Should NFL Abolish TV Blackouts?

Fewer TV comedies play to live in-studio audiences these days. Should we expect the same from our local NFL teams?  

With the U.S. economy in a fragile state of disarray, the NFL is bracing for more TV blackouts, especially considering the high ticket prices for games. 

When a home NFL team doesn't sell out all its stadium seats, the NFL forces a local television blackout, which, in theory, forces fans to attend the game to see what's happening. 

Last year 22 games -- 8.5% of all NFL games played -- were blacked out, in Jacksonville, Fla.; Detroit; Kansas City' Oakland, Calif.; and St. Louis. This year three other teams could be added: the Arizona Cardinals, Cincinnati Bengals, and San Diego Chargers.  

With this tactic, the NFL seemed to say that despite whatever economic and financial issues are hurting consumers, certain markets won't get a pass -- so to speak.

The TV blackouts seem to prevent negative marketing/promotional buzz. After all, who wants to see a half-empty stadium? Doesn't feel very exciting, does it?   



But considering the financial and rating strength of the NFL, the pre-eminent TV sports franchise, maybe the league should reconsider.  

It should take a note from TV comedy producers who have switched to single-camera comedies, such as "30 Rock" and "The Office," as opposed to those three-camera in-studio shows such as "Big Bang Theory."  Good comedies don't need in-studio laughs; good football should be the same.  

We can laugh at some bad NFL teams in the comfort of our own homes. NFL games don't always need a full house. Major League Baseball games don't always have one, and neither do National Association Basketball games. 

A TV blackout seems to throw a blanket on those teams that might be playing good football on that particular day -- almost as if the game hasn't happened. 

But look at the results of a year ago: The Jacksonville Jaguars (seven blackouts, seven wins); Detroit Lions (four blackouts, two wins); Kansas City Chiefs (one blackout, four wins); Oakland Raiders (seven blackouts, five wins); St. Louis Rams (three blackouts, one win). That's not a bad record.

Broadcasting those games would seem to make for some better NFL marketing -- where some big underdogs can win.

5 comments about "Should NFL Abolish TV Blackouts? ".
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  1. Harry Hutt from Hutt Sports Marketing, September 10, 2010 at 1:09 p.m.

    Actually, the statistics quoted in the article are mis-leading. The real blackout number, which applies to home games only (eight per team), should be applied to home wins only, since road games are never blacked out. That way the numbers are; Jaguars --seven blackouts, five wins; Lions-- four blackouts, two wins ;Kansas City --one blackout, one win; Oakland -- seven blackouts, two wins; St Louis -- three blackouts, zero wins. It doesn't throw a blanket on teams playing good on that day, since doing the math shows most of the games blacked out are losses. The blackkouts might help prevent a negative marketing promo buzz from a tv viewer standpoint, but from a fan standpoint, it couldn't be more negative. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are joining the blackout ranks this season because of their perceived bad team and last year's terrible record, but it is a huge negative with the fans who have long supported the team at the gate. Blackouts are extremely negative with fans but a reality of life in the NFL and it's huge televison network contracts.

  2. William Hughes from Arnold Aerospace, September 10, 2010 at 2:21 p.m.

    Has anyone ever Challenged these Blackouts on Constitutional (First Amendment) Grounds?

  3. Harry Hutt from Hutt Sports Marketing, September 10, 2010 at 6:04 p.m.

    I am sure they have over the years, since this has been going on for a long time. Seems like I remember a challenge once and the response had something to do with this being a voluntary organization ( NFL), and therefore First Amendment didn't apply. Not sure, but think so. Then again, it is only in the past few years that blackouts have become sort-of common place in some cities, so not like this is a wide spread situation. Nobody in Green bay, Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Chicago etc., has ever heard of the word blackout.

  4. Fraser E from Opinions expressed herein are solely my own, September 10, 2010 at 7:33 p.m.

    Paula...interesting question. Blackouts are essentially ticket sales incentives. If not enough people attend the game, we'll black it out, that'll teach 'em to all stay home. So I wonder, how does the cost of attending a pro sports event (including parking) compare with costs of years past? Are the games less affordable for the average consumer to attend now? If so, it might be an argument against blackouts.

    Also, with the advent of technologies like slingbox and streaming video, the definition of "market" is a little looser than it used to be. Well, the definition is the same, but it accounts less accurately for the location of any particular program's viewers than it did before. Does that point to a reduction in the incentive power of the blackout policy?

  5. William Hughes from Arnold Aerospace, September 11, 2010 at 9:26 a.m.

    Does anybody remember the National Association of Broadcasters "Television Code" that they adopted in the 1950s? They too were a "Voluntary Association" and their "Code" (Which among other things placed limits on the amount of advertising that could be shown during a program, which was less than 10 Minutes per Hour, not to mention what kinds of ads could be shown) was also "Voluntary". Then, in the 1980s, the Courts tossed out that "Code" and the amount of Commercials seen during a show has since more than DOUBLED, not to mention the INFESTATION of Ads for Prescription Drugs dealing with various "Bodily Functions", including Sex, that are shown during these Games.

    Talk about Hypocricy!

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