December 28, 2012   |No Comments

Despite New Blackout Policy, NFL Blacked Out 15 Games in 2012

There were 15 NFL blackouts in 2012, down only one from 16 in 2011. Following calls from Sports Fans Coalition and others, the NFL instituted a new blackout policy this season, allowing teams to voluntarily lower their blackout threshold to as low as 85%. However, those teams that did lower it had to pay a greater percentage of ticket revenues to opposing teams if they exceeded that threshold. So some teams chose not to take advantage of it, such as San Diego, Buffalo and Cincinnati. Not surprisingly, those same cities had blackouts in 2012. San Diego, in particular, had four blackouts. Other teams that did take advantage — Oakland and Miami — likely had fewer blackouts. The team that had the most blackouts in 2012 — Tampa Bay — had taken advantage of the new policy, yet still had six blackouts.

So what does this say about the new policy? It worked in some cases and didn’t in others. It could have worked in some cases and would have made no difference in others. Clearly, it’s a flawed policy. But then, the blackout policy itself is flawed — since, as top sports economists agree, “BLACKOUTS HAVE NO SIGNIFICANT EFFECT ON TICKET SALES IN THE NFL.” Just look at Tampa Bay, which has now blacked out fans for 25 of the last 29 games. IT CLEARLY ISN’T WORKING. In fact, it’s likely killing the fan base. Moreover, the blackout rule is unethical and punishes the disabled and elderly fans. The Buffalo Bills are blacking out fans this week just days after securing $226 million in public subsidies for stadium renovations.

Most importantly, Sports Fans Coalition continues to ask why the government should be in the business of blacking out games? The FCC’s sports blackout rule is antiquated and needlessly punishes consumers. The government’s continued enforcement of a blackout rule written by broadcasters and the leagues four decades ago is the height of crony capitalism. Sports Fans Coalition has offered a reasonable alternative — let’s sunset the blackout policy in two years — but still the NFL insists on needlessly blacking out fans. When will the absurdity end?

List of Blackouts in 2012

(please credit SportsFans.org for this research!)

Week 1
Tampa Bay (Carolina)

Week 3
San Diego (Atlanta)

Week 4
Tampa Bay (Washington)

Week 6
Tampa Bay (KC)

Week 10
Tampa Bay (San Diego)
Cincinnati (New York Giants)

Week 12
Tampa Bay (Atlanta)
San Diego (Baltimore)

Week 13
Oakland (Cleveland)
San Diego (Cincinnati)
Buffalo (Jacksonville)

Week 15
San Diego (Carolina)

Week 16
Tampa Bay (St. Louis)

Week 17
Buffalo (N.Y. Jets)

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