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FCC sacks NFL blackout rule

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http://www.politico.com/story/2014/09/nfl-blackout-rule-fcc-111441.html

 

FCC sacks NFL blackout rule

The FCC dumped the sports blackout rule Tuesday, dealing a blow to the NFL at a time of growing scrutiny for the league in Washington.

In a unanimous 5-0 vote, the commission eliminated the decades-old regulation, which prevents cable and satellite TV from airing games that are blacked out locally when the team fails to sell enough tickets to fill its stadium. The NFL has defended the rule as a tool to ensure robust attendance, but a growing number of regulators and lawmakers say it unfairly punishes football fans.

“It’s a simple fact, the federal government should not be party to sports teams keeping their fans from viewing the games — period,” said Democratic FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. “For 40 years these teams have hidden behind a rule of the FCC. No more. Everyone needs to be aware of who allows blackouts to exist, and it is not the Federal Communications Commission.”

(Also on POLITICO: NFL's tax break: Out of bounds?)

The league’s defeat on blackouts comes at a time when it’s taking heat in Washington on everything from how it handles domestic violence to the impact of concussions on its players to the name of the Washington Redskins team. As the negative publicity mounts, some lawmakers say they want to examine the NFL’s tax status and antitrust exemption — a move that threatens to damage the league’s business model.

The sports blackout rule applies to all professional sports teams, but it’s become closely linked to the NFL, which uses it the most and has fought hardest to keep it in place.

“We’ll review the FCC’s decision on the blackout rule, which has worked for decades to make our games available,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement Monday ahead of the vote. “With or without the rule, the league will continue to work to find new ways to bring more people to the game, and bring the game to more people.”

This summer, the league and its broadcast partners mounted a public relations campaign that touted the regulation, saying it ensures football remains on free television. Any FCC action to eliminate the rule, they warned, would hasten the migration of NFL programming to pay TV, ultimately depriving many fans of the ability to watch games.

 

That tactic angered GOP Commissioner Ajit Pai.

“Some have tried to scare sports fans by arguing that football games will move from broadcast television to cable or satellite TV if the FCC eliminates the sports blackout rule,” Pai said. “Let me address that argument head on. To begin with, there is no way that this can happen anytime soon. The NFL’s contracts with over-the-air broadcasters extend until 2022, but more importantly, by moving games to pay TV, the NFL would be cutting off its nose to spite its face.”

Eliminating the rule won’t immediately end all blackouts. They could still occur locally under existing contracts between the NFL and broadcasters, or as a result of negotiating disputes between broadcasters and pay-TV operators. But Tuesday’s action by the FCC “takes our public policy finger off the scale,” said Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, a Democrat who first circulated the proposal to get rid of the rule when she was acting chairwoman.

The NFL may be in for more headaches on the issue in Washington in the months ahead.

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My understanding is this simply takes the FCC enforcement out of it. The NFL could still ask their networks to black out games they do not think have sufficient

ticket sales. Not sure how CBS, NBC or Fox would feel about being asked to not broadcast a game say in NY, Philly, Boston or Chicago because the local team sold say less than 80% of the tickets.

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The "blackout" rule prevented the NFL from scheduling games on Fridays and Saturdays between the second Friday in September through the second Saturday in December.  Whilst the NFL and the networks can negotiate a gentlemen's agreement regarding blackouts, now the NFL can schedule games on Fridays and Saturdays.  This will hurt local high school and college sports.  This will be an example of unintended consequences.

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The "blackout" rule prevented the NFL from scheduling games on Fridays and Saturdays between the second Friday in September through the second Saturday in December.  Whilst the NFL and the networks can negotiate a gentlemen's agreement regarding blackouts, now the NFL can schedule games on Fridays and Saturdays.  This will hurt local high school and college sports.  This will be an example of unintended consequences.

Lol what u work for NFL progaznda machine...give me a break.  NFL will play a game any day of the week they want rule or no rule.  Money rules and they have tons of it.

 

I for 1 am glad someone is at least trying to look out for the fans.  I also would not mind a little competition for the NFL that wasn't in Canada, small arena, or in lingerie..aside from college.

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My understanding is this simply takes the FCC enforcement out of it. The NFL could still ask their networks to black out games they do not think have sufficient

ticket sales. Not sure how CBS, NBC or Fox would feel about being asked to not broadcast a game say in NY, Philly, Boston or Chicago because the local team sold say less than 80% of the tickets.

They would laugh at the NFL for asking. Unless the NFL wants to give money back towards the rights they already sold and since the blackout rule was all about more money, I'm doubting it.

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