FCC unanimously dumps blackout rule

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The NFL wants to “Protect Football on Free TV.”  The FCC did just that on Tuesday, voting unanimously to abandon the blackout rule.

“This is a historic day for sports fans,” Sports Fans Coalition chairman David Goodriend said in a release.  “Since 1975, the federal government has propped up the NFL’s obnoxious practice of blacking out a game from local TV if the stadium did not sell out.  Today’s FCC action makes clear:  if leagues want to mistreat fans, they will have to do so without Uncle Sam’s help.”

It doesn’t mean the blackout rule has died; the NFL and broadcast networks can agree to abide by its terms.  Today’s decision means only that the NFL can’t insist on network blackouts via an FCC policy that previously gave the NFL the ability to pull the plug.

Since 1975, the NFL has blocked local broadcasts of games in which the home team failed to sell all non-premium tickets at least 72 hours before kickoff.

The next step could be to pursue federal legislation that would eliminate the broadcast antitrust exemption if the NFL doesn’t abandon the blackout practice altogether.  If the bill introduced last year becomes law, blackouts immediately will go the way of the dodo bird, the dropkick, and Tom Brady’s talent.

88 responses to “FCC unanimously dumps blackout rule

  1. We have a BINGO!

    Now someone do something about that dumbass rule where a Playoff berth is on the line for both teams, 1:23 to go and “we will be leaving this game per NFL broadcast rules” and then get taken to the worst game of the year.

  2. Good step in the right direction. Now let’s take the next step and remove the NFL’s tax-exempt status. They make billions every year and should pay their fair share of taxes just as every other corporation should be doing. (While you’re at it, Congress, let’s change the tax code and eliminate all those corporate loopholes that allow big companies to avoid taxes altogether.)

    Nice–and accurate–shot at Brady, by the way. He’s toast.

  3. Wow! Finally a government office that does something productive and actually gets it right!

    Write this down in the history books people!

  4. Virtually no games were blacked out anyway, anymore. The NFL made it extremely rare as it is. Two games last season. No big deal.

  5. Started in 1973, not 1975. Prior to 73′, all home
    games, sold out or not, were blacked out.
    I believe ticket sales in cold weather cities will
    suffer badly.We will see…

  6. Tom Brady could never complete another NFL pass and would still be a unanimous first ballot Hall of Famer. He’s won more games than anyone since 2001. He’s appeared in 5 Super Bowls. He’s been league MVP. He’s conducted himself well off the field also.

  7. I’ll be interested to see how the sellout numbers change after this.

    I can’t imagine that it will be too different but it will be interesting to see nonetheless.

  8. Everyone complaining about the non-profit status is wrong. The NFL splits all profits above operating costs 32 ways and distributes that money to the teams. The teams then pay taxes on it. If the NFL as a sanctioning body kept it and paid taxes, they’d likely be paying ZERO on it after all the accounting games. In short, the government would collect LESS taxes overall if they started taxing the NFL.

  9. Not sure how this hurts the NFL, since its all about television contracts. If a Chargers fan can’t make the game and its blacked out on
    local TV, what would that person do, take his wife to the mall instead? Not in a million years. 100% of the time he will tune into whatever teams are being broadcasted.

  10. If teams don’t consistently get sellouts because fans can now stay home and watch on TV, don’t be surprised if those teams start exploring relocation. Now can we stop having Sunday Ticket blackout local games and force you to watch on the actual channel. Sunday Ticket still shows commercials (still get the same ad revenue) and with all the advances in big data and analytics, I’m sure the correct stats could be calculated to determine viewership per game (increased bargaining power for future ad prices)

  11. Where are the Pat fans? There was a time that any shots taken on Brady would have resulted in thousands of defenders…..where is your pride? Tom is a 3 time SB Champion one of the all time greats, just because he looks like an old man doesn’t mean you shouldn’t defend him

  12. The Non-Profit Status is not really that beneficial for the NFL. The would probably be better served as a S-Corp or Partnership. Depending on each states law the NFL would move it’s HQ out of New York and would then be able to pass on the income to the teams just as in the Non Profit Status but with a whole lot less restrictions and an opening to more accounting shuffles. The Non-Profit Status was great in the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s but the laws and times have changes where it would do them better to not be a Non-Profit.

    -Signed an NFL Fan and Accountant

  13. You know the league and owners arer shaking in their boots right now. They know fans are pissed about all the money they have to fork out to go to a game to pay 10 bucks for a lite beer and watch all the dumb drunks fighting when they can sit at home and watch the game on HD and drink for far lesss cost. I love it!

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

    this is crap that we have to watch the Jets vs ____

    while a quality game is on another channel

  15. Awesome. No more bullying hometown fans to shell out hundreds of dollars for crappy teams/matchups.

    If a team isn’t good enough to sell out, that should be on the team, not the fan base.

  16. This is very bad news for Raider fans. Not only will they have to endure football-like hijinks at the stadium, now the entire Bay Area will be subject to the horror on local tv.

  17. As someone that has missed a grand total of 3 home games in 20 years, I support the black out rule.

    Concussion protocols, London, the political correction on and off the field.

    The NFL has peaked. It’s all downhill from here.

  18. Without Uncle Sam’s help?

    Prior to 1973, all games were blacked out in the home city of origin regardless of whether they were sold out.

    If it weren’t for the fact that Pres. Nixon had blown a vein because he couldn’t watch the Redskins in the playoffs, even though it was a sold-out home game, none of you would be watching your team play games at home unless you bought a ticket. Rozelle was the bad guy back then, he got on Dick’s last nerve, and that’s when Uncle Sam stepped up and helped YOU…not the league.

    Seriously…you really believe that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, the same guy who previously was a venture capitalist and lobbyist for the cable and wireless industry, is actually on YOUR side now?

    It’s a trap.

  19. The Steelers are Marching. 7 rings. SFL 2015: restoring the game we created. says: Sep 30, 2014 11:36 AM

    This doesn’t affect the Steelers.
    Not surprising. As irrelevant as that team is, I’d imagine not much of anything going on in the NFL affects the Steelers! That’s usually reserved for, you know, professional sports franchises! The Stoolers suck!

    Nice dig on Brady by the way! I think that whole play until you suck idea has crept up quite quickly on Tommy Boy!

  20. The rule doesn’t make sense. Almost every pro baseball, pro basketball, pro hockey, college football, college basketball, and college hockey game is televised locally when they play at home. The NFL is the most popular sport and has the biggest TV contract. Why should their home games be blacked out when it isn’t causing problems with these other sports?

  21. Now, if we could only Blackout Brian Billick, Phil Simms, Charlie Casserly and The Chin…. now we’re cookin with gas. Or put them all on the same network so it’s easier to NOT listen to their drivel. And while you’re at it…. take freaking Michael Irvin with you….

  22. Yay for Chargers fans, they can now watch a local home game for the FIRST time since 1995!!! Congrats Chargers, a big win for you today thanks to the FCC!!!!

  23. Queenie fans are celebrating like they won the Super Bowl. Now I wonder if they will cancel buy tickets to 2 games when they play the Pack to help sell tickets for a weak opponent like themselves?

  24. @gibbskins9: as written the FCC rule didn’t specifically mention football; it applied to all sports. However, for all practical purposes the application of the rule was limited to the NFL.

  25. Rejoice now ,But when all taems start raising ticket prices because of a “who cares what the fans think”-typical NFL -attitude the party will come to an abrupt end.

  26. You guys love to hate Brady. Like I said power rankings thread, just disrespectful. The guy has done nothing but win games and he has been generating the money that pays your salary for 12 years. Why you are happy about it is beyond me.

    Good to see the Blackout rule lifted.

  27. In Teddy We Trust says:
    Sep 30, 2014 12:41 PM

    The rule doesn’t make sense. Almost every pro baseball, pro basketball, pro hockey, college football, college basketball, and college hockey game is televised locally when they play at home. The NFL is the most popular sport and has the biggest TV contract. Why should their home games be blacked out when it isn’t causing problems with these other sports?
    Every example you just gave is NOT available on local, free, over the air tv. They are all on cable. Cable that each person must pay for. So, where is the justice for fans of all the other sports? Or do only NFL fans deserve everything for free?

  28. This should help the Packer fans if they ever make the playoffs again. They won’t need a bank and the local Fox affiliate to buy their tickets for them like last year.

  29. Before everyone salutes the FCC just remember they are part of the Big Brother program under our current Commander (less) and Chief (PC Police where are you? Chief is a racist slur!!).

    Back in February this year the FCC wanted to investigate all news rooms (TV, Print etc…) and see how Stations ensured that local communities received critical news information. So that there would “NOT BE ANY STATION BIAS”. The FCC wanted to study/examine the “process by which stories are selected”. If this had happened everyone’s TV Station could have been censored if the FCC DID NOT like the stories that were being reported (deemed unfair towards current administration etc… would be an example). In other words… Freedom Of The Press/Media would have been thrown down the toilet. Along with America’s Constitutional Rights… as Freedom Of the Press is part of the Constitution.

    So don’t be too happy about this announcement. I, for one, do not like this announcement one bit. I smell a rat and it’s spelled FCC.

  30. This means nothing as long as the NFL can have agreements in place to protect the networks that says if it’s on a local TV station then it cannot be available on your computer via another source like Sunday Ticket. It’s a blackout rule by collu$ion.

  31. Thank you FCC, now I can get rid of these season tickets for the Raider and invest in a home theater. Will miss the tailgate but will not have to pay the crazy prices for parking ($35.00) and overpriced beer and food. Hope the bill passes.

  32. 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?

  33. As a fan who NEVER attends my hometown NFL games but religiously watches “my” team on TV (on “tape” delay to ff the commercials), I’m delighted! But as home viewing provides a better and better experience than attending a game (starting with, but not limited to, cost — and before 4K TV becomes common), I suspect this “reform” will not bode well for the teams in terms of ticket sales or prices.

    I can live with that, but it may not go well for players and their opulent salaries. Not to mention the owners.

  34. This reform COULD increase the push by the NFL for “pay to watch” TV games vs. our current free (ad sponsored) TV.


  35. @titimium: Those ESPN and NFLN games are available OTA in the home markets of the participating teams. Free TV.

  36. It’s not just NFL games that have TV problems. A couple of weeks ago, we left the Sporting KC game early because of lightning. When we got home, I tuned in to watch the game on NBCSN and guess what: BLACKED OUT! And this was another sellout in an unbroken string of more than 50 sellouts.

  37. I love it. Everybody is taking their pound of flesh out of the NFL finally. Let’s keep the train moving. Eliminate all of the league’s baseless government protections/exemptions.

  38. And they built the big scoreboards and pools in J’ville to avoid blackouts…. I guess they can remove the 2 remaining tarps and put in some ping pong tables and couches and maybe a few dart boards…

  39. It’s not “free”. Advertisers and networks pay billions, which the NFL gladly accepts. Ask boxing how popular their sport is after going to pay per view

  40. If they want me to pay to watch football games on TV (which I do anyway with cable service) then they can stop slapping ads all over my screen and stop playing commercials. I am not paying to be advertised to, I am paying to be entertained.

    If enough people share my thoughts and would be completely angry with paying for the game only to watch the commercials as they currently appear, then the NFL will be shooting itself in the foot.

    You either keep it the way it is and earn billions from your advertisers, or you can try for milk money from every fan. When the advertisers pull out because the audience isn’t there and players salaries get too expensive….boom, there goes the dynamite.

    Be careful NFL.

  41. I like football, but I’m loving rulings against them.

    They have shown themselves to be pigs….it’s never enough, the shakedown of the fans never ends, and I’m tired of it.

    That, plus the fact they are legislating themselves into a bland, unexciting product.

    The next few years will be interesting…

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