League points to nearly 20,000 supporters of blackout rule

The FCC won’t let the NFL be.  And that may be a welcome diversion from the Ray Rice case.

In response to the declaration from FCC chairman Tom Wheeler that the agency will vote on September 30 to scuttle the 39-year-old blackout rule, a league spokesman points out that nearly 20,000 fans have petitioned the FCC to uphold the rule.

That disclosure follows the August 25 filing from Lynn Swann, who has become the official spokesman (presumably not unpaid) for the effort to preserve the ability to pull the plug on local broadcasts of games that weren’t sold out.

“These letters represent a growing chorus of fans calling on the Commission to maintain the current rules, which help to keep NFL games available to every viewer on free, broadcast television,” Swann wrote to the FCC.  “I sincerely hope and ask that the Commission consider the petitions of these fans — who are 15,000 strong and climbing — as you decide what is in the public interest.”

(Swann’s letter probably didn’t mention the results of the poll pasted below, which as of this posting shows nearly 13,000 fans opposed to the blackout rule.)

The logical nexus between the FCC ensuring that all games will be broadcast on free TV and NFL games generally disappearing from free TV remains unclear.  PFT has invited the league to explain the dot-connecting process that starts with the blackout rule going away and ends with the NFL shifting to a pay-only model, but the league has yet to provide any information.

While I’m not quite ready to channel Adlai Stevenson, it would be nice to know how the elimination of the blackout rule results in the NFL abandoning the best way to maximize audiences — especially since the two networks supporting the retention of the blackout rule presumably would be willing to pay even more for the right to air games if, for example, FOX could televise a non-sold-out game in Tampa or CBS could broadcast in the Bay Area a Raiders game without enough tickets sold.

111 responses to “League points to nearly 20,000 supporters of blackout rule

  1. dang – I never knew the NFL had 20,000 employees….

    seriously, is the NFL that brain dead to push this issue at this time? their credibility with fans is near all time lows and they continue to push their ability blackmail fans with potential blackouts?

    Cuban is right – this train is primed for derailment…new leadership is needed and soon…a few new owners too, if I had the power…

  2. 20,000 want to keep the blackout.

    100 million don’t.

    the NFL must be using that new Common Core Math.

  3. Blackouts have always pointed out the markets that can’t sell out games. They are known as small markets. Honestly, they really don’t need to have a professional team to begin with. Contraction in all sports has been called for by many fans for years. There are too many teams and the media refuses to acknowledge the problem.

  4. The 20,000 must be people who have a financial interest in the blackouts. The situation should be if any municipality has provided taxpayer funds to the NFL, the team or the stadium there should be no blackouts. If the team has been self sufficient and not used any taxpayer funds they should be able to do what they want as a private business. I can’t imagine there are many teams that haven’t accessed public funds.

  5. Even if those 20,000 actually support keeping the rule, it’s very likely they don’t understand the extreme unlikelihood of the NFL going to a pay-only model. The NFL has done a pretty good job scaring 20,000 people (and mobilizing other members of NFL-allied interest groups) to express support for the blackout rule. I can see no reason to keep the rule beyond the NFL wanting to tell more overpriced tickets. In other words, it’s about the league’s greed, and nothing else. I can’t even blame them. They will make more money with the rule in place. Not much more, but more. Obviously they are going to be against changing it.

  6. Obviously nobody in the league office has seen the video which shows how many people *don’t* want the blackouts.

  7. Everyone knows that cable and satellite TV are on the way out. So the argument about keeping games on free TV is just total BS.

    Personally, I want the blackout rule gone because it’s wrong, especially considering all the publically funded stadiums. But in reality I don’t really care, because when I can no longer watch with my antenna, I just won’t watch.

  8. Only the NFL is so incredibly egotistical that it would try to argue with a straight face that its fans want the blackout rule to remain in place.

  9. Let me put it another way. There are only 8 home games a year for a NFL team. If you can’t sell the largest sports product out in a given city with any game, should you have a football team? Not really. The NFL would become a better product with about 24 teams. It would be better for the fans of football to see the best talent spread out along 24 teams as opposed to the current amount of teams.

  10. Wait, so there is apparently 20,000 fans who write in letters to support the blackout rule… completely out of the blue because this wasn’t actively up for debate, when the only impact on the fans is they don’t have the option to watch it on TV if they would like?
    Seems very fishy

  11. If taxpayers get the bill for building a new stadium, they should either be allowed to view the game from the comfort of their own home, or be allow to enter the stadium for free.

  12. We already pay for games on TV. Like I want to be prisoner to a Browns vs Jags game cause my local provider put that garbage on. #SundayTicket

  13. “These letters represent a growing chorus of fans calling on the Commission to maintain the current rules, which help to keep NFL games available to every viewer on free, broadcast television.”

    So the NFL is threatening to pull the games off broadcast TV if they don’t get their way? What a bunch of schmucks.

    It’s really time to knock the NFL down a few pegs, their hubris has reached ridiculous proportions.

  14. I say lift the blackout!! That way more people stay home and the ransom demand for parking is cut drastically around NFL stadiums. Lines for concessions will be shorter, and public transit wont be so crowded and inept
    at the conclusion of games. Then we have traffic….less people going to the game that they can watch on TV has got to make the EPA and tree huggers happy! Less emissions in stop and go traffic will save the planet!! Of course….does any of the above matter? Unless your team really sucks then the venue will be full anyway, at the very least, a sellout!! This story is not really news and has no real impact.

  15. Please, please follow through with your fake, hollow threat NFL and go to a pay only system, I’m very sure that it’ll cost less overall then a Direct TV subscription and Sunday Ticket do now.

  16. The FCC allowed cable companies to scramble Expanded Basic channels about six years ago. To continue watching MNF, you had to rent a descrambler at $9 per month, per television.

    A little over a year ago, the FCC allowed cable companies to scramble Limited Basic channels. To continue watching ANY football, you had to rent a descrambler at $7 per month, per television.

    Please note that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler was previously a venture capitalist and lobbyist for the cable and wireless industry (coincidence? Um…no). A few months ago an internal FCC document leaked indicating that Wheeler’s FCC would consider promulgating rules allowing ISPs to violate net neutrality (ask Netflix how that is turning out).

    Are you sure that the FCC is looking after YOUR best interests as they push for this? Because over the last few years, they have been proven to be doing the exact opposite.

  17. It simple fact is without the blackout rule attendance will eventually fall, the owner will need/want more money now that the staduims are not the money makers they once were so instead of selling the rights to CBS or Fox you have to go online and pay 29.99 a game. The NFL could make way more the 25 billion a year with this business model.

  18. The NFL seems to get a little dumber after each situation they face. Wow 20,000 people are for blackouts thats somethign we are supposed to take as a serious number? Every Sunday there are about 1 million people in 16 cities in these stadiums. Your going to give us 20K want to are for it. Just stupid NFL just STUPID.

  19. Lynn Swann is merely a tool for the owners and proof that statistics can be twisted to support any position. The overwhelming majority of fans want an end to both the blackout rule and how it is egregiously misapplied by the NFL to protect its interests with its TV buddies. I have my messages into the FCC Commissioners and am waiting for my chance to explain to them how this is so.

  20. I almost feel I could be a better commissioner, by doing nothing. Just coming in, Hey guys whats up, whos psyched for sunday! It seems like the more they try to do the more people hate it. Isnt his job just to make sure nothing bad happens?

  21. If the NFL wants tax payers to pay for the Stadiums then they need to be ok with letting the people subsidizing their income stream watch the games on TV seems pretty simple

  22. 15,000 is a joke. I’m a season ticket holder and I got the email requesting my support. I’m sure every season ticket holder in the NFL got the email and to have only 15,000 sign on is ridiculously low.

    The bottom line: The NFL will do whatever makes them the most money. People not attending home games due to the blackout rule does not significantly impact the bottom line anywhere close to the money they get from “free” networks. So nothing will change.

  23. Want to get rid of the blackout in Tampa? Dome stadium with retractable roof and state of the art jumbotrons. Not these expired ones from the early 90’s that keep getting struck by lightning. It’s long past due!

  24. Reading through the comments, one sentiment is present on the main reason that the NFL should lift the blackout.
    “Give me free stuff.”
    God help us with this current generation.

  25. I’d like to ask the NFL one question:

    If a cable company came in with a higher bid for broadcast rights to the NFL, up front declaring the games would be exclusively on cable /pay-per-view… would the NFL accept the bid?

    I think we know the answer to that question.

  26. If they couldn’t get something as simple as Ray Rice’s punishment right the first time, what makes them think they are on the right side of the blackout rule?

  27. If they want stadiums full, they have to try to cater to fans at stadiums for real instead of just lip service. I still can’t get good wifi/cell service to check my smartphone for stats and whenever the action is in front of me a huge rolling camera blocks my view. They put the TV audience ahead of the stadium audience.

  28. Folks talking about contraction aren’t thinking clearly. Less teams means less draft picks. Think about how many great players were picked late in the draft that may have never gotten a shot to play. Tom Brady? Vontaze Burfict would’ve definitely been shut out because of the guys in front of him that went un drafted would’ve maybe signed first.

    Anyway, aren’t the teams making enough advertising dollars to make up ticket shortfalls on aired games, as opposed to if it was blacked out?

  29. Who the hell could possibly be in favor of the blackout rule except the owners and NFL who stand to make money off of it? There should be NO ONE else in favor of it.

  30. I remember a few years ago when schmucks in California thought they had won a big victory against the big bad banks when they passed a law that banks could not charge an ATM fee. Once the banks made clear that they only charged a fee on non-member cards so now you have to be an account holder to use their ATM’s the law was quickly dropped because they missed the convenience of being able to use any ATM they wanted for a small fee. Be careful what you wish for because this will absolutely lead to pay-per-view only. And it won’t be a small fee.

  31. Growing up in the mid-90’s in Seattle was tough. Home games were constantly blacked out because they couldn’t sell out the Kingdome. I don’t see how blackout’s help promote the business and build a fan base. I had to watch other teams. Show the local games and build local interest.

  32. They should not lift this rule, as you are going to see a ghost town in alot of NFL stadiums once this rule is gone, which in turn will cost the teams alot of revenue and in return probably causing alot of teams to move to different cities. You say you want it gone now…just wait till your favorite team moves to another city and youll be singing a different tune.

  33. Perhaps the 20,000 names were the Native Americans who were paid off by Dan Snyder. You know the same 20,000 who were also paid off to say that the name Redskins was not offensive to them. Lol.

    Is it possible that the owners could have found a bigger dirt bag than Goodell? Other than Jerry Jones or Dan Snyder this guy is it. Go figure that Goodell’s father was a U.S. Senator.

  34. The Sunday ticket doesn’t even get the games lifted from the blackout rule. It is a ridiculously outdated rule that benefits no one. Blacking out the Bills vs Dolphins game in Rochester NY the 3rd week of December is not going to push a fan to drive an hour and a half to watch a game in the freezing snow. How much bad publicity does the NFL want right now? Why try and push this issue at this time? Who are these NFL fans that would support the NFL taking away your ability to watch a game on free TV? Seriously what is your rationale?

  35. Empty threat by the league to trick people into signing that petition. The NFL won’t take games off of network television. They make tons of money from advertising and cotracts with networks. If they did make people pay to watch NFL games, they’d lose more than half their fanbase, includiding this lifelong fan.

    Mark Cuban was right. Greed will eventually kill this league. Goodell is terrible.

  36. “It simple fact is without the blackout rule attendance will eventually fall, the owner will need/want more money now that the staduims are not the money makers they once were so instead of selling the rights to CBS or Fox you have to go online and pay 29.99 a game. The NFL could make way more the 25 billion a year with this business model.”

    1. If the attendance falls then the NFL needs to make the in-stadium experience better – lower prices for tickets/parking/beer, get rid of drunks so a family feels safe going, etc.

    2. Good luck with PPV – I *might* buy the Super Bowl – otherwise listen on the radio or give up NFL altogether. If the NFL could make more with PPV they probably would have switched already.

  37. so by lifting the blackout rule they’re afraid they won’t sell out games? If you put a good product on the field people will come. the blackout rule only hurts those fans who want to watch their favorite team but can’t afford to buy tickets to actually go to the game.

  38. Lifting blackouts would ensure affordable ticket prices in order to lure people in to the games and away from their home HDTV’s. That should tell you why owners don’t want it lifted. Obviously, owners think their fan bases aren’t smart enough to figure this out.

  39. That’s way more than the amount of protesters at the Redskins game. Hopefully we have a new cause to get behind now.

  40. The in stadium product is sub par. The only reason to go to the stadium is to better see the defensive back play.

    If the broadcast partners would admit that most fans have a 16:9 TV and center the action on the center of the line and pickup more of the defensive backfield, there would be no reason to go to a stadium and pay $8 for a beer.

    Quit centering on the QB and showing me 8 yards of nothing behind the action.

  41. The blackout doesn’t threaten attendance dropping. People go to the games already and for the most part are selling out. there were what 2 blackouts in the last two years? How about instead of holding your fans (the ones that support your product) hostage for more money, let this one slide here. I’m pretty sure the NFL will be fine with one game not selling out a year

  42. All the Raider games of at least the past two years have been broadcast on local tv.

    Never let facts get in the way of a good slight.

  43. So I can cough up $150 for a nose bleed seat, pay $25 for parking 10 blocks from the stadium, pay $6 for a beer and another $5 for a horrible hot dog, cram myself into the tiny seat with neighboring elbows in my side spilling my beer, while the folks in front of me stand up on every other play and block my view. Not to mention the obnoxious opposing team fans cheering in my face when my team gives up a TD.

    Or, I can sit in my basement theater with surround sound on my reclining theater seat, eating wings from BWWs, drinking cold beer that I paid about a buck apiece for, pause and rewind or slow motion a play at will and pay nothing for parking or tickets.

    I have no desire to pay the NFL or the broadcast companies money to watch my team play in the comfort of my home. If it comes to that they can continue to pursue their touch brand of football without me, as I will find something else to do.

  44. When Mark Cuban initially spoke out all those months ago everyone thought he was crazy, but little by little Cuban is proving to be right. The NFL is always tweaking and fixing things that don’t need to be fixed. In attempt to get more scoring and more yards they institute a rule that makes it:

    a) Impossible for defensive backs to play their position

    b) Impossible for referees to come to a consensus to consistantly call the penalties

    & c) So that the referees turn a blind eye to the pushing off that wide receivers do to gain separation (Antonio Brown did this multiple times on Sunday, and Antonio Gates did it on the play that Tony Jefferson got the interception and they called the penalty on Jefferson.

    Consistently turning 3rd & 17’s into 1st downs is hard to watch when your team is on defense, and it was like that in any of the previous years. That sound you are hearing Roger Goodell are the chickens coming home to roost. Who would have thought that Mark Cuban had it pegged.

  45. The blackout rule should be illegal. It discriminates against the poor and we are creating more of them every day. They can’t afford the high price of a ticket that has been jacked up over the years. Some can’t even afford cable tv.
    The only way for them to see it is on network TV that has paid billions to the NFL to have the ability to broadcast these games. The poor are just as big of fans as those who have season tickets. The only difference is that they can’t afford to watch the game in their overpriced seats and jerseys. They need to spend that $30 on gas, meds or food instead of parking!
    Lynn Swann is just another reason to hate the Steelers even more. I have one finger for you Swann.

  46. Pretty much the games that are blacked out are by teams that aren’t very good. Perhaps focus on lowering ticket prices, concessions, parking etc in those markets until the team rebounds. The average Joe is being priced out of seeing the game live and is becoming more content on viewing it in HD at home.

  47. So you are honestly trying to sell us on the notion that without a blackout rule, TV will stop televising some games?

    That is absurd. This is all about maintaining a ridiculous government subsidized profit.

  48. BTW: 20,000 people is not many at all. There are more than 20,000 Jaguar season ticket holders! That number would be significant if it were 20,000 per team! But it’s not.
    Take your 20,000 supporters and shove it!

  49. OK, explain this to me like I’m 5 years old. Networks pay BILLIONS for the broadcast rights to games. They then show games. The games aren’t “free”. The networks recoup their costs by showing tons of commercials and the NFL/ networks get even more more from product placements on uniforms and around the field. Just how is the NFL whining that games won’t be shown “free” anymore. Gee, the networks have no problem showing other sports like basketball, hockey, baseball, the Olympics, sports racing, golf, etc.

    Greedy NFL. You suck.

  50. First, there are 313.9 million people in the US, give or take. 20,000 people represent less than 0.01% of the population.

    Second, if it was more profitable to have a pay-per-view scheme, the NFL would have already done it. Already there are Monday and Thursday night games on cable channels, and the only way to get them over the air is if your local team is playing. I’m willing to bet that networks and cable channels both will continue to pay through the nose for the privillege of broadcasting the games, blackout rule or not.

    Third, the games not selling out has nothing to do with whether or not you can watch them on TV. The markets that regularly sell out always televise the games and attendance clearly isn’t hurt by it. If you are sitting on the fence with the money in hand to buy a ticket to the stadium, parking, concesssions and souveniers and you are waiting to see if the game is coming on TV first to decide if you are going to go, your team is likely the problem, not the blackout rule.

  51. They can keep blackouts if they agree to cut all tickets, parking and concessions prices in half and stop letting these third party ticket companies come in and buy all of them and then turn and sell them for 3 times the already inflated face value on stub hub.

    I LOVE going to games, but the prices are other worldy. Last Giants game I went to the tickets were 100 each, parking was 40 or 50 bucks and the concessions inside were just as bad. Sorry, but I can afford that once every 4 or 5 years. 8 times a year is laughable.

  52. If the team plays in a publicly funded stadium then the Blackout Rule doesn’t apply.

    And, out of the total US population of 315,000,000 the NFL claims that it has 20,000 interested in seeing it stay in place. Roger is losing all of the PR battles these days…

  53. So Lynn Swann thinks that, without the blackout rule, the NFL will renege on the MULTI-BILLION-DOLLAR television deals it has in place and instead go to, what, HBO? PFT is right that the dot-connecting just isn’t there.

    And I agree with the people who say that 1) The NFL has actively been pricing fans OUT of the stadiums, with ridiculous over-pricing, PSLs, and $10 beers. I also agree that any stadium with taxpayer funding should not be allowed to black out local games — since, after all, the freaking LOCAL COMMUNITY paid for part of the stadium.

  54. The only way ticket prices come down is when the NFL’s overhead decreases i.e player salaries.

    I blame the players and the NFLPA for the ridiculous salaries. They (the players) are greedy and don’t care about the fans at all.

  55. All of the blackouts in the world aren’t going to get people to spend $100 or more per ticket to attend the game in person if they can’t afford to do so.

  56. Simply question for the NFL, “How much do you make on the NFL Ticket Exchange and Stub Hub resale of tickets already bought instead of having fans buy through normal channels that would help lift the blackout?”

  57. I personally dont know anyone that goes to games for any other reason than they want to go to the game, not for fear of blackout.

    The NFL will never go to a pay per view way of doing things. The networks buy the packages so they can promote other offerings, as well as gaining advertising revenue. The NFL has no other product to promote so they dont benefit from that. They would also need to carry the high production costs to air the games, and the infrastructure behind it, which would reduce the margins they currently make. And its not like you can translate Nielson numbers to revenue directly. They estimate that 17 people are at the average super bowl party. Thats only going to be 1 pay per view payment, not 17 x’s $20 (or whatever they charge). It would be the same for weekly games, on a bit smaller scale.

    They hang the pay per view angle over everyone’s head for fear purposes, but it has no chance at happening.

  58. 88% of PFT readers think that the black out rule should go away. Of course we are only casual fans who don’t care that much about the NFL.

  59. The NFL has every opportunity to go to a pay-per-view system. They have their own cable channel. They don’t need TV partners. They could televise all the games and get the advertising revenue for themselves.
    BUT, they realized that the games they had on Thursdays were not the money making schemes they thought they would be. So now they convinced CBS to take half the seasons games and put then on free TV.
    I hate to say it but, Mark Cuban May be right.

  60. I would vote either Go Away or I Don’t Care as I live in a town without a pro franchise and it doesn’t affect me one way or another (since I can watch every game on DTV’s NFL package).

    I could see people voting I Don’t Care but can’t see why anyone would vote for the rule to stay. Would season ticket holders in small markets say No because they fear that others would stay away from the stadium and eventually there wouldn’t be anyone attending? Just trying to figure out the other side of the equation…

  61. If you use public funding, you can’t have blackouts.

    If you pay for it yourself, you can have blackouts.

    I hate the blackouts but seems like a fair compromise.

  62. In any kind of poll its pretty tough to find 88.81 percent of people to agree on any issue. So this is pretty much a slam dunk in that people don’t like the Blackout rule.

  63. Raider fan (and others) are willing to drive the 100 miles or so, just to see their team play without having to shell out the extra hundreds of dollars to attend the stadium. I don’t blame them. Vacation – check, watch my team play – check, Party with friends – check Not get completely screwed by the NFL and the FCC – check. Now the NFL will expand the blackout to 200 miles. My bad.

  64. As a fan of small market team, that can’t seem tickets by winning anymore. I’m afraid if the fans lose the incentive to goto the game, the stadium will be empty and Mike Brown will be able to show loses in consecutive years, and move the team.. I am ashamed to say that the Bengals meddled with mediocrity with but sold out for a decade with Chad Johnson, but now that they have a winner, with no circus, the fans don’t go..

  65. NFL, let me guess…were those the same 20k individuals you polled that were also in favor of the league’s handling of DV issues? Hmmmm…..

  66. The black out rule keeps people from being forced to watch a bad game. If teams like the Buccaneers and vikings have trouble selling tickets then people in those geographical areas can watch a good game instead.

    Why force bad football on anyone?

    Games that can’t sell out are because the franchise has a weak fan base. Sure the blackout is good for expansion teams but after a team has been around 40 or 50 years they ought to be able to sellout no matter what.

    Let the bad franchises suffer for putting a bad team on the field.

  67. What I don’t get is why the NFL needs fake surveys or the FCC to enforce blackout rules. If it wants to have games blacked out if there’s not a local sellout, couldn’t they simply make that part of the TV contract?

  68. “The black out rule keeps people from being forced to watch a bad game.” Unless things have changed from a few years ago, the blackout keeps you from seeing any game. No game is shown if the local team fails to sell out

  69. How about keep the blackout rule, but drop the requirements ? Say, the stadium must sell at least HALF the tickets or the game will be blacked out…?

    Oh, and BTW – stop charging me full ticket price for preseason crap, then having the balls to nearly double the face value for a playoff game ticket !

  70. What nobody seams to understand is that the threat of a blackout is the only real thing keeping ticket prices somewhat down.Imagine if teams can just raise prices without any real consequence of nobody showing up

  71. The FCC does not have the power to dictate the NFL’s blackout policy. The FCC’s blackout policy is a completely separate document that in no way dictates what the NFL can or cant do in regards to television broadcasts. The FCC chairman has even said that all they can do is hope the NFL follows them in the reform of the policy. Last year there were only 2 games blacked out as the result of the NFL lowering the attendance level needed from 100% to 85%. It is sickening to think that government employees are making 6 figures and spending who knows how many hours trying to fix the issue of 2 last place teams not having the last game of the year televised because there season is already over. However irrelevant this policy is, the time it takes to reform is not worth a dime of tax payers money…

  72. I really hope the NFL thinks they can ditch broadcasting on network TV. It will be amusing to watch them fail.

    I’m really not sure how the blackout rule encourages ticket sales. While people may want to watch their team on TV, chances are most aren’t going to go spend the small fortune on tickets, concessions, and parking when they realize it might not be on TV.

    Quite a few people who stay home on Sunday might love to go to the game, but they make $15/hr and can’t justify NFL prices for a few hours of entertainment.

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