All this hoopla over television blackouts and how they’re going to become more commonplace in the NFL this season, and we’re failing to ask the obvious question that at this point should be of utmost importance: Do these things actually work? Does not airing a game for a local market bring more fans to the stadium, at least to enough of a degree to provide statistical significance?
I guess this is the real irony, though. The NFL has said it won’t be changing its blackout policy in spite of the fact that commissioner Roger Goodell has come right out with the fact that the tough economic situations in many American cities will probably lead to a boost in blackouts in 2009. If these blackouts are happening because fans don’t have the money to attend the games, why is it in any way productive to rob them of the right to at least watch on television?
If you’re not going to your team’s game because you’re lazy, and then the NFL blacks out the broadcast, I can see how that would be a catalyst that forces you to get off your couch, drive to the stadium and buy a pair of tickets. But if you simply do not have the money for tickets, the system is flawed. All the NFL is doing in applying double jeopardy. They’re piling on.
In other words: the economy is the reason why fans can’t go to games, and it’s also the reason why blackouts will be plentiful, and it’s also the reason why blackouts won’t be prevented. No one wins.
It’s just a hunch, but I think the majority of the people not attending these games and being affected by blackouts are people who would go to the games, but can’t justify reaching into their pockets in tough economic times. Taking the game off of their television sets is only going to do one of two things:
1) Force them to suck it up and go to the games, despite the fact that they don’t have the money to do so. (Not a good way to treat your loyal fans.)
2) Force them to not watch the games at all. (Not a good thing for business.)
The policy simply has to be changed. The country isn’t in the same shape it was five years ago. If retailers and real estate and the auto industry have adjusted in order to better suit the country’s economic situation, there’s no reason the NFL can’t tweak its rules to better serve its fans.