Three Cheers for No More Blackouts

Since 1975, there is a statement that makes all local NFL fans universally groan, "The game has been blacked out." The blackout rules were instituted by the NFL to help teams whose main form of revenue, in the early days of the league, were from ticket sales. The policy is simply put, if the tickets weren't sold-out seventy-two hours before kick-off, the game would not air locally. It was announced on March 23, 2015, at the owner's meeting in Arizona, that the blackout policy would be suspended for the upcoming season.

Why the Blackout Policy Change?

The 2014 season had absolutely no games blacked out. The previous season only had two go un-aired. The league is flush with cash due to lucrative television deals and public funding of stadiums. The NFL's popularity is at an all-time high. The issue of getting fans into the stadiums to subsidize the team is not as much a concern as it was in the 70s.

It had been argued for years that the policy made little to no sense. Would a person who had planned to watch the game on their television suddenly change their plans and buy a ticket to avert a blackout? Most would say the answer is, "no." Removing the blackout policy remains the only logical decision. FYI: The NFL is the only sports franchise to have the threat of blackouts of their games.

On the other side of the coin, the NFL has the fewest games in a season of all major sports. That means that each game holds more financial significance. There are only eight regular season home games per team. In that light, it does make sense to put more pressure on local fans to support their teams by attending games.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has also removed its support of the blackout policy, but the NFL can still maintain it due to contractual obligations with distributors. The league decided to try removing the policy for 2015, and then reassess the outcome post season. The door is still open to reinstate blackouts if there is a drop in ticket sales. There is a possibility that smaller markets and poor performing teams could lose revenue without the threat of a local blackout.

Not Local to Your Favorite Team

Due to the transient nature of our society, not everyone is loyal to their local team anymore. A Bills fan could live in Atlanta, or a Packers fan could live in Dallas. Blackouts never seemed to bother these fans, but they had a different problem- the local network actually playing the game they wanted to see. As mentioned earlier, the NFL has lucrative television deals. Now there are options to see games outside the market you live in. One such option can be found at, which gives fans the ability to see any game they want. No longer will the Eagles fan in Miami go without seeing their team play.

2015 could end the blackout policy once and for all. This would give local fans the option to stay at home and watch the game, as opposed to sitting in the stands and weathering the elements. This NFL season could answer the question of whether or not blackouts are effective. It could be that the policy does do what it was intended to do, or it could be the end of an antiquated rule that no longer is needed. Either way the ultimate fate of the blackout won't be known until the owner's meet in 2016.

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