5 Ugliest Blackout Situations in the NFL
PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- If the NFL's television blackouts are supposed to help the live-game experience compete with television, they're not working. When they're reduced to a means of extorting cash and concession from fans, however, they're a tremendous success.
The NFL kept 15 games off television in their home markets this year. That's down from 16 last year and 26 in 2010, but is still impressive after the NFL tweaked its blackout policy this summer to allow teams to declare a sellout and keep games on the air once ticket sales hit 85% of their home stadium's capacity. Under the old rule, which dates back to an act of Congress in 1961, home games couldn't be shown on TV stations that broadcast within a 75-mile radius of the stadium if non-premium tickets weren't completely sold out 72 hours before kickoff.
That switch wasn't mandatory, however, and it was up to the teams' owners to decide if they wanted to adopt that 85% threshold and pay a greater percentage of ticket revenue to opposing teams as a result. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers jumped at the chance in July and lowered ticket prices after blacking out 13 of their past 15 home games. The Oakland Raiders, Miami Dolphins and Minnesota Vikings also joined in, but that didn't prevent two of those four teams from blacking out games this season.
The official NFL line is that the blackouts are in place to goose attendance. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell did his best to bolster that claim in November, blaming high-definition broadcasts of games for the league's attendance woes in certain markets.
"One of our biggest challenges in the league is the experience at home," Goodell said. "HD is only going to get better."
The context of that comment, though, was a private meeting with 550 Atlanta Falcons fans discussing whether the team needed to replace its current home. The Georgia Dome, mind you, was built only 21 years ago with $214 million taxpayer money and just got $300 million in renovations in 2007 and 2008.
Goodell went on to talk about improving fan safety, scoreboards and technology at NFL events as well as improving the in-game experience on mobile devices. Falcons owner Arthur Blank then lowered the boom:
"There are limitations in what we can do at the Georgia Dome," he said. "Technology is terribly important. That will be completely solved in a new stadium."