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FCC to Review NFL's Blackout Policy

Last year, I wrote how the NFL needed to change their blackout policy, and how they were going to get increasing pressure from local groups to do so. The NFL has, throughout its history, gone kicking and screaming when it came to the blackout policy, whether it was blacking out games in the home market (and Super Bowl home market) even with a sellout, to blacking out games now when a home sellout has not been achieved.

Last week, the FCC began seeking public comment regarding removing the blackout rules that were put in place in the 1970’s. So now, the NFL will not only face pressure on the local front in the form of states challenging the NFL taking public funding but then enforcing blackouts, they will now face federal pressure from the commission tasked with oversight of television.

We are coming off a weekend when more people watched the NFL games than any previous playoff weekend. Popularity is at an all-time high, and television, and the lucrative contracts from both the networks and cable providers (ESPN, DirecTV Sunday Ticket and Red Zone) are where the bread is buttered.

According to Richard Sandomir of the NY Times, half of the league’s games were blacked out after the current policy was enacted in the 1970’s. Over the last decade, that number is now at 8%.

More people today are paying for cable subscriptions and fees for DirecTV access to the entire league. Under the current policy, though, if the home market is blacked out, you also lose access to the game on the Sunday Ticket package, the price of which is higher than tickets an NFL home game.

With pressure coming from all sides, it looks like the current policy will not be around forever, and it is a matter of whether the NFL will help formulate the policy, or go kicking and screaming in the face of public pressure, as they have done in the past.

[photo via Getty]

 

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