NFL Changing Blackout Rule
The NFL no longer will require that regular-season games that aren’t sellouts be blacked out on TV in the home team’s local market.
This season, games can be televised locally even when just 85% of tickets are sold. The Wall Street Journal reports that teams will be able to set their own “seat-sales benchmark” – as long as it’s at least 85% of total capacity and when that benchmark is met, games can be televised locally. “To discourage teams from setting easy benchmarks, teams will be forced to share more of the (ticket) revenue when they exceed it,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
Blacked-out games aren’t a huge deal: Just 16 of the NFL’s 256 regular-season games were blacked out last season.
Despite that, attendance is lagging and the NFL has been forced to act. Starting this season, the NFL will begin to provide wireless internet in all stadiums, begin showing the same replays that referees watch and even pump in crowd noise that is somehow supposed to replicate the college football experience.
With declines in ticket sales each of the past five years, average game attendance is down 4.5% since 2007, while broadcast and online viewership is soaring. The NFL is worried that its couch-potato options—both on television and on mobile devices—have become good enough that many fans don’t see the point of attending an actual game.
“The at-home experience has gotten better and cheaper, while the in-stadium experience feels like it hasn’t,” said Eric Grubman, the NFL’s executive vice president of ventures and business operations. “That’s a trend that we’ve got to do something about.”