For years, the NFL’s policy about showing games on TV in local markets has been simple: if the ome team doesn’t sell out the stadium, the game can’t be shown in the local market.
Unfortunately, this rule has affected Bills fans plenty in recent years, with fans not exactly flocking to Ralph Wilson stadium to see crappy Bills teams. 2011 was no exception, with Buffalo’s last three home games not selling out and getting blacked out.
In a somewhat surprising move, recently the NFL announced that a change to the blackout procedure – one that could mean that a non-sellout could still be shown in the local area.
Basically, teams will now have the option of setting their own ticket sales limit, down to a league-minimum of 85% sold. If the team sets a 90% limit, and 90% of the tickets get sold, the game can be shown on local TV.
Obviously, this is great news for fans of teams like the Bills, Jaguars, Chargers, Buccaneers, Raiders, and other teams that have had trouble selling out their home games in recent years. Of course, teams can always opt not to alter their blackout policies, but this rule change should lead to fewer blackouts league-wide. Much smarter people than me can explain to you why that’s a good idea.
As a Bills fan that lives three hours-plus from Ralph Wilson Stadium but is still in the blackout radius for some stupid reason, I’m pretty pumped about this. I hate blackouts.
But does the NFL have a much bigger problem on its hands?
Here’s the real issue that the NFL is going to have to face up to: attending an NFL game in today’s age is kind of a pain in the ass. You have to fight traffic, pay an obscene amount to park, shell out a crapload for tickets, sit in potentially awful weather, and fight traffic again to leave the stadium area. That’s going to get tougher and tougher to sell compared to home experience, where you can watch the games on your huge flatscreen TV, eat reasonably priced foods, and keep tabs of the other games and your fantasy team easily.
When stadiums get emptier and emptier in future years, it won’t be because the NFL is less popular. It’s simply too good on TV. And the NFL will have to come up with real solutions to make the stadium experience better, and soon.