After FCC vote, NFL reiterates its commitment to free TV

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The NFL opposed the effort to dump the blackout rule in part by suggesting that the removal of the ability to prevent games from being televised for free in markets where the home team had failed to sell out the stadium would lead to the NFL fleeing free TV generally.  Now that the FCC has overturned the blackout rule, the NFL has renewed its commitment to audience-maximizing, three-letter network broadcasts.

“NFL teams have made significant efforts in recent years to minimize blackouts,” the league said in a statement issued after the FCC’s unanimous vote to scrap the blackout rule.  “The NFL is the only sports league that televises every one of its games on free, over-the-air television.  The FCC’s decision will not change that commitment for the foreseeable future.”

The term “foreseeable future” implies that maybe, at some point down the road, the NFL’s attitude toward free TV will change.  For now, it won’t — in part because blackouts have become largely irrelevant.

Last year, only two of 256 regular-season games were blacked out in the home team’s market.  This year, none of the first 61 games of the season have been blacked out.

The push to dump the blackout rule has come in recent years, at a time when the number of televised games consistently met or exceeded 90 percent.  In prior decades, when the percentage of televised games fell as low as 41 in 1975 and hovered in the 50s and 60s in the ’80s and ’90s, there wasn’t a peep about the blackout rule.

Maybe the rise of the Internet has given fans a vehicle for pushing the issue.  Maybe the ongoing effort by billionaires to squeeze millions from the public coffers has generated a backlash.  Regardless, the blackout rule is dead — and its departure ultimately may not change anything.

Unless a large percentage of fans decides to quit buying tickets and to watch the games at home, knowing that the game will be on even if no one shows up.

81 responses to “After FCC vote, NFL reiterates its commitment to free TV

  1. If fans don’t show, doesn’t that mean that the tickets are overpriced and not a good value?

    At some point the NFL market bubble is going to pop. They guy they should hire to replace Goodell is Mark Cuban.

  2. “The NFL is the only sports league that televises every one of its games on free, over-the-air television. The FCC’s decision will not change that commitment for the foreseeable future.”

    Except for Monday Night Games, and I am pretty sure NFLN is not “over-the-air”

  3. And the NFL probably wonders why we don’t believe anything that they say any longer…

    It’s all rhetoric and bluster. Nothing that comes from the NFL’s official statements feels genuine any longer. It’s like a used car salesman that’s just trying to squeeze every dollar they can out of a transaction instead of offering a good, fair product at a good, fair price and being honest about it.

  4. With high ticket prices and Americans saving more in general…

    most folks will stay at home and watch the movie in their home theater room or their 60inch TV’s ….

    Why spend so much money to get crappy seats and pay so much for your food and drinks at game s?

  5. “The NFL is the only sports league that televises every one of its games on free, over-the-air television. The FCC’s decision will not change that commitment for the foreseeable future.”

    You know, except for that Monday Night Football game on ESPN. And the Weeks 10-17 games that’ll be broadcast on NFL Network.

  6. Similar rules are in place for other media types. XM radio only streams the Home Team’s radio broadcast which is not fun to listen to if you root for the opposing team.

    NFL.com blacks out radio if you are within the T.V. zone of the team playing, whether your local market chooses to show the game or not.

    I don’t mind the league being able to charge for its product but I think it is short sighted to make it difficult for fans to tune in the way they prefer instead of the way the NFL prefers.

  7. Every NFL game is on free TV? So if my cable provider would have went out last night I could have picked up ESPN’s broadcast of the Monday night game with rabbit ears over the air?

  8. “The NFL is the only sports league that televises every one of its games on free, over-the-air television. ”

    This is certainly good news. With no cable or satellite, I will now be able to watch MNF. Is this change taking place immediately?

  9. How bout giving people in the NYC/ Nj double headers no matter what

    this is crap that we have to watch the Jets vs Dolphins on CBS while a quality game is on FOX

  10. “Unless a large percentage of fans decides to quit buying tickets and to watch the games at home”

    It’s not just a large percentage, it’s an overwhelmingly huge percentage of fans watching on TV and has been ever since the first TV deal came out. It’s not an accident that the largest NFL stadiums are far smaller than the biggest college stadiums. Live attendance hasn’t been the NFL’s top priority for decades. No matter what Lyin’ Rog says now, it’s written in stone that they’ll eventually have pay-per-view games. Because the money is too good and the NFL can’t walk past a nickel on the sidewalk without stopping to pick it up.

  11. At some point the NFL market bubble is going to pop. They guy they should hire to replace Goodell is Mark Cuban.

    _________________________________

    I keep hearing about this Mark Cuban character as though he has said something about the NFL that has already happened or is even remotely likely to happen. Truth be told, if Cuban were given the opportunity to trade his NBA franchise for any one of the NFL teams, he would take it in a heartbeat.

  12. Even the Monday and Thursday night games are televised on local channels for the home market. ESPN=ABC, and NFLN TNF shows on CBS now. So yes, every game is on free TV somewhere.

  13. I’ve never met anyone that goes to games in fear of the game being blacked out. Either you like going to games or you don’t.

  14. Nice to have a small victory for the fans. But the real issue is that competing networks can’t air a game on the other channel during a broadcast for the local team.

    When will we have THAT rule changed?

  15. “The NFL is the only sports league that televises every one of its games on free, over-the-air television. ”

    Monday Night Football and Thursday Night Football are televised on free, over-the-air television for the primary market of the two teams playing in the game.

  16. well, if NFL will ever be on pay-per-view like boxing now, i can careless about the game. like i don’t care about boxing and all those ppv sports now. this is actually not bad since i can go about my Sundays without having to waste 4 hours of my life watching nfl games. just saying!

  17. I can see that very soon a Raiders home game with empty seats and only vendors trying to sell each other their wares.

  18. “The NFL is the only sports league that televises every one of its games on free, over-the-air television.”

    No it doesn’t! Monday Night Football is on cable only!

  19. “The NFL is the only sports league that televises every one of its games on free, over-the-air television.”

    This is a bald face lie. I do not have cable OR satellite TV, just an antenna and a roku, and I can’t watch every game. I can’t watch Monday Night Football any more, nor can I watch half the season of the Thursday Night Football games.

    How can they just straight out lie like this and think we are so dumb we’ll just take it? Will these buffoons never learn how to treat its fans, instead of worshipping the dollar as the exclusive pursuit of their lives?

  20. Where is the outrage over MLB, NBA, NHL, and every other sport that sells all their broadcast rights to a cable company? How many MLB games can you see for free, over the air, in your home market? 1-2 games a season that FOX picks up on a Saturday?

    I ask again. Where is the outrage at the billionaire owners of these other sports?

  21. Well I am already paying for the Sunday Ticket so….. I don’t see how it will change since they probably make more off the networks/advertising on the games people can watch and they already charge for out of market games lol

  22. I can see the paid lecturers are at it with this one. It boils down to this: the majority of people who attend games at the stadiums regularly, do so because they LOVE the stadium experience!

    Why is that so hard to understand? Because the league has, through their subliminal control of our minds made us believe that people who go to the games would rather be at home watching. To aid in their crusade against showing the home game on TV if it isn’t sold out. It’s BS.

  23. For now, it won’t — in part because blackouts have become largely irrelevant.
    ——————————————–

    And so the FCC wasted taxpayer money to study and vote on the issue? I think it was very relevant to those fans that missed two games last year.

    I would have done it a bit differently. I would have outlawed Blackouts for teams that received public money in the last five years. That way fans that paid via taxes could see them Blackout fee. That said since most teams demand handouts, it probably would have affected most teams anyways.

    So I had a different prefered means but we would have come out at almost the same place. That means I guess I can live with it. After all the NFL demands a monopoly exemption, so they don’t (imho) deserve to the right to conduct business without getting their toes stepped on occasionally by the government.

  24. The guys that run the NFL, billionaire “businessmen”, are really pretty dense when it comes to making more of the thing they love – money.

    They are already making an absolute killing with the TV revenue, but if they did something as simple as offering incentives to GO to the games, say by offering a pair of SB tickets at every game every week from drawing the ticket number of attendees, they would be making a killing in the stadiums too.

    Dense.

  25. I haven’t been to a game in 15+ years anyway. So no big deal here.

    I tried to go to an Arizona Card playoff game a few years ago (California resident)……and they wouldn’t sell to me as an out of state resident. Won’t go to another game again after that.

  26. You’d think, after the recent incidents, that the NFL would be a little less callous when they tell us there’s no chance they will stop doing blackouts. Way to help your crumbling relationship with the fans.

  27. For everyone crying about how MNF and TNF are not “free over-the-air”, you are all essentially incorrect.

    If you local team is playing on MNF or TNF, regardless if it’s a home or away game, it will be televised on broadcast television in your area…no need for cable.

    If you don’t have a dog in the fight, then yeah…you subscribe to cable, or you don’t watch it.

    NFL Network is finally trying out broadcast television, and early results are that it’s a success. If you want to see MNF back on ABC, send a letter to Robert Iger, c/o Walt Disney Company and plead your case to him.

  28. “The NFL is the only sports league that televises every one of its games on free, over-the-air television. The FCC’s decision will not change that commitment for the foreseeable future.”

    You know, except for that Monday Night Football game on ESPN. And the Weeks 10-17 games that’ll be broadcast on NFL Network.

    ——————————————————————

    EXACTLY, free games do not exist unless the team you want to see is one of the 2 current concurrent games shown on networks…. forget about espn Monday night anf forget about late season NFL cherry picking…

  29. This means nothing as long as the NFL are still allowed to have agreements in place to protect the networks that say if it’s on a local TV station then it cannot be made available on your computer via another source like Sunday Ticket. It’s a blackout rule by collusion.

    The NFL must know the metrics of directly charging every household that would pay $200 a year to watch everything for a season vs. the commercial filled ‘free’ TV option. Hope that they see the light soon.

  30. This is great news for my Washington Redskins… They can put the seats back at FedEx Field. There was always this talk of a HUGE waiting list, and then a few years ago, the jig was up… They had to remove upwards of 10,000 seats to be able to stay on the local airwaves.

  31. Am I missing something? As several people have already stated, I have been paying to watch games on ESPN & NFL Network. So since when are ALL NFL games broadcast on FREE OVER THE AIR TV? Is that changing soon or just another NFL lie!

  32. So long Jacksonville… so long Oakland… Tampa Bay, Detroit, San Diego? Yep you too. Any team that struggles with selling out games will fail. Then the owner will move the team. Sorry but that is how this league has worked. The Owners have the right to move the team anytime they want. This new FCC decision (Big Brother Government) will crush the hearts of many fans who support the teams and buy season tickets.

    I predict the same fans who are celebrating today will rue this decision down the road. Careful what you wish for!!

  33. All games are free in the home markets of the participating team. For example, the local ABC affiliates in Boston and Kansas City aired last night’s game. That’s free TV.

    You always get the home team on free TV, as long as there aren’t 10,000 unsold tickets.

  34. To summarize, EVERY SINGLE GAME IS AVAILABLE ON FREE TV. You might see some games on ESPN or NFL Network, but the viewers in the home markets see it on a free, OTA local affiliate. Every time. Nobody has to pay to see the home team on TV, ever.

  35. Don’t ever worry about NFL games on free over the air tv going away.

    NFL gets most of their money from the networks, networks get their money from companies buying time to run their ads, the companies get their money from us buying their products. If we don’t buy, companies don’t buy from networks and networks don’t buy from the NFL. No money for the owners – anyone think that will happen?

  36. If the NFL is really concerned with keeping games on free TV, they could give future contracts to broadcast networks. Avoid cable networks like ESPN and (God forbid) the NFL network. But maybe, just maybe, they don’t really care about keeping games on free TV?

  37. Back when they started this rule NFL there was no internet or Red Zone channel to turn to when the game got blacked out. There was only 3 networks. Today we have a lot more choices of things to watch NFL. Get with it.

  38. “Maybe the ongoing effort by billionaires to squeeze millions from the public coffers has generated a backlash.”

    Maybe?? Go back and look at the comments you get every time you publish an article about the NFL moving a team from Oakland or Buffalo or wherever to LA. Tons of PFT readers share the belief that these billionaire owners are taking too many liberties by (basically) forcing voters and taxpayers to pay for the stadiums that the billionaires make so much profit from. There is no “maybe” about it. The public do not like that we have to pay for these billion dollar stadiums. At the least, the public doesn’t like the profit distribution. Stadiums generate local funds but the perception is that the billionaires are raking in the cash (even if the reality is something else entirely).

  39. B 4 real….ev’one knows the only thing the NFL is “committed” towards is making money….even if many have to die from permanent CTE, aka brain damage.

  40. These owners, the most selfish in all of sports, take us all for granted.

    The NFL bubble will indeed pop one of these days. Greed is still good, but these guys take it to another level, and will suffer for it eventually.

    College ball is still the purest form of the game.

  41. “The NFL is the only sports league that televises every one of its games on free, over-the-air television.”

    Exactly how can the NFL honestly make that statement when Monday Night Football is on ESPN and the Thursday games used to only show on the NFL Network. Neither network is free, over-the-air television?

  42. Even in this day and age of nearly ubiquitous availability of cable TV and the Internet, over-the-air broadcasting garners better ratings. Ratings generates commercial revenue. As a result, the broadcast networks, which also each happen to own a number of cable channels, can easily outbid any competitors for the rights to show NFL games. Until that paradigm changes, the NFL games will stay right where they are.

  43. nrotzinger says: Sep 30, 2014 1:14 PM

    “The NFL is the only sports league that televises every one of its games on free, over-the-air television. ”

    Monday Night Football and Thursday Night Football are televised on free, over-the-air television for the primary market of the two teams playing in the game.
    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

    That may be all well and good but, the closest NFL team for me is one state away so, no, Monday night and the later Thursday night games are not free, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to buy cable just to watch them.

  44. what’s free TV? I still pay a monthly bill for watching TV along with my internet bill while i drink my bottled water that i bought from the store…..who would have thought that 20 years ago?

  45. Fox now has FoxSports1 and 2,

    CBS now has CBS Sports Network,

    NBC now has NBC Sports Network.

    and ABC is partnered with ESPN through their parent company Disney.

    NFL games on free, over-the-air, ad-driven tv will soon be a thing of the past. The money is getting way too big for this not to happen. The decisions have already been made in the corporate boardrooms and the networks have now positioned themselves for it…

  46. Amazing amount of whiners on this site……MNF is on local stations for the teams involved in the games, every game is available online…Ending the blackout rule will cost the owners a few dollars particularly for cities with losing teams. If that’s a problem for the owners they’ll get over it by running more commercials…

  47. What a shame. Billioinaires thinking we are dumb because we aren’t. They are angling to do the same thing Boxing did. When I was a kid, the Heavyweight Showdowns (Tyson Fights) etc, all came on HBO. Sure that was Cable. But, if you had cable, you had the fight.

    Now you have to drop $90 on PPV for the best fights.

    Greed.

  48. None of the games are free for us on tv. We all have a tv package that we pay for that might include local channels but we still get a cable bill every month. The days of watching tv on a set of rabbit ears is over.

  49. Maybe if the owners kept the ticket prices reasonable for those who actually love the game rather than trying to wring every plug nickel out of them, they’d show up.

    Disgusting.

  50. The NFL is fully aware of all of this and are doing things to make the stadium experience worth the money to go instead of sitting at home.. It’s like anything in life… Do you want to be there to experience in person or watching it remote is good enough??? I would have loved to have been there for a big event like Jeter’s last game but live 1000 miles away so had to experience it on TV… Same with NFL football… For us in Jacksonville, we just need a decent team to show up for the home fans for a change…. Maybe this week!! Getting rid of blackouts will cost some tickets that have to be bought up in some markets now… Even if blackout rules are dropped, I can still seem some teams keeping capacities down to enhance the seats themselves.. I had figured the Steeler demand would allow the Jags to open up a couple of tarped sections they still have but instead did their broker clients a favor by not doing so thus keep resale prices up for this game… T

  51. Why would I spend my hard earned $$$ to go to a game now? With the advent of ginormous HD, coupled with a stop-and-start-live broadcast DVR, the best seat in the house for watching my home team play is in MY house. No contest.

  52. I pay for season tickets because I, ummmmhhh, like to go to the games at the stadium. Funny thing is the only game I won’t be able to see on TV for free is the away game that we have to play on the mandated Thursday night. That game is on NFL Network, which I don’t get and isn’t available over the air in my area…..

  53. Last time I checked you couldn’t get the NFL Network or ESPN for free (legally) and yet they insist on putting a bunch of games on those networks exclusively every year.

  54. I got something that would catch the NFL attention. If they don’t change the policy they will lose their NON-PROFIT status. I bet that would get their attention. Do you believe the NFL is designated NON PROFIT!! WOW!

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