FCC launches effort to end blackout rule

Getty Images

After months of talk, the FCC could be poised for action.

According to Jerry Zremski of the Buffalo News, the FCC proposed on Friday eliminating the NFL’s blackout rule.

“Changes in the marketplace have raised questions about whether these rules are still in the public interest, particularly at a time when high ticket prices and the economy make it difficult for many sports fans to attend games,” said FCC acting chairwoman Mignon L. Clyburn.

The league said it will review the proposal.

“But it is worth noting that there have been no local TV blackouts of NFL home games through the first 133 games of the 2013 season,” league spokesman Greg Aiello added.

He’s right, but only because the NFL has softened the definition of a “sellout,” allowing teams to sell only 85 percent of all non-premium tickets in order to lift the local blackout.  Also, several games have been televised this year because teams and/or sponsors bought he unsold tickets at 34 cents on the dollar.

Nearly two years ago, the FCC sought public comment on the possibility of eliminating the blackout rule.  The league previously has said that the rule helps keep games on free television.

The billions of dollars the NFL earns for its broadcast rights surely helps keep the bulk of its games on free TV.  Even then, two thirds of the weekly prime-time games are shown only on cable.

Earlier this year, Senator John McCain introduced legislation that would block blackouts in stadiums that were funded in whole or in part by taxpayer dollars.

In time, the FCC or Congress could finish the job that the late Richard Nixon first started more than 40 years ago.

43 responses to “FCC launches effort to end blackout rule

  1. It doesn’t affect me, but I understand fan frustration with this. Its about time they get rid of this stupid rule.

    The bad news is, the NFL will find another way to charge fans more in an “attempt to recoupe lost revenue”. Of course there won’t be any lost revenue, but it’ll tick Ginger & some owners off enough to take this course of action.

  2. Now if we could also just dump Nixon’s lame ‘turn back the clocks’ aka DST stupidity, we’d be fine.

  3. It makes too much sense so it will never fly.

    I would love to see the FCC force the NFL to do it, tho.

  4. Jacksonville better buy some extra tarps then claim their stadium only holds 10,000. Tampa might have to get creative too. Build the pirate ship bigger or something.

  5. Look, plain and temple unless somebody buys me a ticket I’m not going to another Browns game period. High school games are cheaper, you get to sit closer and the food is cheaper, plus the players don’t look like ants from your seat all the way up in the stands. The NFL has priced me out and the game is much better from my samsung 55 inch tv

  6. So public money pays for the majority of stadiums but they NFL can block games…. That sounds really fair to us the taxpayers.

  7. As a European American (read: white), I am offended by the term blackout, and I demand that the NFL stops using this term.

  8. If people really wanted to go to a NFL game, they would.

    However, there are a ton of impediments in the way not the least of which are the prices involved.

    Their product is much more viable on TV.

  9. Instead of a T.V. black out there should be a penalty for those teams that don’t sell out tickets……What that is? Perhaps a level at which the remainder of the tickets get sold to folks at a reduced rate during game days……..?

  10. The NFL is a private firm basically and the Government should take notes on how to run a business for profit and not worry about black outs and team names.

    The NFL is a big business and the owners are making money hand over fist. That being the case if my taxes go to fund any portion of a NFL team either stadium, infrastructure, mass transit, or even property survey and value assessment the games should not be blacked out.

  11. I’m no fan of the blackout rule (though as an SF Bay Area resident it was nice how until about a year or two ago that 7 out of 8 crappy Raider games weren’t on, allowing for much better viewing options. How about re-opening Mount Davis?!?)

    But why is this any of the FCC’s business? They should but the hell out.

  12. What complete and utter nonsense.

    NFL games are the product produced by a private corporation. That corporation has the right to distribute its product when and where it chooses.

    And the argument that tax payer funds are used for stadiums so the games should be on TV is further nonsense. Governments allow taxpayer money to be used for stadiums because the stadiums themselves are allegedly going to magnets for development and future revenue. TV is not even part of the equation.

    This has nothing to do with my opinion about the blackout rule itself. I think it is stupid and antiquated and the league should get rid of it.

    But unlike most of the people here, I don’t believe in using the government to bully private corporations into doing what I want.

  13. The rule should have been put to a end by the 1990s, the blackout rule amounts to holding local taxpayers for ransom by not allowing them the chance to be able to enjoy the stadium that THEY helped pay for.

  14. greeneblitz says:
    Nov 2, 2013 9:58 PM
    The rule should have been put to a end by the 1990s, the blackout rule amounts to holding local taxpayers for ransom by not allowing them the chance to be able to enjoy the stadium that THEY helped pay for.


    I hate the blackout rule too, but how does it prevent taxpayers from enjoying a stadium they paid for? Doesn’t it encourage them to go to the stadium they paid for?

  15. realitypolice:

    Ok then how about we just remove all laws and regulations of all kinds for all businesses and just let the businesses and the people sort everything out in a totally free society with no rules?

  16. The winds of change are blowing hard. No more antiquated blackout rule and no more team names offensive to Native Americans. Hang on to the past and be left behind.

  17. If the billionaires want welfare to the tune of hundreds of millions they certainly should not be allowed to black out games.

  18. I never understood the intent of the rule. Why would you want your local audience to NOT SEE what they are missing? To me if you show the games, you gain MORE local fan base, and entice people to want to buy tickets and come to the stadium.

  19. There’s nothing wrong with the blackout rule. There’s everything wrong with the cost per ticket when the quality of product is so low.

    To actually say the cost of going to a game is the actual ticket cost is in itself a lie. It it virtually impossible for you to only spend the exact cost of a ticket and nothing else in order to attend a game.

    There is nothing wrong with having a blackout rule in place when ownership is doing everything in the power of their franchise to make the cost of that ticket worthwhile.

    In this case poor and greedy ownership are treating their fanbase like slumlords and getting away with it. The consumer rejecting what the franchise is offering is an example of poor ownership not a poor fanbase.

  20. thestrategyexpert says:
    Nov 2, 2013 10:03 PM

    Ok then how about we just remove all laws and regulations of all kinds for all businesses and just let the businesses and the people sort everything out in a totally free society with no rules?

    Yes, because there totally is no middle ground between me not wanting worthless government agencies like the FCC telling entertainment corporations where to offer their product and complete anarchy.

    Great point.

  21. No stadiums are funded by the federal government. The FCC has greatly expanded it’s power beyond it’s original intent. It should be abolished not encouraged.

  22. I think a far trade off would be those that are within the market that would be blacked out buys the Sunday ticket package (what ever the price might be) then they should be permitted to watch the game. If I’m spending 100+ bucks to watch a game from my home then I should.

  23. I am a longtime NFL fan, and I know alot of other longtime NFL fans. And not one single person I have ever met has decided to attend an NFL game because it was blacked out. NFL owners are not complete morons, but they’re damn close.

    The blackout rule should have been lifted in the 80s.

  24. I don’t like how the Feds have their hands in on NFL business operations but I understand the frustration. This rule is outdated and needs to go. It shouldn’t have to take the power and resources of Congress to do so. The NFL should just realize more people would rather watch the games at home for whatever reason.

  25. Those saying the government shouldn’t interfere in how a private business operates apparently don’t understand that the airwaves are public property. That is why there is an FCC and broadcast licenses. Cable and satellite don’t change that.

  26. Never understood how the NFL got away with preventing games being televised that didn’t sell out. It’s unfortunate that greed is the driver here. The NFL can clearly afford to lower ticket and beverage prices and still make money hand over fist.

  27. I think its safe to say that probably 99.9% of fans go to games because they want to go and see a live game and not because a game has the potential to be blacked out. Since the intent of a blackout is to force more ticket sales & since said tickets are so pricey if a game isn’t going to be shown on regional free TV those fans without cable being affected & wanting to see the game would much more likely just go to a local sportsbar to watch their team as a much more cost effective option.

    The practical realities of this rule/law is highly suspect!

  28. It’s an archaic rule – time to eliminate it. With the mega-billion $ TV deals and the fact that most NFL teams have received public money to build stadiums, it seems like the old explanation for the rule has the owners talking out of both sides of their mouths…..or are they taking $ out of both pockets of the fans?

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.