Bengals choose to use 85-percent rule for the first time

AP

When the NFL relaxed the blackout rule two years ago, allowing teams to declare a sellout if only 85 percent of the non-premium tickets were sold, the Bengals weren’t interested.  Now, despite three straight playoff appearances, they are.

We’re going to stick with the old rule,” owner Mike Brown said in 2012.  “What we want to see are sold out houses and we want the stadium full with 65,000-plus people.  We don’t want to get to just 85 percent or 55,000.”

Two years later, the team has done an about-face.

“The thought process is simple — we want the games sold out for local TV so as many fans as possible can watch,” Bengals director of ticket sales Andrew Brown said in a statement released by the team. “Having games on TV locally does not benefit the club financially, but it’s in the best interest of the fan base, and we believe it’s in the club’s best interest as well to make local broadcasts more achievable.”

By utilizing the rule, the Bengals necessarily agree to pay to the league’s visiting-team pool half of the face value of any tickets sold beyond the 85-percent minimum in any of the team’s eight regular-season home games. The typical contribution is 34 percent.

Apparently, the Bengals don’t think they’ll be exceeding the 85-percent minimum on a regular basis.

“We’re proud to be one of only five teams in the playoffs each of the last three years,” Brown said. “But the fact is that sales are not as strong to date as we’d like. Even under the 85-percent plan, we will need a strong sales from this point to get games on TV. But the option is helpful, and we are continuing with a maximum sales effort.”

The fact that game can be televised locally with stadiums at 85-percent capacity in the non-premium areas and, in theory, zero-percent capacity in the premium zones cuts against the NFL’s argument that the blackout rule should remain in place to ensure that the images shown over the free airwaves will consist of full stadiums. In Cincinnati, the stadium apparently won’t be full very often this year.

We can only wonder how bad it would be if the teams weren’t so much better than it used to be.

82 responses to “Bengals choose to use 85-percent rule for the first time

  1. The blackout rule is too much of a gray area.

    I live 2 hours away from the Twin Cities but get our TV feeds from there. So the local area isn’t just “Twin Cities” it is the entire state pretty much. Over the air doesn’t work for us to get another Fox or CBS station to watch the game.

    Over the air is fine but when some one lives 2 + hours away, it isn’t right.

  2. Not surprising seeing as the economy has been in a tank for 5-6 years and dispite what some politicians would lead you to believe. “Blue Collar America” is still very much hurting because of their job killing policies. Ohio always seems to be worse-off than other states too.

  3. You’d think a team that’s made the playoffs three years in a row would have better cred with their fans. Well, maybe those play-off losses are starting to wear on those fans just a bit.

    Just a reminder, Bengals fans:

    Steelers/Bengals
    Regular season? PIT: 53-34
    Postseason? PIT: 1-0

    Go Steelers!

  4. For a team that has made the playoffs for 3 straight years, they’re stating they are going to need a strong push to acheive the 85% for their stadium, so they are expecting less than 55,250 for many of their games? I see they averaged just 44,000 for the preseason. What’s going on Bengal fans? So when do the Cincy to LA or Cincy to London rumors start?

  5. Must be getting harder and harder for the Kentucky briars to attend games since the rest of Ohio is too hungover from the Buckeye games on Saturdays to attend.

    This team is so irrelevant.

  6. Never miss a chance to bash the Bengals, do you? A lot of teams would not have sold out if they were using the 100% rule like the Bengals were the past few years.

  7. If the Bills made the playoffs 3 years in a row, there would be a parade & standing room only available for seating. The Bills sold 50,000 Season tickets already & we’re 14 years removed from the playoffs, talk about a difference in fan bases.

  8. If the league keeps up with the vast greed and insanity of things like the PI calls we saw in the preseason and 50 other things that are aggravating the fans they’ll have problem half selling most of the games within the next 10 years.

  9. Cincinnati resident here

    Fans are still embittered about the sweetheart deal the Bengals got to agree to stay in the city with the new stadium. The county commissioner who spearheaded the agreement was promptly voted out of office and was quickly given a job with the Bengals organization where he is still gainfully employed

    Also the team hasn’t won a game in the post season since 1990, the past three years none of the playoff games have been close. Last year against San Diego was particularly frustrating as the Bengals went into SD and beat them and laid an egg in the playoffs despite the game being at home. Completely flat, never had a chance against SD. No major changes were made, Marv is still the coach, Dalton is still the QB. No major FA signings, an uninspired OC move after Gruden left. New DC as well, although that was an in-house promotion that seemed logical

    Most importantly, the NFL is ridiculously expense. This whole mentality of ganging up on a fanbase for refusing to be extorted by the richest of the rich is quite self-defeating. But alas…..these are the reasons why Bengal-dom is in a state of total apathy despite the recent regular season success

  10. The dirty little secret they never tell you is that it is hard to breathe at the stadium because of the stench coming off of the river from being downstream of Pittsburgh.

  11. How do you come to this conclusion
    “Having games on TV locally does not benefit the club financially…”

    This person has no idea how a business runs or what drives consumers to a brand.

    The marketing exposure that the team gets from being on TV is huge, after-all how many 3+ hour commercials do you see?

    How do you expect to expand a fan base who may come to the games if they are not exposed?

    How about when little Jimmy starts watching and AJ Green becomes his favorite player and he has to have his jersey. That is financially beneficial, No?

    The blackout rule is about as dumb of a rule as you can have. It is very expensive to go to an NFL game. Many of the most die hard fans would have a difficult time affording one game let alone eight.

    If the NFL must have a black out rule maybe they should have a PPV option in the local market where a team is blacked out. This would drive additional revenue for the team as well. Set the price at a reasonable amount that would allow a family to enjoy a game and build and retain your fanbase.

  12. look on the bright side..Bengals fans…at least your team wasn’t knocked out of the playoffs by Tim Tebow!

  13. Blackouts do not and will not encourage me to attend NFL games. The ONLY thing that will encourage me to attend games is a reduction in outlandish ticket prices.

  14. As a Chargers fan, who admittedly watches every game for free via illegal internet feeds… Allow me to say that this declaration by the Bengals is a back-handed compliment to its fan base.

    The Spanos family hates us Chargers fans, and we despise them just the same… But I LOVE that the Spanos family refuses to enact the 85% rule! because it makes it 100% clear where everyone stands.

    Under Norv Turner, and missing the playoffs 2 years in a row while housing arguably the most dynamic offense in the NFL, our fans revolted and boycotted. Without the 85% rule, our voices were heard loud and clear.

    The Spanos Family/Chargers had a sweetheart 20-year long sweetheart guaranteed ticket deal in San Diego, and they won’t be happy until they get it back.

    No, you won’t get free ticket sales from the city any longer; put a dynamic product on the field, and the tickets will be sold the natural way.

    Win a Super Bowl, and maybe even have a new stadium financed half way ( looking at you, Mr. Spanos, for the other $300 million, since you’re in construction anyway).

  15. Its not that the Bengals dont have alot of fans. The surrounding areas arent “rich” neighborhoods. The price for tickets are very steep especially if your paying for more than 1 person. You cant even get into bars or restaurants in the area because its all Bengals Fans. So no need to post ignorant comments if you dont know what your even talking about

  16. The Bengals director of ticket sales is sorely mistaken if he thinks that using local TV to increase the fan base “does not benefit the club financially”. These are the same people that buy the tickets, the jerseys, and the officially licensed NFL apparel. With HDTVs and beyond the “NFL experience” has experienced a paradigm shift in how teams need to think about marketing, both locally and nationally.

  17. Cincinnati has always had difficulty selling out, regardless of whether they are good or bad, new stadium or old. It’s not a football town to begin with – it’s a baseball town – in a small market – where half the metropolitan market population is south of the Ohio River in Kentucky, who don’t especially identify them. There are as many Indy and Browns fans in the area as there are Bengals fans.

  18. I see a lot of hate coming from 2nd-4th place in the AFC North. If you cant beat us on the field, you can at least comment us to death on PFT.

    Raven & Steeler fans are quick to bring up 0-3 in the playoffs, but its their teams who can’t keep us out of the playoffs in the first place.

    Good decision on the Bengals part. Between this, and the Devon Still story… Bengals fans should be proud of their team.

  19. “Having games on TV locally does not benefit the club financially”

    Oh the Bengals don’t get 1/32 of the billions of dollars that EACH of these networks pays to broadcast the sport. Fox, Cbs, Nbc, Espn, and Direct TV?

    What loser thinking…Obviously the tickets are too expensive if they think they have a good football team that should be sold out. Lower the tickets or don’t…but don’t cry the blues when you get tons of money to put the games on TV.

  20. Cleveland fans will come out in droves when their team is crap but Cincy fans don’t care if their team is great? Makes no sense. I wouldn’t blame the Bengals if they went to LA.

  21. I’d rather watch from home any day. Tickets cost too much, I have cheaper beer in my fridge and there are a bunch of idiots at NFL games that never played football in their life.

  22. im calling Bull crap on they do not benefit financially from the local tv……….Who do you think pays them billions a year to broadcast the games?

    CBS and Fox do.

  23. Steelers & Ravens fans…….lets be clear, you are no more of a fan of your team as i am of mine. If you have more fans? Great! So what! Who cares! At the end of the day, my team is locked into a deal with the city until 2026, and you can’t beat me in the AFC North.
    Lol. Who cares!

  24. Diehard Bengals fan here since the late 70’s. I used to go to every game every year when I was single. Now that I’ve been married for 23 and have two children, also fans, and you factor in the cost of ticket prices, I simply can’t afford to go to EVERY game as I did in the past. I do still try to attend a few but when you have to buy 4 tickets, pay for parking, food and drinks at the stadium, you’re looking at $500 bucks or more. I don’t know many who can drop that kind if coin for 8 games! Being a family man, I can’t bring myself to tell my wife or kids that you can’t go, while I do. That’s just not gonna happen. Where one goes, we all go, or nobody does. That’s just the way it is. If the NFL truly wants to make big money, then they have to look at reducing ticket prices. There would be much more in attendance at all stadiums across the board. That being said, I’ll still attend my one or two games in person with my family. I’d love to attend all, and we would be there in force to cheer our guys on, but the budget just won’t allow it.

  25. They’re kind of like the Dolphin fans that live in the Miami area except the Bengals have actually made the playoffs in each of the last three years. I’m trying to think if there’s any other fan bases that don’t support a winning team. Go figure why Cowboy or Redskin fans continue to wildly support their teams that have NO CHANCE of making the playoffs. The Cowboys have the worst defense in the NFL & there’s no chance RGKnee will stay healthy.

  26. catfanatic1979v1 says: Sep 3, 2014 12:40 PM

    Cleveland fans will come out in droves when their team is crap but Cincy fans don’t care if their team is great? Makes no sense. I wouldn’t blame the Bengals if they went to LA.
    ======================================
    Interesting opinion, but really, who asked you? I’m guessing the LA stadium would read “Home of the LA Browns” long before any talk of the Bengals moving there takes place. The fact of the matter is, they do sell out their games, unless its an unattractive visiting team, you know, like the Browns. Going with the 85% rule just seems to help things go a little easier is all. And like all good Cincy fans do, if we see ANYTHING Brown, we flush it down! Where it belongs!

  27. Excuses excuses excuses Cincy fans…The owner sucks and the economy is bad. We have heard them all. Fact is you are just crappy fans and you should be embarrassed

  28. “First sellout will be December 7th when the Steelers come to town. Steeler Nation always takes over stadiums.”

    Except your own. Last year, when your team was out of the playoff picture, Heinz field was a ghost town

  29. I love how bandwagon Steeler fans come out in droves. 90% of that fanbase is only a fan because it seems to be “cool” to be a fan of them. They won a lot back in the day. Great. What have they done lately? Not a thing.
    Cincinnati fans have gone through years of complete irrelevancy. Yeah we’ve made it to the playoffs the last 3 years. But they’ve choked BIG TIME. After 5 times to the playoffs in Marvin’s tenure and not winning a playoff game, it’s starting to feel like those years of irrelevancy again. Yeah it’s great we are making the playoffs. But last time I checked, the goal is the Super Bowl. Not one and out in the playoffs. We’ve been to the playoffs 5 times now with zero luck in recent years. Until they win a playoff game and show they’re going farther, expect this fan base to stay dry again. We’ve gone through enough crap with this owner. If they don’t go farther in the playoffs this year, expect next year to but full of blackouts. People are tired of the same old from this team. Marvin and his crew get completely out coached in the playoffs year after year. Yet Marvin still gets a pass and keeps his job. If he doesn’t win one this year, he should be fired. Plain and simple.

  30. easyeintennessee says:
    Sep 3, 2014 12:18 PM
    I see a lot of hate coming from 2nd-4th place in the AFC North. If you cant beat us on the field, you can at least comment us to death on PFT.

    Raven & Steeler fans are quick to bring up 0-3 in the playoffs, but its their teams who can’t keep us out of the playoffs in the first place.
    _______________________________
    HATE?! This is not hate! This is people laughing at you for having a terrible owner and terrible fan base! And making the playoffs 3 years in a row is what you think makes us jealous?! The Ravens made it 5 years in a row and won a SB! They won at least 1 playoff game for those 5 straight years and it just ended with a miss this past year. TRUST ME- Not a single Ravens fan is jealous of the Bunguls and their inability to make any noise in the playoffs. By all means, I hope your Bunguls make the playoffs again this year so my Ravens can face them in Round 1 and get an easy W!

  31. Oh and don’t forget, we sold out this stadium for 6 straight years after it was built (57 games) and got what, a head coach who can’t win a post season game. And they continue to keep signing him. Hard to have confidence in an owner/GM who keeps rehiring the same coach who can’t win anything significant.

  32. Most good fanbases have wait lists to get PSL’s. I know in Baltimore we have a pretty extensive one. Green Bay has a very long wait list. Pittsburgh does, as does New England… do you notice a trend? Teams that are better than you (not just talking about the past 3 years) with better ownership support their teams. Don’t take it personal- you’re just not a city who should have an NFL team. Give Ohio one team only- the Browns. You can all convert and they can move the Bengals to LA or London. Hell, I’m sure even Omaha or Reno could do a better job selling out that Cincy has.

  33. Mikie,

    Where did you get that full stadium TV baloney as the reason for blacking out non sold out games? The only reason for that rule has always been to force ticket sales.

  34. For all you Steelers fans that are talking trash, I just wanted to point out that the Bengals had far better attendance than the Steelers last year. The Steelers were in the bottom 5 of the NFL in both % attendance and # of fans last year. 6% drop in attendance from the year before…talk about bandwagon.

  35. It just amazes me that the Bungles are even still in the league because they have been joke since inception

  36. rav3nbav3n says:
    Sep 3, 2014 11:35 AM

    It’s pretty obvious to everyone the Ravens will win this weekend. My prediction 24-3. The ravens defense owns that pathetic excuse of an offense

    ____________________
    That so called “pathetic excuse for an offense” beat the Ravens by 17 points in December and took them out of the playoffs. We beat you in our house by 17 points. In November, you beat us in your house by 3 points in overtime. And on defense, Atkins and Hall weren’t playing in either game.

    Our offense only got better when Gruden left. Watch out.

  37. We’ll I know owners get major network money regardless, and I’ve seen other local area business’ buy up remaining tickets at times in order to lift the blackout rule in order to advertise and incurre yet another expense to do so. “Having games on TV locally does not benefit the club financially” is what I don’t understand because of the lucrative local ad revenue they would receive. It makes me feel like the guy is lying or clueless and has no respect for the fan base, the least he could do is explain why it does not benefit the club financially? I may be ignorant here but wouldn’t the major reason to go to the 85% rule be to make the local TV advertising revenue as well as pleasing your fan base and local business partners?

  38. easyeintennessee says:Sep 3, 2014 12:18 PM

    I see a lot of hate coming from 2nd-4th place in the AFC North. If you cant beat us on the field, you can at least comment us to death on PFT.

    Raven & Steeler fans are quick to bring up 0-3 in the playoffs, but its their teams who can’t keep us out of the playoffs in the first place.

    Good decision on the Bengals part. Between this, and the Devon Still story… Bengals fans should be proud of their team.
    ————————————————–
    Browns fans – Sell out every game
    Steeler fans – Sell out ever game
    Ravens fans – Sold out every game in the history of the team.

    No hate, man…just the fact.

  39. Fill that stadium or you may end up like the 1983 Colts. Shipping out in the middle of the night without any heads up.

    The owners only care about one thing – MONEY. If the fans in Cincy won’t give it to them, someone else will.

  40. youreallmorons says: Sep 3, 2014 1:11 PM

    Excuses excuses excuses Cincy fans…The owner sucks and the economy is bad. We have heard them all. Fact is you are just crappy fans and you should be embarrassed
    ======================================
    Just take one look at your name…………now you know what WE ALL think of an idiot like you!

  41. @ewtaws finest……………
    Do you really think that ANYONE in the Greater Cincinnati area give a fat rats ace what a sheep like you thinks about us or our team?!? You have GOT to be a Baltimoron! Only an idiot from a team that can’t beat the Bengals would make idiotic comments like you do! YUP…now I know your a Baltimoron!

  42. Has nothing to do with Cincinnati. The product is starting to suck. Nobody wants to pay the exorbitant prices to watch a glorified 7 on 7 drill with flags and commercials every two seconds.

    The beauty of the stadium is listening to crunching pads and seeing big hits in person (not better wifi – -sorry goodell you dummy). Keep making the field product more intolerable and you’ll start seeing even long wait list teams staying away.

  43. I actually applaud Bengals fans. Three years in the playoffs and they still recognize it’s not worth going to games.

    Congrats to Goodell on bamboozling DirectTv and other providers that the NFL is untouchable. Real fans know its smoke and mirrors. The product sucks and fans are starting to stay away in droves….even fans of perennial playoff teams apparently.

  44. What really is telling is that the idea of lowering ticket prices to the point where the stadium becomes filled wouldnt even cross the minds of NFL owners. They’re all capitalists when it comes to contracts and salary caps but when it comes to the basic economic principles of price elasticity and demand – they are dumbfounded.

  45. “Proud to be in the playoffs in the last 3 years”

    How proud you must be to have last won a playoff game in 1990…..

    1990….. let that sink in

    As a Bengals fan, you have absolutely NOTHING to be proud of.

  46. I see Bengals fans are throwing in the towel already. You cant even sell out your home opener. What a joke and this is a team coming off a playoff berth as well. I can only imagine what the stadium would be like if they had a drought like the Bills.

  47. It’s a Marvin Lewis thang…send him packing and see what happens to your ticket sales. Fans know the season is over before it even begins if he is still the head coach.

  48. Well said Natigator and Thunderstruck24.

    All that aside, win or lose the Browns own Ohio.

    I can also state that the next team in line supported here in Ohio is the Steelers.

    Take that Bengal non-supporters.

    Prove me wrong right now!!!

    Yes, life long Browns fan is enabling Steeler fan on Steeler week.

    Go Browns!!

  49. If you want to see the Seahawks you have to go to the black market to buy a ticket. Every year, every seat is SOLD OUT. It’s been that way for many years…I’d love to see a game one day, but I’m not willing to spend $400 to freeze my butt off to see the hawks play a lesser team.

  50. Confused: zero-percent capacity in the premium zones cuts against the NFL’s argument that the blackout rule should remain in place to ensure that the images shown over the free airwaves will consist of full stadiums’

  51. New Orleans is a “small market team” and this would never happen. Even in the paper bag years the Dome was sold out. Not sure what the blackout rule was then being I was so young but I know the games were always on TV.

  52. workin4theweekend says:
    Sep 3, 2014 1:27 PM
    For all you Steelers fans that are talking trash, I just wanted to point out that the Bengals had far better attendance than the Steelers last year. The Steelers were in the bottom 5 of the NFL in both % attendance and # of fans last year. 6% drop in attendance from the year before…talk about bandwagon.
    ______________________________

    But the Steelers sold out every home game since 1972 tho! Over 330 consecutive games..

  53. It’s about the economy and hurt feelings than anything else. People in this area will hold grudges and they have against the Brown family.
    When the whole thing with not making sweeping changes after the 4-12 season back in 2010 happened, people stopped going to the games.
    That’s what I hear all of the time.
    I was able to buy PSLs for some great seats at about 1/10 of what they were going for 7-8 years ago. The economy didn’t shrink by 90%.
    People need to let things go and just go enjoy the game.

  54. Before Ravens fans run their mouths, they need to explain why I rolled into town today before the Bengals/Ravens game this Sunday and tickets are going for below face value! Great fan base (sarcasm).

  55. Regardless…. Bengals are best team in AFC North. I am season tickets. I will attend all games as I actually do love 10 miles from stadium in Oakley.

    Bengals are significantly better than rest of division and will win it despite having the harder schedule.

  56. “New Orleans is a “small market team” and this would never happen. Even in the paper bag years the Dome was sold out. Not sure what the blackout rule was then being I was so young but I know the games were always on TV.”

    I’m NOT a Bengals fan but you have a selective memory my friend. Prior to Hurricane Katrina, the Dome was NOT sold out. In 1996 for an example, the Saints averaged 37,750 per game. The game against the Rams had 26,310 attend.

    Every team goes through its highs and lows. The Saints are no different.

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