The NFL Is Softening Its Blackout PolicyS

The Wall Street Journal published a piece over the weekend about dwindling attendance at NFL games and the league's plans to combat it. Buried within the story was this nugget:

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.

A-ha! That's of note to you folks in Buffalo, Cincinnati, Tampa, Oakland, Miami, St. Louis, D.C., San Diego, and Jacksonville. The blackout rule had been that 100 percent of tickets had to be sold for a home game to air in its local market, and now it's 85 percent, at the owner's discretion.

Only four teams averaged less than 85 percent attendance last year: the Bills, Redskins, Dolphins, and Bengals. The Bengals and Bills did get blacked out often (as did the Bucs and Chargers). The Dolphins partnered with their local TV affiliate and Anheuser-Busch to buy large chunks of seats to keep the games on the air. And the Redskins? Well, they just didn't get blacked out. Hmm. Friends in high places, and all of that.

Anyway, the FCC had been under pressure from the Sports Fans Coalition to review the blackout policy's legality, so the NFL caved preemptively. It's not quite magnanimity, but it's much better than what we're used to.

Game Changer: NFL Scrambles to Fill Seats [WSJ]