Lawmakers Call For End To NFL Blackouts; Jacksonville Jaguars Fan Rejoices

For fans of football teams with poor stadium attendance, Sunday afternoons can be a dreary experience of having to watch Cheers re-runs while occasionally checking the score of the game you’d be watching if it weren’t blacked out. But if a quintet of senators get their way, these black outs would come to an end.

Senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, New Jersey’s Frank Lautenberg and Ohio’s Sherrod Brown have jointly penned a letter to the FCC to please, please please git rid of silly blackout rules for sporting events.

“It is time for the NFL’s blackout policy to end,” reads the letter. “These blackouts are ruining the experience of rooting for the home team and are unjustly hurting fans… That many of these stadiums were constructed or remodeled using taxpayer dollars underscores the disservice done to fans by blackouts.”

The NFL has defended the blackout rule, claiming that only 16 of the 256 games played last year were blacked out.

NFL Should Drop TV Blackout Policy, Five U.S. Senators Tell FCC [Bloomberg]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Matthew PK says:

    Having solved other major economic problems, congress takes aim at the real problem facing Americans: NFL blackouts.

    • StarKillerX says:


    • rlmiller007 says:

      Not often that I laugh out loud. You are right on the money.

    • kc2idf says:

      I was coming in here to say this very thing.

      Blockades are becoming increasingly ineffective anyway. All it takes is for one person not in blackout territory to stream the video in real-time. You could also use a hacked satellite receiver or one that is registered to a place outside of the blockaded area. I suggest that if they want to do something about it, the right thing to do is . . . nothing. Absolutely nothing, as in, don’t even enforce the existing rules.

      Having resolved that, let’s move on to how we can get more people into good jobs.

  2. TheMansfieldMauler says:

    It used to be that the team owner would buy up the necessary amount of tickets at the blackout deadline to ensure the game would be televised. Do they not do that any more? Or was that just the local team in my area?

    • rpm773 says:

      Why would an owner want to buy thousands of tickets to such a game? The team sucks!


    • sponica says:

      I remember the commissioner mentioning that they have increased the ways that tickets can be given away if not sold, usually to youth sports groups/military groups/etc

    • fatediesel says:

      Some owners still purchase unsold tickets. In reality the Jaguars probably didn’t sell a single game out last year but their owner bought the unsold tickets. The Rams and Bills do a good job of getting sponsors to buy unsold tickets. The Dolphins owner bought the tickets when their games didn’t sell out.

  3. Me - now with more humidity says:

    Hey now! Don’t be hatin’ on the Jags! They’re not all bad… wait… never mind. Go for it.

  4. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    The only thing the NFL should do is schedule games, create and enforce rules pertaining to the sport, and ensure that all players, coaches, and staff perform ethically and legally. All games should be free to watch over the air, and paid in the same manner as any other show, through advertising.

    This from a person who has no interest in sports. I just want the fanaticism and corruption to end. (So if I missed something important, it’s because I don’t care about the nuances).

    • chiieddy says:

      I watch Football on over the air broadcast on NBC and FOX. I don’t pay for it.

      • Darrone says:

        Lots of local games are on NFL network, and not on local fox or CBS affiliates. There are tons of local games, with or without blackout, that you cannot see for free.

        • Battlehork says:

          Anything on NFL Network is simulcast on a local OTA station in the cities of the two teams playing the game.

          • Darrone says:

            Sure, but I am a NE patriots fan, the local team spans from CT to RI to VT to NH to MA to ME. And yes it is only shown in parts of the south shore OTA.

    • Darrone says:

      I agreed with you until “ethically”. Legally, yes, but the NFL needs to get rid of the ginger-hammers ability to fine players for anything. Ethics are incredibly arbitrary, and it’s insane to try and judge players based on ethical violations.

    • rugman11 says:

      I’m genuinely curious why you feel this way. No other sport (even college sports) airs nearly the same percentage of their games on OTA television. The vast majority of NBA, MLB, NHL, and college games are aired on cable. Why should the NFL be the exception?

    • Cerne says:

      Yah you missed something important. The whole free market, private property and free enterprise thing that made us the richest society in history. To be fair it was a minor mistake.

    • Cosmo_Kramer says:

      Man, I’m always blown away by the stupidity of everything you post here. Can’t tell if you’re trolling.

  5. samonela says:

    What is this “football” you speak of?

    • Scrutinizer says:

      It is rugby for the ADD crowd.

      • GoldVRod says:

        ADD folks would get bored within 8 seconds. It’s rugby for people who have strokes and don’t realise that hours have just passed.

        It’s 11 minutes of play dragged out over 4 hours. Not really ADD material.

  6. Cat says:

    “Only 16 games of 256”

    Unfortunately, those blackouts seem to happen to the same teams ALL THE TIME.

    9/11 Lions at Bucs
    9/25 49ers at Bengals
    9/25 Falcons at Bucs
    10/02 Dolphins at Chargers
    10/02 Bills at Bengals
    10/16 Colts at Bengals
    10/16 Saints at Bucs
    11/13 Texans at Bucs
    11/27 Browns at Bengals
    12/04 Panthers at Bucs
    12/04 Titans at Bills
    12/11 Texans at Bengals
    12/11 Bills at Chargers

    See a pattern here?

    This is what happens when the TAXPAYERS build an over sized stadium in a smaller market – the NFL craps on those same taxpayers. And even those of us who never, ever watch a single game foot the bill for a bunch of millionaire team owners.

    • Matthew PK says:

      Perhaps why we shouldn’t subsidize ball parks…

    • sponica says:

      I don’t understand the Bengals blackouts….the Bengals were pretty good this season. Do the owners have the prices set ridiculously high or something like that?

      The Bucs sucked…and the Chargers were just uneven.

      • elangomatt says:

        I bet it could be that they just don’t draw as big of crowds at those stadiums or the teams aren’t super popular locally. If you take a look at Chicago MLB attendance for 2005, the Chicago Cubs had 750k more fans attend their games than the Chicago White Sox had. The White Sox won the World Series that year, the Cubs didn’t even make the playoffs.

        • elangomatt says:

          Hmm, it seems I forgot to make a point. I guess all I was saying is that sometimes it doesn’t matter how good (or bad) a team is, if the team isn’t very popular they won’t get the attendance.

          Oh and the Cubs still outdrew the white sox buy 175k in 2006 after the Sox won the series. :D

      • bitslammer says:

        Prices are so so. We just can’t stand the owner. Greedy bastard who wants the county taxpayers to fund his coffers.

      • Maltboy wanders aimlessly through the Uncanny Valley says:

        I’m originally from Cincy. Bengals fans are boycotting the games because they are sick of Mike Brown. He is the worst owner in professional sports. Poor Mikey couldn‚Äôt lead flies to a hog farm, much less oversee an NFL franchise.

    • StarKillerX says:

      Actually you raise a good point, stadium size.

      While I don’t think blackouts should be lifted completely but selling out should be redefined to selling X tickets, where “X” is the average seating capacity of all current NFL stadiums.

    • pgh9fan1 says:

      Hmmm….interesting. However, you are picking examples to support your theory and your theory only. Perhaps we should mention small-market, big stadium Pittsburgh. Heinz Field was funded through taxpayer dollars and Pittsburgh is a small-market. But last I checked it’s awfully hard to get tickets to see the Steelers. They are sold out on a season-ticket basis each and every year. I was on the wait list for season tickets almost 20 years before I got them. Sure, the Steelers are a top-notch team most years, but there have been same pretty lame years as well. The fans keep attending games either way at that small-market, taxpayer-funded, large stadium.

      • HSVhockey says:

        I haven’t seen a game at home since the 80’s, when the Broncos came to town at Three Rivers. Any Stillers games I’ve seen since then has been elsewhere around the country where I have lived since school.

    • StarKillerX says:


      One thing about your claim about oversized stadiums sort of rings hollow when the 5 of the 16 blacked out games were in Cincinnati and yet it has the 8th smallest stadium. For comparison Buffalo is a much smaller market, with a metro area population about half that of Cincinnati and yet the stadium in Buffalo has in excess of more then 7k more seats in their stadium and was only blacked out once according to the list you posted.

      Also Tampa, with 4 blackouts only is 9th smallest with only 67 more seats then Cincinnati and yet they have metro population 20-25% larger then Cincinnati.

      • Cosmo_Kramer says:

        Also, they can remove seats to reduce the capacity of the stadium. I think they can even just cover seats and stop selling tickets for them.

  7. cvanderen says:

    I’ve never agreed with the blackout rule. I understand the intent but it’s always seemed to have missed the mark. If I could afford to go to any game I wanted to, I would. I cannot though. My family, mortgage, and other bills will always take precedence. The cost of a ticket and parking for a family of four is more than I can spare (and I’m sure I am not alone). God help me too if I wanted to try and eat there or buy souvenirs. It always made more sense to at least have the team on television for exposure. Maybe that way you could get more people interested and in turn sell more tickets. I could be wrong but I would also assume the ad revenue for a professional football game would be higher than for whatever rerun they might show instead. It all just reeks of a policy that has failed and will continue to fail.

  8. Firevine says:

    Could someone please explain the concept of blackouts in terms someone like myself who is pretty much the antithesis of a sports fan? Is it to try to force people to buy tickets? I never understood it, mainly because I didn’t care.

    • chiieddy says:

      Teams are required to sell a certain percentage of seats before the game would be aired on a the local market.

      If Kraft didn’t charge $50 for just parking, I’d be more likely to go to Patriots games (and yes, I’m a Giants fan but they don’t play in the same division). I can’t justify the cost.

      • blueman says:

        Parking IS expensive at Gillette, but not $50.

        • kathygnome says:

          Website says it’s $40

          • chiieddy says:

            It’s $50 for the lots where you can get out within 5 hours of the game ending. $40 on Gillette property where you can sit in the lot post-tailgating inhaling engine fumes for 5 hours after the game. They also a run a train from South Station.

        • kathygnome says:

          Website says $40

        • HeadlessCow says:

          $40 for the lots right at the field. $50 for some of the further out privately owned lots ($10 more because taking 20 minutes longer to walk to your car can save you an hour of sitting in your car trying to pull out of the bigger official lots).

      • sponica says:

        i’m a Jet fan, so I make the pilgrimage once a year to Metlife Stadium from NH. It’s actually less stressful for me. We go down the night before the game, spend the night at a hotel in NJ, and then drive to the NJ Transit station near my friend’s house and take the train to and from the game.

        I went to college in NY, so I don’t mind the drive.

    • pop top says:

      I mean, I know you sound like a really awesome person because you care so little about sports (which makes you really cool, did I mention that?), but it’s not hard to figure out the concept without having to care about sports. BTW you are so cool for not caring about sports.

      • Firevine says:

        You’re so cool for acting like such an aloof dickbag in response to a question. I honestly don’t know why a game that did not fill enough seats would not be shown on broadcast where it could earn other revenue from advertisements. I mean, that makes sense to me. I guess you’re just better than me and a pretty awesome guy.

      • Cat says:

        I didn’t care about sports long before not caring about sports was cool.

    • sponica says:

      the theory behind the blackout is that if you can’t watch “local market team” on TV and you’re within 50 miles, you can just as easily go see the team in person….

      i remember back when the Pats would be blacked out…if you had an antenna, you could usually get the game from another affiliate outside of the blackout radius

      • Firevine says:

        So it is to strongarm people into buying tickets then? I remember years past when I’d hear people complain about Hawks/Falcons games being blacked out. I mean, both teams were crap, but I never understood why those in charge would want to refuse ad revenue.

        • TheMansfieldMauler says:

          There’s a balance that has to be struck. Part of it is that they just want bodies in the seats for the broadcast. If you tune into a game and the stadium is empty, you’re less likely to continue watching. They need crowd noise, etc. You’re also less likely to attend a future game in person because the live game will appear to be boring.

          All of that eventually comes down to ad revenue. Crowded stadiums and excitement = more money for ad spots. Advertisers aren’t going to pay premium prices on games that appear lifeless and boring.

          Some sports are different. Baseball is broadcast no matter what, because there are 162 games in a season instead of 16 and there are lots of walkup ticket sales. Blackouts would wreak havoc on TV schedules and advertising packages.

          • GoldVRod says:

            “If you tune into a game and the stadium is empty, you’re less likely to continue watching.”

            As opposed to not being able to watch it at all? Bizarre logic.

            If bums on seats is all that’s needed then they should paper the house rather than punish the fans.

    • anchorworm is really sick of Minnesota weather says:

      I remember reading the George Halas autobiography. In the early days of television, when the NFL was nowhere near a popular as it is today, the owners were worried that televising games would mean that no one would attend the games in person. I believe his line was that they were worried about cameras just showing a bunch of empty seats in the stadiums. At the time, this made some sense, but it is definitely past due for a change. With the money that TV brings the league, combined with taxpayer support for stadiums, people who could afford to attend the games should be allowed to watch the local team play. An example of how blackouts hurt a team is how the Blackhawks hockey team had their games blacked out for years and their fan base went into the toilet. When the new owner took over after his father died, he started allowing to games to be broadcast OTA again and the teams popularity skyrocketed. I believe that their Stanley Cup title can be partially attributed to revitalizing their fan base.

      • anchorworm is really sick of Minnesota weather says:

        people who could NOT afford to attend the games. Is it too late to add my voice to the call for an edit button?

      • elangomatt says:

        Thanks for pointing out the blackhawks. I didn’t realize that it was a blackout of this type, I always thought it was just the owner being a jerk and not wanting to televise the games. It is amazing though to how much the popularity has exploded in the years since ownership moved to the son. I live in the Chicago market, but not nearly close enough to Chicago to be able to go to the games on a whim, so I love having the Blackhawks back on TV.

  9. NeverLetMeDown says:

    Congress should mind its own business. It’s the NFL’s programming, it can show it whenever and however it wants. As to the “we paid for the stadium, they should have to show the games on TV” argument:

    1. It was the decision of the city, through its elected representatives, to pay for the stadium. If you don’t like it, vote them out, or accept that gov’t spends money on things that other people want that you might not.

    2. The city could certainly have demanded that the blackout clause be waived for that team in that market, and refused to pay for the stadium otherwise. Then, the NFL could have agreed to the waiver, or declined to grant it, and the team would have either stayed or left.

    • rjaguar3 says:

      Congress has a legitimate interest, in the fact that there’s an antitrust exemption for the NFL and all that jazz…

    • veggie says:

      Vote them out? it is too late. Tax payer money has been wasted. End black out rule and let the tax payers get something back.

  10. El_Fez says:

    Or they could just go to Joe Rockhead’s house. I hear he lives outside the blackout area!

    • Cat says:

      You might want to check and make sure Joe Rockhead is home first, or you’ll have to break in.

      Hilarity ensues.

  11. Shorebreak says:

    What, and deprive the greedy NFL of a pittance of what they take in from their fans?

  12. El_Fez says:

    Besides, how can there be blackouts in the days of the internet? If you cant find a streaming broadcast of whatever the hell it is you’re trying to watch, then you’re running a 300 baud modem.

  13. Straspey says:

    The reasoning behind the blackout rule can be explained by imagining if they were to televise Broadway shows for free.

    This past Saturday, “Phantom Of The Opera” observed the milestone of its 10,000th LIVE performance.

    Tourists still come from thousands of miles away – paying for travel, hotels, meals, etc – all for the opportunity to then purchase a number of $200 tickets to see this famous show live and in person.

    So – how many people, do you suppose, would still do that if they could stay home and watch it for free while sitting on their living-room sofa, in their bathrobes, while eating delivery pizza and drinking beer ?

    In fact – I can tell you the ONLY day they would televise a show like “Phantom” — and that would be the night of its very last and final performance.

    Football is a business – not a television show.

    Those games will take place regardless of whether or not they are televised – and, in fact, television pays the NFL a huge an mount of money for the rights to be able to broadcast the games and then, turn around and sell time to the advertisers who want to market their products and services.

    • The Nax says:

      But if Broadway shows were simulcast around the country, people would still go see them live. It’s a different experience. Just like going to an NFL game is a different experience than watching it on tv. The question to ask is “Does the black out rule actually increase game attendance?”

      Also, the NFL’s primary source of income is television advertisers, so it pretty much is a tv show.

    • Stickdude says:

      So – how many people, do you suppose, would still do that if they could stay home and watch it for free while sitting on their living-room sofa, in their bathrobes, while eating delivery pizza and drinking beer

      Pretty much every single one.

      • Straspey says:

        And how many people put off seeing this week’s big blockbuster extravaganza from Hollywood in favor of waiting until the movie comes out on DVD and they can stay home and watch on their living-room set ?

        Imagine if they did the same thing with DVD rentals ?

        The amount of “wait time” before a studio will release a DVD for rental would be commensurate with the first four weekends ticket sales in the theaters. The fewer tickets sold – the longer you have to wait before you can rent the DVD.

        Yeah – I know – there will be those who want to go for the “3-D Experience” – or may actually pay to see it in the theater, and then still rent the DVD …

        But we see a consistent stream of comments here from people who are just as happy to wait the thirty days so they can see it at home – and for less money too.

        And in my case, we don’t have HBO or Showtime, so we’re just as happy to wait to see series such as “Nurse Jackie” or “In Treatment” a year behind schedule via our Netflix account.

    • failurate says:

      Theater is great in person, but doesn’t translate to TV all that well. The NFL is perfectly compatible with TV, so much so that the experience of going to a game does not equal the quality of the television experience.

  14. Manny says:

    Senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, New Jersey’s Frank Lautenberg and Ohio’s Sherrod Brown should all be voted out of office for spending their time on some b s item like this.

    • nishioka says:

      To be fair, Congress can’t get fuckall done when it comes to the big important stuff… the ideological divide is just too wide right now, and there are too many people in office who are proud of voting “NO” to everything like it’s something a 2-year old couldn’t accomplish. Might as well focus on smaller things that you can gain traction with.

  15. failurate says:

    I have been to a NFL, NBA, and MLB games. They are all much better on TV.
    And, blacking out a TV to drive attendance is moronic. I think out of sight, out of mind comes into play. For the teams that are struggling, the more they are blacked out, the smaller their fan base will get.

    • rmorin says:

      To a casual fan, maybe.

      If you are actually a fan of the sport, then no, TV does not come close to being at a live football game. At a live football game you can watch whatever players or match-ups you want.

      When watching on TV, you literally just get shown just whoever has the ball. There is really no question that it is better live if you care about the game itself. If you care about the food/weather/whatever else having nothing to do with the actual game, then you can make an argument, but if you actually know the game of football being at the game is no comparison.

      • MikeTastic says:


        I’ve been to almost every Jets home game for the past 10 years and I wouldn’t trade that for watching the games on TV. Being in the stadium and experiencing the game with 80,000 of my closest friends blows away watching the games on TV.

    • TheMansfieldMauler says:

      There is nothing like being at a baseball game on a warm summer night. I’d rather go to a minor league game than watch a major league game on TV.

  16. Stickdude says:

    Why would the lone Jaguars fan (yes, I saw what you did there) rejoice over this news?

    It means he might have to actually watch the team play.

  17. DonnieZ says:

    Here’s the inherent flaw with the “sold out or blackout” rule –

    If I buy a ticket, I give two craps whether the game is televised. I’m there enjoying the game, I could care less what’s on TV at that time.

    It’s Joe Six-Pack who loses out on this one – He either can’t swing a ticket to the game for various reasons, or just doesn’t want to go through the hassle of going to the game. Going to a noon football game can be an all day event. It’s not like watching it on TV where you start at noon and you’re back to your regularly scheduled Sunday by 3:15P.

    People buying tickets and going to the game has almost nothing to do with watching it on TV. Sure, a good chunk of the folks at the game would be watching it at home if they weren’t there but it’s like they bought a ticket because they couldn’t see the game otherwise.

  18. TheCorporateGeek Says Common Sense Is The Key says:

    With the amount of TV revenue across all the major sports, blackouts shouldn’t exist period. But someone has to keep paying those insane salaries though…

  19. Deep Cover says:

    At the MINIMUM, they need to amend the rule for the NFL Sunday Ticket. If you pay an extra $300 you SHOULD be able to watch ANY GAME YOU WANT. This is no longer “free” TV. You PAID THE PREMIUM already for the Sunday Ticket. You should be able to get the black-out games on the dish.

  20. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    OK enough of this BS. Elected officials shouldn’t be having *anything* to do with this kind of crap. We don’t need acts of Congress to “fix” the BCS, or NFL blackouts, or anything else of the sort.

    Because guess what – IT DOESN’T F%CKING MATTER. Not from a well-being-of-society standpoint, which is what Congress is supposed to be concerned with. And no, nothing about this has anything to do with the general welfare of our country. And if you disagree with that, you’re a f%cking asshat.

    Having said that – blackouts are amongst the stupidest ideas anyone has ever had about anything. The stated purpose of blackouts is to force “Fans” to buy more tickets instead of watching on TV. Except that when a team can’t be seen on TV, it attracts no fans. And people aren’t going to buy tickets to watch some team that is apparently so bad that their games aren’t televised.

  21. javert says:

    Surprisingly, only two are up for re-election this fall, Michigan and Ohio. This seemed like an easy ‘reach the masses’ issue.

  22. spazztastic says:

    Considering that the majority of their revenue comes from TV rights sales, I don’t see why they continue this absurdity.

  23. Maltboy wanders aimlessly through the Uncanny Valley says:

    You say the real unemployment rate is over 10%? The labor pool participation is at record lows? Half the country is underwater on their mortgages? Food and gas prices going through the roof? – No problem! Lawmakers are going to make sure everyone can watch football!

    Thank God humanity is saved!

  24. theblackdog says:

    MLB’s blackout rules are much stupider, especially with most games no longer on broadcast TV.

  25. Darkrose says:

    Funny. The Jags haven’t had a blacked out game in 2 years.

    How’s that working out for you San Diego?

  26. technoreaper says:

    The blackouts are very effective at persuading fans to come to the games. I have no problem with them. When games are in danger of getting blacked out, usually, you can get tickets at a steal. I’ve always thought that the NFL would end the practice before anything like this happened.

    The NBA would be smart to institute a blackout policy. Many of their arenas have been very empty, especially for losing teams. It would be a short-term, effective way of getting fans to come, but the whole league has sold out to everybody, so there’s no chance of that ever happening.

  27. ned4spd8874 says:

    I can see both sides of the coin. Yes, the NFL doesn’t want people staying home to watch the game instead of going out to see it in person. But the other side I think outweighs that. What about those that simply cannot afford to go see a game? Or those with a family and just simply cannot go see it?

    For me, the major factor as to why I don’t go out and see more live games is simply the cost. Not only are tickets expensive ($50+), but then you add the parking ($20+) and then the concessions ($20+) and all of a sudden you’re paying near or over a hundred dollars a person!

  28. pot_roast says:

    Blackouts and limiting Sunday Ticket to DirecTV only are things that need to be sent into the past.

    NFL: C’mon, man.. MLB, NHL, and NBA are on my Apple TV and I can purchase season packages. Y U NO LIKE INTERNET?

  29. Abradax says:

    As a Bengals fan, I hope blackout rules go away.

  30. swarrior216 says:

    Now work on MLB.TV blackouts.

  31. StopGougingMeThere! says:

    The blackout rule DOES hurt small market teams and should be eliminated. I live near Buffalo and while I know the Bills ended up handing us yet another crappy season it is extremely difficult to sell out Ralph Wilson Stadium with a capacity of 73000 in a viewing area of less than 450,000 people. That means 1 in every 6 people would need to buy a ticket to sell out the stadium! Contrast that to Chicago where Soldier Field holds 61,500 but serves an area of almost 10 million people!!!

    And EVERYONE pays the NFL whether they want to or not when they by products from companies that sponsor them or their athletes. So they’re getting their money no matter what and have no reason to keep the blackout rule in effect.

  32. TDJ says:

    Hello, Jaguars ?This is Los Angeles calling.

  33. DragonThermo says:

    Finally! Congress has gotten their priorities in order! (Iran nukes? Schmiran Schnukes!)

  34. maxamus2 says:

    I find it funny that many cities impose taxes to pay for these elaborate new football stadiums (gee, who gets to vote on that) but if it doesn’t fill on game day, the stadium you were forced to help pay for, you can’t even watch the game on TV.

  35. AtlantaCPA says:

    Can someone explain what this blackout rule is? I’ve never heard of it (though I am not a sports fan) and the article doesn’t really explain it.

  36. Bickle says:

    Given how many times the NFLs inability to tell time has blacked out my shows, permanently in most cases. Any canned broadcast is a good one