Several top sports economists, including Roger Noll and Andrew Zimbalist, filed very significant comments in the FCC’s blackout rule proceeding on Monday. The economists laid waste to the NFL’s contention that “blackout policies, supported by the FCC’s sports blackout rule, promote live attendance and thus improve the stadium experience.” In fact, the economists wrote, “Academic research supports the conclusion that local television blackouts have little or no effect on ticket sales or attendance for the game that is being televised. Local blackouts of home games harm consumers without producing a significant financial benefit to teams.”
The economists also wrote:
“The main reasons to abandon the FCC’s blackout rules are, first, to get rid of unnecessary regulation and, second, to erase an official government endorsement of an NFL policy that harms consumers and that has been voluntarily abandoned by all other professional sports leagues. As stated by Commissioner Goodell, the NFL sees blackouts as a means for “driving people to … stadiums.” Blackouts have no significant effect on ticket sales in the NFL and increase no-shows only when the weather is bad. The issue in deciding whether to continue the FCC’s blackout rules accurately can be characterized as follows: should the federal government assist the NFL in forcing a few hundred people a few days per year to choose between not seeing a game and attending the game in bad weather, while simultaneously preventing fans who do not have tickets from watching the game on television?”
The filing will no doubt become the definitive analysis of the economics of blackouts. You can view it here.