launched and is funding the effort — and without making very much sense when trying to make the case that the NFL needs to retain the ability to black out games.

The argument goes like this:  If the NFL is forced to make games that aren’t sold out locally available in the home market on free or pay TV, then fans throughout the nation won’t be able to watch any games on free TV.

It’s the NFL’s version of the Chewbacca defense, a gigantic non-sequitur aimed at getting fans to fear that, if the NFL loses the ability to black out games in markets where the stadium isn’t sold out, the NFL will black out the ability of 80 million Americans who rely on free, over-the-air network television to watch any games at all.

That’ll never happen.  If the NFL ever undermines the availability of games on a national basis via free TV, the broadcast antitrust exemption would be repealed almost instantly, destroying the ability of the NFL to sell its TV rights on a collective basis.

Of course, reality doesn’t matter.  The goal is to find a way to get fans behind the idea of keeping the blackout rule.  And the best/only strategy the NFL can muster consists of twisting the facts in order to scare fans into thinking they’d lose something they’ll never actually lose.

95 responses to “NFL continues to face assault on blackout rule

  1. The Minnesota Vikings games never get blacked out.

    Our superior fans make it that way.

    We never have an empty seat in our stadium.

    TCF will be no different.

  2. As a private enterprise, the NFL really doesn’t need permission or affirmation to maintain the policy. I certainly disagree with a lot of what the NFL chooses to do (including blackouts), but at the end of the day it’s my choice whether or not the product is worth it to me.

  3. The NFL is a non-profit organization. They can barely make ends meet as it is.

    If the blackout rule gets abolished, what’s next? The NFL paying taxes?

  4. So the fact the NFL is twisting the facts to scare people into voting against their own self interest and support the blackout rule that benefits the corporation, that sounds just like politicians who pull the same trick arguing on behalf of the lobbyists for large corporations.

    Doesn’t surprise me that the NFL would act in the same way. In the USA, you get what you pay for, and corporations like the NFL almost always get what they want because they are the ones paying the politicians who set policy.

  5. One of this season’s upcoming playoff games was moved to cable-only (except for those teams’ cities). So one could argue that the league has already taken the first step in transitioning to pay-TV.

  6. The blackout rule is stupid. Some stadiums suck. Sometimes it’s pouring rain or freezing cold. Stuff is ridiculously overpriced. Don’t blame people of they’d rather sit home, eat, drink, play fantasy, and be comfortable for a fraction of the price

  7. Pay tv isn’t a realistic option for broadcast. The NFL is dependent on advertising revenue gained from “free tv”

    How many people don’t have a television service that they pay for? The local channels are “free” provided you pay for the rest of your premium service.

    I like a lot of others watch games on “pay” tv. It’s called the Sunday ticket. And even though we pay for it we still watch the nationally broadcast commercials. The only ones we don’t get are local market ones.

  8. At the rate the NFL is turning fans off by things like the 2 game suspension for Rice and the huge fees for parking, beers and food in the stadiums, diluting the game with more playoff teams and/or more regular season games, horrible refs, etc, in another 10 years or so no game will sell out.

    The NFL is totally disconnected from the fans at this point and seems intent on driving them away from the game.

  9. A lot of people just can’t physically make it to the games (the elderly, those with very young children, people without cars etc) not to mention it’s expensive to go. Why do these people have to suffer. I also don’t understand why the NFL won’t let these folks watch the commercials that air during the game?

  10. Those of you raising the “non-profit” issue are off base. The league works for the teams. Each team pays taxes on their individual revenue. They then share that revenue with the league. The money has already been taxed. If the league were to be taxed then they would be double dipping on that money.

  11. Ugh I’m actually embarrassed of Lynn Swann at the moment, a tough thing to admit for a rabid Steelers fan. I guess advocating for more money for a few billionaire NFL owners at the expense of millions of the NFL’s fans is just about right for the average repuglican like Swann. MONEY. OVER. EVERYTHING. Right?

  12. Demand for the in-stadium experience should influence the price for the seats…

    The blackout rule allows the NFL to artificially fix the price for the tickets by giving the fan a 72hr notice that they need to either buy a ticket or forego watching the game. THAT’S BS!

  13. Funny, how is the NFL tax exempt? I thought that only non-profit organizations were tax exempt.

    Because the NFL doesn’t profit from bringing fans entertainment? Hahahaha right!

  14. Why not compromise. Teams that take taxpayer money for their stadiums cant blackout games.
    It isnt right for people paying for those stadiums to be punished for not attending. This way, billionaire club owners might think twice about demanding new taxpayer funded stadiums.
    If they pay for their own stadium than they can blackout. Its win-win.

  15. If the nfl has the blackout rule killed, then they will really have to compete in order to make the game day experience even better.

    They would set up a national tax charging everyone in America on the basis that they make weekends better for everyone! And, still want to stop people from watching for free. The black out rule is a a ruse to make more money from the sale of TV viewing, and it only costs the public more, while they gain nothing for it.

  16. Pfft…the Vikings. For the game against a popular teams like the Pack and Pats a person has to by a ticket combo to a less desirable game which includes another door mat team like the Vikings to hopefully prevent a blackout and that’s at a little college stadium to boot. Sad fan base. I sure they are leading the charge with this.

  17. I’m not concerned with the blackout rule. If people really want to see a home game, they should attend the home game. I’ve missed 3 in 22 seasons. Get off the bandwagon and get in the game.

    How about lowering the ticket prices, especially those of pre-season. THAT might actually get more butts in the seats.

  18. Why wouldn’t the NFL want 3 hours of advertising their product to the locals inviting them to come to the stadium in the first place ?

  19. The faster blackouts go away, the faster ticket prices go down (and PSL’s go away) and the quicker a family might actually be able to afford to go to a game.

  20. I think the NFL should be able to black out games…

    …as long as the stadium the game is being played in didn’t receive a dollar of public money.

  21. Pretty simple, any stadium funded one cent or more by public funds at any time during it’s existence will not be allowed to have blacked out sporting events. I think we would all be amazed at how many owners would find a way to finance their offices on their own if the black out rule meant that much to them.

  22. What I don’t get is how people with Sunday ticket still can’t watch blacked out local games… Heck, what the hell would be the point then haha

  23. In today’s day and age, the rule is completely antiquated. NO WAY blacking out the local area fills a stadium. All is does is punish fans that either can’t AFFORD a game trip or can’t handle the elements.

    The thought process is idiotic… “So, I CAN’T watch the game for FREE? Guess I need to shell out 150-200 bucks, leave several hours early, park a mile away, deal with drunken fans and see PART of the field…YEP I’m gonna do THAT. whatever….

  24. If the NFL wants to return to LA, the blackout rule must go. Back in the day when the Rams sucked and the Raiders could not sell out the cavernous Colisseum, the LA market was blacked out regularly. Today it would be crazy to blackout the LA and Orange County markets for some unsold tickets. Networks won’t tolerate it when they pay billions for the broadcast rights.

  25. screw em, stream it online!
    game day costs are about $150-200 PER PERSON!
    My take is that the best seat in the house, is at the house!! forget the idiot drunk fans, I’ll get drunk at home for a 20th of the costs!

  26. Tying TV broadcasting to live game attendance is a perversion of logic developed to increase revenue and it should be stopped. If the NFL wants to increase game attendance, they need to increase the value of the game experience – and this may differ in different markets but thats how other businesses thrive – by offering a product that is perceived by the target audience to be worthy of the required expense. Anything else is manipulated regulations and a form fruste of blackmail by a protected monopoly.

  27. They should eliminate that role if the stadiums are publicly funded. I think Jerry Jones built his own stadium, but nearly every other stadium in the NFL was publicly funded. If you want our money, there will be no more black outs.

    Simple.

    They want public money for repairs? No Black outs.

    Simple.

  28. Can anyone name one person who decided to buy a ticket specifically because a game was blacked out? Usually it is the cable company and their advertisers buying the tickets to make sure the game is televised locally.

  29. How many clumsy, thrown-together PR bits does the NFL put out a year? Their blackout efforts are even worse than their “let’s teach pee-wee players how not to get concussions” program.

  30. Did the NFL actually pay/have 335 people vote no on the poll above. Who in their right mind would vote no on that? Can you check your ip logs and see if all 335 people were at a particular building in down town Manhattan?

  31. Funny nobody wants a team in London in the states and that is getting pushed through regardless of what the fans want.

    Yet the blackout rule is something the fans want abolished and they are going to resist it until the bitter end.

    Can anyone see a trend here?

  32. the league thinks we are so stupid. i love football but i will happily walk away and find a new hobby if the money grabs continue.
    if my viewing of 30-40 games per year, the two fantasy leagues i’m in, and the licensed hats, jerseys, madden, coozies, and gloves my relatives buy for me every christmas aren’t generating enough revenue for them, i blame their business model.

  33. The blackout rule does NOT put butts in the seats. Fans who actually go to games will tell you that it is a wholly different experience than watching the game at home. Even if you don’t tailgate or get seriously drunk, the game is right there in front of you with 60 to 80 thousand screaming fans around you. You aren’t subjected to the tedious commercials. The atmosphere and comradery in the stadium is palpable (at least that’s how it is at Seahawks games).

    But watching at home is great too. You get the food you want, the seat you want, the beer and smoke you want… after all it’s your house and it’s legal here in Washington state. Plus you get to jump back and forth from game to game and usually miss out on most the commercials (for Sunday’s games).

    The idea that blackout will force fans to go to games is ludicrous. If you live anywhere near a stadium and love football, then you’ll buy season tickets and you’ll be there. The blackout is just another revenue stream that forces the league to pay itself. An owner has to spend money to fill the seats? And then they get the money back at profit distribution time?? And if they sell out all the tickets they get the Advertising revenue as well??? Yeah, it’s not scam. *sarcasm at its best*

  34. I say leave it alone. Most cities have teams and businesses that are willing to buy up the extra tickets and give them to charities like youth clubs anyway because it’s the right thing to do and it’s good for those businesses. Having said that, I do believe the day of “free TV” NFL football will soon be over.

  35. WHY do you think you deserve to watch NFL games for free? Should you also get to eat for free at restaurants? Drink for free at local bars because you pay property taxes there? If you don’t like it, then start your own professional football team and offer it up to the public for free.

    Oh, and the whole argument that you deserve to watch for free because the owners got money for their stadium? Those are all sales tax dollars. Doesn’t cost you a penny if you don’t want it to. Simply don’t make purchases in the county where the extra taxes are.

    “Big brother should stay out of my life…unless it means I get something for free…”

  36. Why does the NFL care about the Blackout Rule so much? Based on the new TV contracts and the current NFL Sunday Ticket contract, the NFL receives, on average $8.8 million dollars PER GAME on the TV contracts alone.

  37. The blackout rule should be abolished.

    Except in Cleveland and Oakland… nobody should have to watch the Factory of Sadness and the Factory of Madness against their will. That would be like medieval torture.

  38. Considering that the cost for my wife and I get halfway decent seats to a game, drive to and from the stadium sitting in traffic, pay to park, get a beer and some nachos is prob around $500 when you total up all the costs is what keeps me from going. Not to mention it blows through one of 2 days off a week as you spend allmost as much time getting there, back, and waiting in line then you do actually watching football.

    And while I enjoy putting back a few as much as the next guy, I don’t exactly relish the idea of spending hours around a bunch of people who found it absoultely necessary to drink grain alcohal through a funnel in the parking lot like they were still in college then yell at me for cheering and standing up on a third down because they are so hammered they can’t even balance on their own 2 feet.

    Seriously though, why would I ever want to spend a large % of my disposable income to basically be miserable when I can have my good friends over and watch the game from my finished basement and actually enjoy it?

  39. My local baseball team (Indians) moved from free TV to pay TV. Did I go get cable? No. Do I follow the team like I once did? No.

    If I can’t watch the Browns on free TV, then I’ll find something else to do, just like I did with baseball.

  40. And once the NFL goes to pay per view. Lol. Let them. They will slit their own throats. Yes I realize with cable I do pay for the games indirectly, that’s much different than paying to watch the games.

    NFL does that, they would be out of business in 3 yrs.

    FCC if you represent the people which you should be doing you would have told the NFL years ago to go pound salt. No blackouts period

  41. I don’t care if you hate the vikings or love golf and can’t stand the nfl. If the minnesota vikings are playing in a half funded state contributed stadium you’re damn right the game should be on basic television irregardless of how many seats are sold.

    How are you going to blackout a game when the average fan can’t afford tickets to these new billion dollar stadiums??

  42. amishninjas wrote:
    “Those of you raising the “non-profit” issue are off base. The league works for the teams. Each team pays taxes on their individual revenue. They then share that revenue with the league. The money has already been taxed. If the league were to be taxed then they would be double dipping on that money.”

    You mean…like sales tax on top of income tax?


  43. dkalev says:
    Aug 13, 2014 11:43 AM
    What I don’t get is how people with Sunday ticket still can’t watch blacked out local games… Heck, what the hell would be the point then haha

    Having NFLST doesn’t matter. If you live in an NFL market, and the game is not blacked out, you’d be seeing the game on local TV, right? Having NFLST wouldn’t matter, because you’d get the game anyway.

    If the game is blacked out locally over-the-air, DirecTV must black out the game, since it provides a loophole to seeing the game in the blacked out market. That’s taking revenue from the local station that would normally carry the game.

    Sunday Ticket was never meant to replace local market broadcasts. People generally buy it because they live outside the market of their team and want to see those games. And lots of rabid football fans and fantasy geeks buy it as well.

  44. If the multibillionaires of multibillion dollar teams in a league worth multibillions cry poor and take even one cent of taxpayer money to build their lavish palaces then they should not be able to blackout games. They don’t control the airwaves, the FCC does. Unfortunately, we plebes don’t have the money to bribe, er give “campaign donations”, politicians and lobbyists.

  45. No way I will go to another game on my own dimeThey priced me out. For what I would have to pay to get a seat where I can identify what I am looking at as an actual human being, pay $30 for parking, $20/person for food and drinks, $12 beers, I could have bought a season of NFL Sunday ticket and watch from my couch on my 55″ HDTV.

    Sorry, NFL. Your greed priced me out as a fan.

  46. The NFL needs to decide whether it is a national institution or a business. If it’s a national institution, it should continue to receive special consideration from government agencies. If it’s a business, it should not be granted any exceptions whatsoever.

    If it is a national institution, the maximization of profits must end. Tickets should be affordable and broadcasts should be available.

  47. While they’re at it, they should do away with charging fans regular season prices for preseason glorified scrimmages. That’s like buying a cubic zirconia for the the same price of a real diamond! It doesn’t make sense.


  48. topcide says:

    Considering that the cost for my wife and I get halfway decent seats to a game, drive to and from the stadium sitting in traffic, pay to park, get a beer and some nachos is prob around $500 when you total up all the costs is what keeps me from going….

    Seriously though, why would I ever want to spend a large % of my disposable income to basically be miserable when I can have my good friends over and watch the game from my finished basement and actually enjoy it?

    I get your point and agree with you on some of your points. But you must travel a long way, get club seats and drink the best beer in the place (plus parking, etc.) if it costs you five hundred bones to see a game.

    I live in Jacksonville and have owned Jaguar season tickets for 20 years. My current seats run about $70 per game. Single game seats in my section run $85 per game (if you can get them, most are sold out). Parking near the stadium runs $15-25, based on location and how far you want to walk. You can also park at a free lot near the interstate and pay $7 for a round trip bus shuttle that drops you right outside the stadium.
    A nice-sized hot dog costs $5, a large sausage is $6. Regular beer runs $8, craft/microbrews are $10. You can spend lots more on alcohol or food, but you don’t have to to eat well.

    So my Sunday at a game with the Mrs. costs me ~$140 for the tickets, $18-30 for beer (depending on how many, usually just one or two), maybe $20 for food. $14 to take the shuttle. We live 40 minutes from the stadium, and the gas for my truck might cost me five bucks. So, at the max, our day costs $210. Even adding for the gameday ticket prices, you could come here and see a game, eat, drink and travel for maybe a few bucks more. Plus we have the biggest scoreboards in the world.

    You need to find a cheaper team. Or come down here.

  49. “free tv” is not free unless you are watching it on a tv that is ONLY plugged into the power outlet. That means no HD, no cable, no dish, nothing. And the digital broadcast that goes out for “free” is worse than a perpetually skipping DVD.

    Most folks get their free tv through the cable or dish they pay for. And the advertisers are paying the NFL for the right to be part of the cash cow. EVERYONE is making money on the NFL being shown for “free”. Blacking out the game in the local market does nothing except DEPRIVE money from the league. I’m surprised some bean counter doesn’t do the math on this.

    You can’t tell me that blacking out games makes ANYONE money. People who go to games do not think about whether or not the game will be blacked out. So, it has no bearing on putting butts in the seats. In today’s day and age, blacking out games is all about increasing the leagues bottom line, because the THREAT of blacking out games means a LOSS of money. And if you’re an NFL owner or player, you are against the idea of losing out on potential money.

  50. Two blackouts last year. That’s it.

    The NFL has made it extremely rare. People can deal with it.

  51. If local taxpayer dollars are being used to to build stadiums, then the blackout rules shouldn’t apply. If the owners want to keep the blackout rules as they are, they should pay 100% of stadium costs…just saying…

  52. joe.attaboy says:
    Aug 13, 2014 1:58 PM

    topcide says:

    Considering that the cost for my wife and I get halfway decent seats to a game, drive to and from the stadium sitting in traffic, pay to park, get a beer and some nachos is prob around $500 when you total up all the costs is what keeps me from going….

    Seriously though, why would I ever want to spend a large % of my disposable income to basically be miserable when I can have my good friends over and watch the game from my finished basement and actually enjoy it?

    I get your point and agree with you on some of your points. But you must travel a long way, get club seats and drink the best beer in the place (plus parking, etc.) if it costs you five hundred bones to see a game.

    I live in Jacksonville and have owned Jaguar season tickets for 20 years. My current seats run about $70 per game. Single game seats in my section run $85 per game (if you can get them, most are sold out). Parking near the stadium runs $15-25, based on location and how far you want to walk. You can also park at a free lot near the interstate and pay $7 for a round trip bus shuttle that drops you right outside the stadium.
    A nice-sized hot dog costs $5, a large sausage is $6. Regular beer runs $8, craft/microbrews are $10. You can spend lots more on alcohol or food, but you don’t have to to eat well.

    So my Sunday at a game with the Mrs. costs me ~$140 for the tickets, $18-30 for beer (depending on how many, usually just one or two), maybe $20 for food. $14 to take the shuttle. We live 40 minutes from the stadium, and the gas for my truck might cost me five bucks. So, at the max, our day costs $210. Even adding for the gameday ticket prices, you could come here and see a game, eat, drink and travel for maybe a few bucks more. Plus we have the biggest scoreboards in the world.

    You need to find a cheaper team. Or come down here.
    ————————————————-

    considering the jags literally had to cover up seats, i’m going to reason that it’s a BIT less expensive to see a jags game then a lions game, whom I root for.

    And yeah, considering that unless you have at least club level seats in a decent position on the field you can’t even see the ball, i’m getting good seats if I went to game. Sorry, but I’m not paying 70 bucks a pop to sit there and watch the jumbo tron.

  53. Reasonably price tickets and you won’t have to worry about blackouts. You can get 2 years of the Sunday ticket for the cost of taking a family to one single game.

  54. They should at least remove it for the bay area, i mean im a raiders fan and even i dont want to go to that dump of a stadium, so i like to watch it on tv. but the greedy nfl blacks out my games somtimes.

  55. renbutler says:

    Two blackouts last year. That’s it.

    =============================

    Seriously, that’s it? Then both times they had to be my team (Chargers)

  56. I guess I’m in a major minority in thinking blackouts are a good idea. It protects the owner’s investment in their stadiums which along with TV is a major source of their revenue. If it weren’t for their investment to the team and the stadium, there wouldn’t be a product to show on TV anyway.

  57. It’s possible that the Chargers and other teams also had some preseason blackouts. But there were only two in the regular season league-wide.

  58. I wonder what Goddell/NFL would do if all fans got together and decided to black out the entire NFL games for just 1 week…in other words nobody attend any game in any city for just one week….16 empty stadiums for one week….bet that would get their attention…..

  59. I can imagine that it would be rather embarrassing for the NFL to televise games in an empty stadium, but the truth is that the cost of going to a game has become so prohibitive that only the wealthy can afford it. With the technology available today, there is no reason why a fan cannot see any game that he/she wants to see, anywhere in the world, without going broke doing it. I’m not saying that all games should be on TV for free, but I do think that viewers would be willing to pay a “reasonable” price to see the games that they want to see.

  60. The NFL knows if they don’t have a blackout rule tens of thousands of people will take the money they were going to use on season tickets and stay at home and watch the game.

  61. What I can believe is the amount of Baseball teams going to pay per view. Talking about putting the dagger in that sport. Indians did it…Really? Indians 29th in attendance and the team isn’t that bad. Looks like Clevelanders have lost interest and have moved on. Pay per view can’t be helping.

  62. I bought NFL preseason last year to watch every game on my computer (four games) for $20. Every single game was blacked out by the NFL because if was on local TV which I don’t get. I asked for my $20 back and the NFL said, sorry, you have to request your refund in the first 7 days, like I could know early on they were going to black out all the games. You still owe me $20 NFL.

  63. Advertisers and the local TV network affiliates can’t be happy when a game is blacked out. A lot of money changes hands to show commercials during football games.

    It’s true that there were only 2 blackouts last year, but there would have been more if not for teams and corporations ponying up at the last minute to buy tickets. NFL indirectly puts pressure on them – if you want your local commercials to air, you better buy those tickets and lift the blackout.

  64. The blackout rule was useful when the league was poor enough that it relied on gate revenue to survive.

    That ended sometime in the early 1980s. The NFL generates more than enough revenue now that it shouldn’t be necessary. No other sport needs this. The NFL no longer does, either.

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