In Recession, NFL Blackout Rule Raises Ire

To fill seats, league holds local TV broadcasts hostage
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 10, 2009 3:52 PM CDT
In Recession, NFL Blackout Rule Raises Ire
Shelling out could be the only way to see the game in some markets.   (AP Photo)

High ticket prices and the recession are taking their toll on attendance at pro football games. But if you can’t afford the stadium, at least you can watch at home, right? Wrong. The NFL is sticking to its “blackout” policy—no local broadcast if the stadium doesn’t sell out 3 days before a game—designed in 1973 to keep attendance up, Time reports. But if no one can afford the seats, does a blackout make sense?

Twelve of the league’s 32 teams face the possibility of blackouts this season. The NFL says the policy “has served us well for decades,” but fans and other experts don’t agree. To one economist, the idea that a home viewer threatened with a blackout would rush to the box office is preposterous. “Are people really behaving that way? Maybe a few dozen in each city.” If the sport isn’t on TV, people lose interest, he says. “Television is a mass-market promoter of a sport. You don't want to cut that off.” (More football stories.)

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