Average attendance at NFL games has dropped each of the past five years and is down 4.5% overall since 2007. Realizing that maybe it’s not the best idea to punish football fans by blacking out local TV broadcasts of home games that aren’t sold out, the NFL has decided to ease up on the rules governing when a game would be blacked out.
The NFL decision isn’t just in response to angry fans. A lot of the pressure comes from two ends of the francise-owner spectrum. Those whose teams regularly sell out games would like to expand seating without the risk of blackouts. Meanwhile, those franchises that have avoided blackouts by either taking seats out of commission or by buying up blocks of tickets are sick of doing so.
Thus, the owners have changed the rules to lower the minimum blackout threshold to 85% of tickets. So for a stadium that seats 40,000 people, 6,000 of those seats could go unsold without the game being blacked out.
According to the Wall Street Journal, only one of the five teams with the worst attendance in 2011 (St. Louis, with an average attendance of 85.3%) would be above this limit. While the other teams — Buffalo Bills (84.8%); Washington Redskins (83.9%); Miami Dolphins (81%); Cincinnati Bengals (75.2%) — would remain at risk for blackouts, even with the revised threshold.