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NFL Lightens Up on Local TV Blackout Limitations

Since Sports Fans Coalition was founded in 2009, one of our primary missions has been to call attention to the NFL’s archaic and counterproductive blackout rule. The NFL has fought every effort we’ve made to put an end to them. They finally blinked.

According to a Wall Street Journal report last week, “Team owners have passed a resolution that starting this season will allow for local broadcasts of NFL games even when as few as 85% of tickets are sold. Under the new rule, each team has more flexibility to establish its own seat-sales benchmark as long as it is 85% or higher. To discourage teams from setting easy benchmarks, teams will be forced to share more of the revenue when they exceed it.”

In other words, individual teams can determine how much of their (publicly-financed) stadiums they will require to be full, meaning that some cities may still be subjected to blackouts. And the new policy does not mean lower ticket prices, which continue to go up. The average ticket price last year was $77.

But perhaps the NFL learned from the nine top sports economists who filed comments in February at the FCC stating that “blackouts have no significant effect on ticket sales in the NFL.” Maybe they’ve also finally awakened to what a terrible idea it is to keep your product from fans who want it.

So we will see if the new blackout policy actually makes a difference for fans. And we will continue to fight to end the FCC’s blackout rule because the government should not be in the business of propping up unethical and ineffective blackout policies.

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