NFL fans are very familiar with the blackout rule. If a team doesn’t sell out a game, fans in the area –- within a 75-mile radius of the stadium –- don’t get to see the game on their local television station or on DirecTV.
But being familiar and having the rule affect them are two separate things. Over the last four seasons, only 38 games (3.7 percent) have been blacked out.
That’s a much better percentage than it had been in the four-year period prior, when 30 games a season would be blacked out. And that’s nothing compared to 80s and 90s when local television broadcasts were blacked out for more than 80 games in certain seasons.
I’m thinking this is going to be the worst year for blackouts since at least 2004. Why? Because companies (Winn Dixie famously did it in Jacksonville) and the big boys that used to buy thousands of empty seats to bail out teams aren’t going to do that in this economy.
It’s easy to see why NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said that the policy will go unchanged – the league has gone through a lot worse than what they’ll have for the 2009-10 season. That being said, local stations pay a lot more in rights fees than they did 20 years ago.