FCC is expected to dump blackout rule today

The good news is that the NFL will have a welcome diversion from its various off-field problems.  The bad news is that the diversion will come from another off-field problem.

At 10:30 a.m. ET on Tuesday, the FCC will vote on scuttling the blackout rule, which prevents games from being televised in the home team’s market if the non-premium tickets aren’t fully sold within 72 hours of kickoff.

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and U.S. Representative Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.) will conduct a conference call in advance of the vote.  Blumental, Higgins, and Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) introduced legislation in 2013 that would strip the NFL of its broadcast antitrust exemption unless the blackout rule is dumped.

On Monday, the Sports Fan Coalition announced a press release touting the looming action by the FCC, passing along a rumor that the agency’s five commissioners will vote unanimously to overturn the blackout rule.

The NFL has opposed the effort via the goofy “Protect Free Football on TV” movement, which suggests that lifting of the blackout rule will result in the complete removal of NFL football from over-the-air broadcast TV.  We’ve asked the NFL on multiple occasions to connect the dots that begin with the NFL being required to televise games that aren’t sold out via free TV in the local market and that end with the NFL abandoning free TV altogether, but we’ve received no explanation or further insight.

That’s because it’s a hollow threat.  Apart from the inevitable attack on the broadcast antitrust exemption that would result if games leave free TV, the NFL needs free TV; nothing else would allow the NFL to generate massive live TV audiences.  Last week, the NFL renewed a deal with Sky Sports that ensures an enhanced presence of the game on free TV in England, since the NFL realizes that free TV means that more people will watch the games — and in turn that more people will become fans of the sport.

The scuttling of the blackout rule won’t cause the NFL to lose fans.  But it will cause the NFL to lose the ability to sell those last several thousand tickets by scaring the locals into thinking they won’t be able to see the game unless they pay for the privilege to be there in person.  Or maybe the more accurate answer is that it will force the NFL to be a little more creative when it comes to pricing tickets and/or coming up with reasons to get fans to choose to come to the games.

Either way, we’ve yet to see a good reason to keep the rule in place.  Especially in cities where public money was used to build the stadium.

45 responses to “FCC is expected to dump blackout rule today

  1. the Lions were horrible for years….decades..millenia….The only games they had blacked out were during their 0-16 campaign.. :p

  2. You know that SkySports in the UK isn’t free – it’s a subscription satellite tv service. It hasn’t been on free TV in the UK since the mid-late 90’s when it was on Channel 5.

  3. Good, dump it. Just another example of how people of lesser means get punished for no good reason in this country.

    Oh, you can’t afford the three or four hundred bucks that it costs to take two people out to see the game live? Sorry, no game for you! The logic is stilted and archaic.

  4. Sky Sports is not free TV, it is a satellite TV sports channel that requires a subscription. That new deal has not ensured “enhanced presence of the game on free TV” it is just an extension of the deal Sky already has with the NFL, the games are still behind a paywall. The only free to air NFL can be found on Channel 4 who show the late game Sunday and a weekly highlights package.

  5. The NFL is starting to feel the impact of behaving like they stand above the rest of society exempt from the rules.

  6. Good. Its idiotic that these clowns and corrupt morons hold everyone hostage with their lame explanations and threats. Tide is turning against the NFL for good reason.

    i hope they strip them of their antitrust exemption also.

  7. But we must protect the interests of non-profits! (eyeroll).

    Yeah, the next thing they need to dump is the NFL’s joke of a Nonprofit status.

  8. Sky Sports is not free TV in the UK. Far from it in fact.

    The only games on free TV in the UK currently are SNF (in the middle of the night), the International Series games, and the Superbowl.

  9. Roger Goodell thinks the fans are stoopid. He’s like the grade school bully. Thinks the world revolves around him and his decisions.

    Glad he joined the NFL and didn’t get into government services. Can you imagine the mess this country would be in had he decided to and actually succeeded in rising through the political ranks?

  10. The Sky Sports deal enhances *free* access to NFL in the UK? News to me!

    Sky is a subscription service and in fact every game they broadcast (inc playoffs) is blacked out on the *paid for* NFL Game Pass service so you would need two services to catch all the games you want during a season.

    £10 for a 24hrs of Sky Sports and then £90 for the Game Pass season (with 24hr blackout on the Sky games) — how does that compare to other’s TV costs?

  11. I’m sure the owners will try to find a creative way to still blackout games if the rule is over turned and if they do I hope we the fans sue the heck out of them. The owners have screwed the fans for far to long with this moronic rule.

  12. In this day and age of the NFL’s mega-opoly and “screw the fan” mentality and pricing tiers, there is no legitimate reason for any home game to not be televised locally, for free. If you really care about your fans (I mean, “consumers”), and geniunely wanna “Protect Free Football on TV”, then call off your lobbyists, moneytrucks, and tone-deaf statements. After your stellar September, a little goodwill is the very least you could do.

  13. “various off-field problems..” I don’t know what the various off field problems are. Seems like most fans are focused on the game. .

    That being said, not letting local fans watch games played in stadiums built with their tax dollars has been a far off-field problem than anything else.

  14. It’s about time. I am a hawks fan and for years they were blacked out it sucked and I lived 100 miles away from Seattle. This might create more interest in local teams. Rather than living in Jacksonville and being an Eagles fan because that’s what’s on TV every week.

  15. I highly doubt people buy tickets to a game they otherwise wouldn’t have gone to just because of a blackout threat. At least for me, it doesn’t really work that way.

    The free games keep me a fan of my team which leads me to buy merchandise and go to games. Luckily I haven’t had to make this decision…but if I did encounter frequent blackouts, I would think “screw the greedy league” instead of “oh i guess i have to shell out a few hundred dollars in tickets and a hotel room and drive multiple hours to go watch the game”.

    I recently moved out of market and I’m already losing interest out of spite for how hard the NFL makes it on out of market fans. I *refuse* to sign a 2 year contract with direct tv just to get sunday ticket (I don’t even have regular cable) and while NFL rewind would suffice…I don’t think I should have to pay money for a service that doesn’t even let me watch the game the day it’s playing.

    I understand why the NFL doesn’t offer streaming (then there would be no reason for people to get direct tv and they would lose their contract)…but I seriously wonder how much they would have to charge for a streaming service to equal the amount of money they make from the direct tv contract. There has to be lots of out of market fans like me who refuse to sign up with direct tv, but would gladly pay for a streaming service 6 months of the year.

    I got a bit off track…

    tldr; blackout rule probably doesn’t motivate people to buy tickets….NFL is greedy…screw direct tv

  16. Hmmm, paying way to much for a ticket and parking to go to blazing hot or freezing cold stadium watching what has become violent flag football vs my AC’d living room, Sunday Ticket, big screen, with 8 games at 1pm and 3 games at 4pm, smokable inebriant close at hand…hmmm…choices, choices, choices….

  17. Would this affect all sports broadcasts? MLB.TV is horrible in that you pay for their services, but if you live in your home-team’s area, or your home-team is another town you are now living in, it gets blacked out!!

  18. Its ashame the NFL wont let go of this moronic rule. Its an insult to the fans that pay thier bills. Same old corp greed.

  19. NFL does not have a good look right now to the public. So if the FCC does dump the rule and the NFL fights it, be ready for some major public back lash on the NFL. NFL needs to go with it and try to get everyone to “like” them again. lol

  20. I would say that this will be the beginning of the end for the NFL as we all know it, but it seems like we passed that point a while back under Goodell.

  21. Excellent news! I knew the vote was coming up and was going to go search for it later, beat me to it.

    If you take public funds for your stadium, you should have zero right to blackout the games played in it.

  22. Sky TV is not free in England. It is a paid satellite service.

    But once again I’d make the point to you; Channel 4, the UK broadcast partner for erm, NBC Sunday Night Football (ever heard of that?) is free.

  23. Can we next do something about that dumbass rule that takes you from a tied game, with 1:43 to go, that decides a Playoff birth to two 0-15 teams because of “NFL Broadcast rules”?

  24. Either way, we’ve yet to see a good reason to keep the rule in place. Especially in cities where public money was used to build the stadium.
    This statement is true & reflects the hipocrasy that has been a thorn in my side about the NFL & their greed. Way to tell it like it is Florio.

  25. Conservative posters were all ready to crap on the vote when the first line said it was supported by two dems. But then when it said McCain supported it, they all collectively groaned, “well, I can’t give my automatic “no” vote now I guess”.

  26. Can we next do something about that dumbass arrangement between the NFL and DirecTV which gives them exclusive rights to Sunday Ticket broadcasting of all games. and is apparently preventing the NFL from allowing games to be televised online (in the manner that mlb.com makes all games available). Nobody is asking them to put games online for free…..just to make them available if people want to pay a “reasonable” price to watch them.

  27. How about the part of the “blackout” rule that disallows, say CBS from airing their late game in the double header if your local team is playing late on FOX? Can this archaic “rule” be done away with too?

    I know I’ve missed out on some great late afternoon games because of it (the last Manning-Bowl springs to mind). I’d love to be able to switch the channel if my local team is floundering, or blowing out their opponent so badly it’s not competitive.

  28. When they started the silly Protect Football On Free TV, was it clearly and loudly pointed out to them that They are responsible for awarding the TV packages? Thus they would be the ones keeping football on free TV. Running a monopoly is getting harder and harder all the time.

  29. Anyone know if this would affect NFL Game Rewind? It’s pretty annoying that you can’t watch OTHER games while SNF/MNF are going on. I wasn’t gonna watch the Pata get destroyed anyway, why can’t I watch other games instead??

    And somebody already said it, but can this please happen to MLB too? MLB.tv is such a sham since you can never watch your home team’s games while you’re at home. Glad I got that $130 refunded.

  30. You pay for their billion dollar stadiums, buy their high priced team gear, give em tax exemption, and if you don’t buy enough of their high priced tickets…. no game on tv.

    Sounds like the Murican way

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.