The season of giving is here, but the NFL continues to take.
The Buccaneers and Raiders are still in playoff contention, while the Bengals host a high-flying and entertaining Chargers team this week. But fans in Tampa, Oakland and Cincinnati won’t be able to see their teams Sunday because all three games are locally blacked out, giving us 23 blackouts in the NFL this season. The league hasn’t had that many blackouts since 2004.
Two quick thoughts:
1) This has to be proof that blackouts simply don’t work, or at least they don’t work well enough. The idea of a blackout is to force people to buy tickets to the games. If there are empty seats at the stadium, there’s no reason anyone should be watching from their couches. But in actual fact, people who aren’t planning on going to a game generally won’t change their plans because they can no longer watch on television. People choose not to go to games because they either have something else going on or because they can’t afford tickets, not because they simply prefer watching from home. The fact that the Raiders have now been blacked out seven times despite their solid season indicates that the league’s attempt to persuade fans to buy tickets with the threat of a blackout has been unsuccessful. Depriving fans that simply can’t afford to get to the stadium of being able to watch from home is liable to do more harm than good. The league’s blackout policy could end up costing it fans.
2) Teams can circumvent the policy by simply purchasing unsold tickets at 34 cents on the dollar. The average ticket price this year is $76.47. Let’s assume that, with the deadline looming, a team is 5,000 seats short of a sellout. That team can purchase the remaining available tickets for what would work out to approximately $130,000, which is less than half of what the lowest paid player on any roster makes (the league’s minimum salary is $275,000). I find it hard to believe that any of the 32 NFL teams can’t scrape together about $100,000 to give their fans the chance to watch them locally. It’s surprising in its own right that more local CBS and Fox affiliates don’t attempt to pay to avoid blackouts. I understand that teams also want to draw fans to the games, but if you’ve already had a handful of blackouts, it’s probably safe to conclude that the blackout scheme simply isn’t working in your city. Teams should just accept that fact and pay to avoid blackouts — they owe it to their loyal fans who can’t make it to games.